Can An Abuser Change?

Can An Abuser Change? October 23, 2022

chrysalis to butterfly
(Suzanne D. Williams / Unsplash)

It’s the age-old question, the one partners tend to focus on over and over, hoping beyond hope even as the abuse cycle churns yet again … Can an abuser change?

My answer may surprise many, especially those who have read a lot of secular books and articles on domestic violence. Most secular writers take a very negative approach to this issue, especially those of the feminist-sociocultural approach. This theory of domestic violence — which tends to be the most popular — claims that abuse is due to gender oppression, and men who use coercive control to get their own way in their relationship do so in order to proclaim their dominance. In essence, all abusers are misogynists, which means there’s not much that can be done to change their stubborn attitudes.

This may or may not be true in an abusive relationship. It all depends on the relationship and the individual involved.

Nothing in life is cookie-cutter simple.

However, it’s important to realize that the feminist-sociocultural approach to intimate partner violence is merely one theory among several. There are various reasons an individual might develop an abusive personality, and researchers have identified four general types of abusers. The “four types” are only a general model, desgined to aid intervention programs in gaining a better idea of what sort of personality they’re dealing with — which in turns helps them be of greater therapeutic assistance. Even so, the guidelines are still quite helpful.

The question of whether or not abuser change is possible one that is most commonly asked by victimized spouses — and one that’s the most difficult to answer because it all depends on the individual.

However, there is an answer! The brief — and, to many, shocking — answer is YES.

YES. An abuser can change.

However, that short answer doesn’t even begin to cover the wide range of things to consider when trying to figure out whether or not change is authentic.

It’s true that there are some rare individuals who finally reach the point where they’re ready to fully admit they’re abusive. They desire authentic transformation for the sake of their own souls, not just for others. This isn’t done for show, or even to keep their relationships intact. The motivation to change has to come from within, from a true desire to be a better person and to no longer continue engaging in toxic manipulations within relationships.

For more information on abuser change, head over to my website where I cover this topic, or contact me directly.

Recently, I was honored to be a guest on the Integrated with Angela podcast. We spoke about many things, including:

  • The psychology of an abusive personality
  • Red flags and warning signs
  • What it feels like to be in the swirling middle of the abuse cycle, and how to get out

In the last half of our talk, we veered onto the subject of whether or not an abuser can ever become a virtuous person, a loving spouse, an authentically caring partner.

The reason Angela veered onto this topic was because she knew my personal story. I’ve been there, done that. I know change. And I know it first-hand.

As far as I’m aware, I’m the only person out there who has come forward with the story of being in a highly toxic, devastating and abusive marriage for over a decade — yet with an outcome of having a spouse who has authentically changed.

So many questions come to mind when considering the idea conversion. Here are some of the top questions I hear from my clients — and questions I’ve had myself. These are questions I’ve had to prayerfully contemplate, over a great deal of time.

And by “a great deal of time” I’m not talking weeks, or months. It takes years  — yes, years — to know whether or not conversion is authentic. Anyway, the top questions are:

  • How can I know if change is real?
  • During the “honeymoon” stage of abuse cycle, my partner always says he’s changing. And he does! For days, sometimes even weeks or months! Yet eventually, he goes right back to his old ways. Isn’t all “change” just another part of the abuse cycle?
  • I’ve heard that once an abuser, aways an abuser. Is this true?
  • How can I get him to change? (Hint: You can’t. He has to initiate his own change. If he doesn’t, it isn’t real.)

I answer all these questions, and more, in the last half of my interview with Angela.

There’s not much more for me to say. I’ll let the video speak for itself.

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