Can An Emotional Abuser Ever Change?

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by Annie Kaszina on July 5, 2016

Can an emotional abuser ever change – the question deconstructed

Can an emotional abuser ever change? asks Marie. It’s a perennial question that I have already touched on. But that’s not Marie’s real, big, burning question. The real underlying question – the one that feeds her Hopium Addiction – is “Can my emotional abuser ever change?”

Her unspoken reason for asking goes like this:

“I really need to know because if there is even a chance of him – finally – fulfilling his potential, then that chance is too precious to throw away. There are moments when I see the real man, when he is really lovely,  and I don’t want to give up on all that promise.  Besides, how on earth would I feel if I threw away the best thing that has ever happened to me – and then he went off, and made someone else truly happy (the way he promised to make me happy)? What would that say about me?”

What the question Can an emotional abuser ever change? often means is, “I’m just not ready to give up on him yet. So, what I want from you is reassurance that my relationship can still work out.  See, I believe my relationship is special  – because I love him so much. Besides, just because common things occur most commonly, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be the one to get lucky, and get my miracle.  I’ve worked hard enough for it.”

My short, broad-brush answer to the question, Can an emotional abuser ever change? is “No”, together with a couple of references to pigs and flying, and leopards and spots.

The nuanced answer to the question, Can an emotional abuser ever change?

The more nuanced answer (which comes with a Kaszina Health Warning) is marginally different.  My concern about using the nuanced answer springs from a deep understanding of Hopium Addiction. (I was a long-term Hopium Addict after all.)

You only have to give a Hopium Addict the faintest glimpse of hope, and they take it as a prophesy and guarantee.

It is only with fear and trepidation that I say, “An emotional abuser can change. But it’s not going to happen – because he would sooner saw off his right arm with a steak knife than take ownership for his own horridness. Plus, he is as sure as hell not going to be willing to let go of his vision of himself as being far and away the most entitled person in his universe.”

The reason for my fear and trepidation is this: people, generally, hear what they want to hear.  Emotionally abused women having a special talent for hearing only what they want to hear, and totally ‘filtering out’ the rest.  So, the answer they hear to the question, Can an emotional abuser ever change? is, “Yes, they can.”

An emotional abuser can change, but that bald statement can also mislead.  It is rather like  answering a query about moon travel by saying: “Yes, you can fly to the moon.” Flying to the moon can be done. It has been done, and will be done again – but only under very special circumstances, by the very select few, provided they meet very specific conditions.

All the wishing and hoping in the world won’t make you an astronaut – or the happy helpmeet of the Emotional Abuser Who Finally Sees The Light.

(It is often argued that Narcissists cannot change.  I don’t entirely buy that, although I do not for a moment suggest accepting one as an intimate partner. If Narcissists are incapable of change because they are made differently, then they cannot be responsible for their own behavior. I accept that they may never become the most empathetic people on the planet. However, they have managed to learn plenty of social skills. Therefore learning some degree of consideration should not be out of the question.

But that is more than enough about them. Let’s look at how arguing that a Narcissist cannot change impacts on you.  You do not serve yourself when you do not hold other people accountable for their own actions. Period.)

What an abuser would have to do to change

Let’s look briefly at some of the conditions an emotional abuser would have to meet in order to be able to change. He would have to:

  • Take full responsibility for the damage he does.
  • Own his motives for wanting to hurt and control you.
  • Commit to doing the long-term work, for himself, on his own healing.
  • Commit to leaving you free to live your life, your way – without any blame or judgement from him.
  • Start to treat you like the most precious person in his life – something he should have done a long, long time ago.
  • Make you the judge of whether or not he is manipulative, controlling, or hurtful.
  • Prioritize you, your relationship, and your own children over (wait for it!!!) HIMSELF!!
  • Work overtime on Anger – and Nastiness – Management.
  • Send off for recycling two of his favorite personas: Mr Superior to You and Mr Victim-Who-Has-It-So-Hard.
  • Learn to listen compassionately.
  • Make it his business to learn your Love Language(s) and use them with you, in all sincerity.
  • Learn to be humble, thoughtful, and unselfish.
  • Demonstrate love and care through consistent good behaviour, rather than through occasional, self-serving declarations of love.

As you read through this list and relate it to your own experience of how an emotional abuser operates, let me put a question to you: “Just supposing an emotional abuser can ever change, do you think he will – given the amount of effort and loss of face involved?”

We started with the question: Can an emotional abuser ever change? It is my belief that emotional abusers can change, but they will not, because the cost to their ego is too high.  Finally, abusers may well tell you how happy they make their next partner – to prove that they have changed. What they say is unlikely to be true. They are not butterflies, and abuse is not a chrysalis. If we had to liken emotional abusers to some member of flora and fauna world, I’d suggest the Venus Flytrap.)

But in the end why keep asking yourself, Can an emotional abuser ever change?  Who cares about them? They were quite incapable of behaving like a decent, civilized human being around you.  That is all you need to know. If you’re still struggling to get that man out of your head, there is one program that will teach you exactly how to do it.

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