“Can I Trust Him To Change?”

by Annie Kaszina on September 5, 2008

Hi Annie

I have been together with my husband for 23 years, we have teenage 2 kids. I moved out 5 months ago because of
physical abuse that went on for 23 years. I am
in a 6mth lease to see if I want to go back to him again. The question I have
is…is it possible he can change without help?

He says he knows I am serious
and promises it will never happen again as he understands he crossed the line.
I don’t know if maybe I should see a therapist as I find myself very confused
about this, and really should it not be a simple answer if it has being going on
for 20 some years ( it takes about a year between blow ups ).

Martha

Hi Martha,

If I understand you correctly, your husband is physically
abusive – i.e. violent – about once a year. You don’t say anything about emotional abuse. I’m assuming that is also part of it, because the two tend to be
inseparable.

A couple of questions for you: if your husband is committed
to change, then why won’t he get help? Why is he not prepared to do that as a (fairly minimal) expression of
his commitment to improving the relationship? 

That gives me pause for thought.

Another couple of questions for you? Why would you even think of simply taking
his word without imposing some kind of condition that might go some way to
safeguarding your best interest? Do you
not feel that you have the right to impose the conditions that you feel are
necessary, if you choose to go forward in this?

A couple of questions you might like to ask him:

If he can change now without help, why couldn’t he do so
before? What’s changed – apart from the
fact that you have moved out? Of course
he will tell you that he now understands how much he loves and needs you. And where, precisely, does he put the
‘line’ that he now understands that he crossed? What does he feel is acceptable
and unacceptable? What will he do if he
feels you have done something wrong? Unless he has a very clear and specific game-plan as to how he will
manage his reactions to safeguard you – which I doubt – assume he is not
capable of delivering. (He may want to,
but that most likely will not be enough.)

To answer your specific question: can he change without
help? Well, yes, it is possible. But it is an outside chance – and he does
have a record of broken promises. Would
I put money on it? Not at all. So many abusive men make that promise to their
partner and then, you know what, they get angry again and behave even worse
than they did before. Sure, you would
probably have a few relatively good months together, but then he would start
niggling you and becoming more critical and then, chances are he will explode
again. Just like before, only
worse. And the toll it will take on you
will be even more painful, because it will just reactivate all the old misery, just like it does with every other abused woman. 

But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already
know. If you really thought it could
happen, you wouldn’t have bothered asking me.

You have a gut misgiving. 

Trust it.   

It’s there to keep you safe.

Warm wishes,

Annie

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