How can abusive husbands change?

Frowning Woman Looking at Man
Did You Ask: Can Abusive Husbands Really Change?

I got thinking about real change and how we can be sure that it is really happening when reading this comment in my last post:

"I agree my husband is a product of childhood anger not being release the right way, or should I say dealt with. And for years being married to him he has taken it out on me and the children. He is in counseling but I don't think he tells his counselor the whole truth about things.  He never did with me, he said he wants to change but I still don't believe it."

This person is really focusing on his change signals...and sees the same behavior in her man as before. Why is this change so difficult?

Like their fathers and grandparents, men grow up in a social context where interpersonal violence is glorified as in "macho culture," and included as a normal component of their relationships. The first answer to why is common that men abuse? is because abuse is the key to achieve power and control in a relationship, and this is the norm. Because being peaceful and egalitarian with their wives gives them no value in front of other men, the norm is acceptance of some abuse and controlling behaviors.

An individual man would not easily give up the tool of domestic abuse, because it serves the purpose of maintaining his share of power and control over the wife. No equality here, but dominance. This dominance is highly rewarded, and no man voluntarily will give it up because it equals sexual prowess, strength, and self-worth. So, we need strong social pressure to present domestic abuse as a non-acceptable behavior, punishable by law.

If we have a sincere abuser going through the process of agonizing remorse, asking for forgiveness and doing what he promises, without overstepping boundaries, then we can accept that change is here.

To answer our eternal question: How can abusive men change?

Abusive men can change if and only if:

  1. Abusive person stops denial and takes responsibility for his abuse, and own his behavior without excusing it, minimizing or blaming his partner.
  2. Abusive person recognizes he can’t change himself, so voluntarily gets some professional help.  He needs to work on changing his own history of trauma by investing time and effort for as long as necessary.
  3. Abusive person can accept limited contact with abused persons to show boundaries respect, showing a new behavior
  4. His new actions are continuous, not just for the moment. Most abusers apologize for their bad behavior once and tell their girlfriend it will never happen again. Often, they are contrite for only a few days
  5. Stops using tactics such as: trying to share the blame, as when He says "I can't change unless you do." Which means that he's trying to get you to agree to give up your rights and freedoms in exchange for him not abusing you. Also stated as "I've changed, but you aren't changing"; "I'm not the only one who needs help"

 Again, let's review how he can sabotage the change process.

How to tell he is not intending to change his abusive behavior by what he says:

He says "I can't change unless you do." Which means that he's trying to get you to agree to give up your rights and freedoms in exchange for him not abusing you.

Also stated as "I've changed, but you aren't changing"; "I'm not the only one who needs help".

He continues to attempt to cover up what he's done to you and the children, saying "it's in the past.".

He won't acknowledge that it was wrong. He doesn't seem sorry that he did it, he only seems sorry that he has suffered some consequences for it.

He refuses to let the subject of his abuse come up or gets angry when it does. He won't discuss his controlling behaviors and attitudes. He still tries to deny it, minimize it, excuse it, or justify it.


There is no changing abusive behavior if the underlying beliefs which allow him to be abusive are still in place.

That is the reason he needs therapy! And, of course, it explains the strong resistance to go to a counseling session.

He will not get help or He says he'll get counseling or other help, but never does. Or he does (for a SHORT period until you've calmed down) and tries to convince you that he's cured and you need to take him back now. "Now that I'm in this program, you have to be more understanding." Or "I'm learning a lot from this program".

If a man is pressuring you this way, then as soon as he gets back in, he will most likely drop the program.

This is why it's so critical, if you're considering taking him back, to watch his behaviors, to talk in-depth, and to give it time.

 If you need to talk about domestic abuse in your marriage, you can always ask for your coaching session, (no charge), and get support and orientation from me. I'm waiting for your call!

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  1. Dear Juliey,
    In a long time writing this blog, I have not been so sad as with your post….This toxic interaction with your husband is destroying your soul.
    I can understand that we develop a strong urge to defend ourselves and later to fight fire with fire…but it has to have some limits, or you risk burning yourself. Even if your husband would deserve that you destroy his self-esteem, it will not make you any happier than you are now…
    Is urgent that you declare a truce, withdraw this kind of communication and have a breather for both. Can you take a week vacation and go visit a good friend? You need to step out of this environment, and ask yourself:
    “what is the best way I can use to bring some peace to my home? perhaps ignoring him and not calling him on everything I find objectionable? perhaps doing the exercise to find positive aspects of him and praise him on them? (sure he has something you can praise!).
    Whatever your choice, please, stop this destructive spiral, get some help, take distance, or do something that can restore some respect and dignity in your home. Your home needs to get a little more peaceful and healthy. Wishing you well,

  2. My husband not say my name. He has helped me out sometimes when I need it physically since, I have a chronic illness. The worse problem I get more verbally abusive. This is since, he doesn’t follow through when asked for help, has numerous excuses, feels that if other guys do it than its alright. I call him out on everything. There are sometimes he can seem nice and thoughtful so then I tend to overlook his actions until he does something the next time. I like him as a friend or sibling and have told him that before. He will walk away when I say something and sit in another room. I call him out on it and make him come back, look me in the eye as I say something. Then tell him I have to treat him like a child and I don’t have the energy or time. There are times I just want to punch him in the face when he has that distant lost look in his face. The problem is I say it how he is and made comments to people that they are lucky he says their name where he can’t even say mine. I say this right in front of him. This is because I want him to look like a jerk in front of others.

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