“Can an emotionally abusive partner change their colors?”

by Annie Kaszina on November 16, 2007

"Can an emotionally abusive partner of several years change
their colors?  I’ve been in a relationship for  some years and am worn out.  Now he
wants to get married…. After all these years.  Has done everything right for the last 2
months but am afraid the cycle will stop after 3 months.  He’s broken up with me
about 50 times, each time coming back to me in tears with flowers in one hand
and a card in the other.  I told him  I won’t marry him and not to ask again
for 6 months so I know the cycle has ended."


 

Dear F,
 
Am I
right in thinking that you are saying that if he behaves himself for 6 months
then you will know that he has changed his ways?
 
You
ask me: Can an emotionally abusive partner change their colors? 
 
I’d
say it’s not impossible but it’s pretty unlikely. What is he
doing to ensure that he changes?  Just being a ‘good boy’ is not enough. 
Has he expressed a desire to change?  And if so what program(s) is he prepared
to undertake in order to effect that change?
 
Being
willing to go through some kind of program for abusive men is a start.  Actually
attending is a bonus.  But then he really has to internalize what he learns and
start to change his ways, or nothing will change in the long
run.
 
How
will you know if he is sincere?  Well, if the pair of you decided, in your own
individual and joint best interests that you would both be best served by doing
your healing separately and coming back together after he has
done his work and you have done yours.  Always supposing that he, and you, still
want to be together at that point.
 
But if
he comes out with a line like: "I can’t do it without you", or "I need you in
order to get through it", what he is really saying is: "You’re surely not
expecting me to do this for myself.  My reason for being with you is so that I
can dump my emotional stuff on you any time it gets to heavy for poor little
me", then you can safely assume that he’s just making the right noises to keep
you sweet.
 
Of
course if you say to yourself and/or me: "But I really love him, I want to be
with him.  It’s not right that we should be apart.  We can work through this
together", or any such form of words, then what you’re really saying is that you
would rather continue to stay in that destructive cycle than not. 
 
That’s
not love, that’s masochism.  And the sad fact is that nobody loves or admires a
masochist.  Just like nobody enjoys a broken record.  Heaven knows, I know
whereof I speak.  I’ve been there, done that and finally threw out the T shirt
years ago.
 
He
might change.  There is always a possibility, even if it is
infinitesimally small.  But here’s the thing: for as long as you hang around
waiting for him to change before you can be happy, you are disempowering
yourself and putting him in charge of your emotions.  Is this wise?  How long
are you prepared to defer your happiness?
 
Power
so easily goes to the head.  You only have to think about programs like "The Dog
Whisperer" to know that it’s not just humans who behave badly when they are not
given clear direction.  You can hardly expect an abusive man to behave better
than ‘man’s best friend’.
 
He
hasn’t loved you enough to care about not hurting your feelings time and time
again and you are unable to love him unconditionally – and who could blame yo?. 
You have a great basis for a lousy relationship, but a truly lousy basis for a
good relationship. 
 
You
have to make the choice about where the relationship goes from here.  He’s not
going to.
 
Does
this sound harsh to you?  I’m aware that it may.  I’m also aware that abused
women are extraordinarily gifted at hearing only what they want to hear.  They
want to know how they can stay in the relationship, rather than why they should
leave it. 
 
The
choice is yours.  But know that you are gambling with your physical and
emotional health and your future.  Here in the UK the odds on winning the
Lottery are about 14,000,000 to 1, yet hundreds of thousands of people throw
good money after bad week on week.  Gambling on your partner’s transformation is
staking your entire emotional resources on a high risk emotional
lottery. 
 
The
odds on your emotional recovery without him and future happiness are far, far
higher.  The choice is yours.
 
Warm
wishes,
 
Annie 
 

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