Behind The Scenes: "Can My Abusive Partner Change?"

Email from Tara:

"I'm in an eight year relationship and my husband's drinking has become a problem. When he is drunk, he's abusive toward me. I've spoken to him about this (when he's sober) but he either doesn't think there's an issue or can't remember what I'm talking about. I've invested so much time with him so I want it to work. But I'm at a loss about what else to do. Do abusers ever change?"

Tara raises a common question. 

Anyone who has ever been in abusive relationship, including me, can empathize with her. We've invested hard work into a relationship. We're willing to help our partner make changes in his or her own life so we can be in a healthy relationship again. But it takes two people to change what's wrong in a relationship, especially one where there is abuse.

The good news is that abusers can change. 
The bad news is that they don't usually want to.

Abusers know what works for them and they continue to do it because it does work. It works when there are no repercussions from their actions. The partner stays. The job keeps them on. Their siblings still speak to them as always.  Without any kind of accountability, there is no reason on his end to make a change.

Except love.

In a healthy relationship, if we bring a challenge to our partner, they will work with us on it because they love us. We are one of the most important people in their life. They want us to be happy.

In an abusive relationship, problems aren't problems unless they are the abuser's. Tara's husband is unwilling to admit that his actions cause her harm. My guess is that he may go a step further and blame her for what he does.  Abusers usually find a way to offload responsibility for their actions. Abusers are not skilled at owning their own shit. 

Abusers will sometimes stop their behavior when they are caught. When they get a DWI or get fired from their job for example. But stopping abusive behavior in those situations is circumstantial and often temporary. 

Everyone one of us only changes when we want to change. 

I have lived this story too, Tara. And I've been teaching people about abuse forever. If he is not listening to you -the person he loves most in the world- he's not going to change.

So it's on you, dear one. You make the choice to save yourself or try to continue to save him, sacrificing yourself. It's never easy but it is that simple: there are only those two choices.  

Just remember, you're worth it. Now, today and tomorrow. Always.

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