Do emotional/verbal abusers change?
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

I am so confused. I have been in what I am just now coming to grips with was a 15 year marriage of emotional and verbal abuse.
I had a breakdown and decided to leave temporarily until I could get my head above water and get "healthy". My husband is VERY deperate to save the marriage. He says he will change and do whatever it takes, but I have very little trust in him. Can they change or is it part of their personality? I feel like I have been here before many times and told him things that were wrong in our relationship, he would change it for a couple weeks and then become complacent and fall back. It has been very cyclical. I want out SO badly, but am afraid not to give him every opportunity to make it right, but I don't love, respect, or trust him. I want to be able to say I did everything possible so I can leave without guilt. Can they change or is it just ingrained? Will counseling help or will be going around in circles? HELP!!
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Can they? Yes. I was one. I have been self-healing for 6 weeks now (therapy and my own meditations) and have come to terms with many of my issues that made me the way I was.

SAYING he will change will not change him. He has to work. It sucks. It's scary and uncomfortable....but necessary to be healthy.

I wish you and your husband the best.
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Old 08-11-2011, 03:42 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Yes, anyone and everyone can change for the better. Yes counseling helps a lot. Yes, it will probably require your help.
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Old 08-11-2011, 05:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Only IF they want to bad enough! As with any habit, they are hard to break. One MUST remain FOCUSED and keep working at it.

If you know anyone who was an alcoholic or a die hard smoker, it takes a lot of will power and sometimes help from outside sources to break the habit.

One or two months WON'T do it, and if he doesn't remain focused ... he will revert back to his old self time and time again.

I would say that a year of continual effort may eventually curve him of his abusive ways.

Good luck to both of you and hope that he follows through.
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Old 08-11-2011, 05:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

One or two months CAN change things...I have been working my ass off to get to the bottom of my issues.

I just faced my biggest issue of all...it's scary as hell. But I'm a grown woman now and I don't want to be controlled by the past any longer. there's too much to lose.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:18 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3littleangelsmom View Post
Can they change or is it part of their personality?
I personally feel that it's a character defect/issue.
A personality problem" or whatever you want to define it as.

Its rare the abuser that changes. They tend to change for a little bit but what they are is always there. And they also tend to get worse over time. It's sick, really.

I think the ones who do change have an epiphany or something major has to happen for them to realize the damage they have caused and inflicted on their loved ones/people around them. It can and will only change IF they admit/realize there is a problem, get help for the problem, acknowledg ethe problem, apologize to those they have hurt and actually COMMIT to changing the destructive behavior.

My ex was very emotionally abusive and even when I talk to him now, it's still there, that "dark cloud"--lingering in the background.

You can't give in to their tantrums. Stand your ground. You mentioned it's "cyclical," and you are spot on. Abuse IS cyclical. It's one big merry-go-round of terror that never ends. It's is happy, then a conflict, then the blow up, then the calm time, then happy, conflict, a blow up, calm time--over and over again. My ex would be ok for about 2-3 months at most and it would start all over again. And it was horrible. I couldn't live like that anymore. Neverending circle.

You said you lost love/trust/respect for him--this happened with me too. Eventually all the love I had for him was stripped away and nothing was left but resentment. Once that resentment starts in, it is HARD to go back to how you saw them before. For me, it hasn't happened all the way, even after we split.

If he is desperate, I say give it another shot but explain to him what you need from him to start even believing him. Tell him you aren't f-cking around and that talk is cheap. ACTIONS are what counts.

Good luck.
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Old 08-13-2011, 03:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

I completely agree with Jellybeans. I think it IS a personality flaw. I also struggle with whether or not to stay in my marriage which has also been very emotionally abusive.

After he found out I'm having a (long distance) emotional affair, he promised to change everything. I do not trust him in so many ways. He's controlling and abusive. I don't trust him to know how to control himself & not throw tantrums like a little spoiled child.

I went to therapy on my own. I tried to get him to go years earlier in the marriage, he refused. MC might be a good idea, even if just to get the issues out in the open.

I feel like he's putting on a nice little act, probably plotting something horrible against me all the while. In the past, he's cut up my clothing, cussed me out in front of my kids, hit me in front of my kids. I really wish he would just go away...for good.

I'm going to go back to therapy, so I can find out why any of this was acceptable to me. What is wrong with ME?

Sorry, had to vent. If you are separated, do yourself a favor and stay out. Work on yourself and eventually meet someone who will appreciate you and love you.

Also, if you have children, they will learn from your marriage and will repeat your mistakes.
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:41 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

My father was emotionally and verbally abusive to my mom. On his deathbed he asked my mom for forgiveness and she forgave him but the damage was done.

Years later I see how hurt she is and when we have a disagreement I see it.

The point is abusive behavior is as destructive and can potentially cause permanent damage.
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

I don't think it's a character flaw. I think it's because the person was abused and this is how they deal.

I am not flawed. I had issues. My abuse has stopped and my marriage is improving. I have discovered my triggers and can talk them down...I haven't had anxiety in a week!

People can change-- they just have to WANT to change.

I mean, to call it a character flaw is just like saying no one has control of who they are. Does that mean the victim has a character flaw of being a doormat? I don't buy that. It's about deep rooted issues. If people aren't prepared to dig deep and figure out WHY they are the way they are...then they can't change. The abuse PROTECTS them from getting hurt. Sounds crazy but it's true. I chose to stop protecting myself from imaginary pain...it's a long story...I choose now to be open and have empathy for my husband and his situation and it really has helped me and my marriage tremendously.
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

AngelsMom, I agree with ThatGirl that you are not describing a character flaw. I also agree with Jellybeans that your H likely has strong traits of a personality disorder (PD) and is unlikely to be willing to stay in therapy long enough to make a difference. Some PDs are easier to learn to manage than others. BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), for example, is the most difficult to control even though there are excellent treatment programs available. When a high functioning man has strong traits of BPD, the chances are slim that he will have sufficient self awareness and ego strength to be willing to confront his issues and learn how to manage them.

I mention BPD because you have mentioned three types of behavior that raise red flags. One is that your H is verbally abusive, which is one hallmark of people with strong BPD traits because they have enormous anger inside and cannot control their emotions. This is why most BPDers act out, throwing temper tantrums and hissy fits. And this is why their partners are always walking on eggshells to avoid triggering their anger.

The second red flag is your comment that his bad behavior is "cyclical." One hallmark of BPDers is the push-you-away and pull-you-back cycle, wherein they alternate between devaluing you and adoring you. Finally, a third red flag is your being confused to the point of having had a mental breakdown. Of the ten PDs, BPD is the only one that is notorious for making the partners and spouses of the BPDer feel like she is going crazy or losing her mind.

Yet, if your H really does have strong BPD traits, there are several other traits you also should be seeing. I therefore suggest that you read more about these traits to see if most of them sound familiar. Of course, you will be unable to determine whether your H has such traits so severely as to meet 100% of the diagnostic criteria for having full blown BPD. Only a professional can do that. You nonetheless can determine whether he has most of the red flags (i.e., strong traits) because, when you've lived with a man for 15 years, it is easy to spot frequent occurrences of verbal abuse, inappropriate anger, temper tantrums, and black-white thinking. For a quick overview of such traits on this forum, I suggest you take a look at my posts in Blacksmith's thread. They start at Complicated Marriage Dynamic. Take care, AngelsMom.
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Old 08-15-2011, 11:43 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Quote:
Originally Posted by that_girl View Post
I don't think it's a character flaw. I think it's because the person was abused and this is how they deal.

I mean, to call it a character flaw is just like saying no one has control of who they are.
I disagree.

IMO, it is a part of the abuser's personality and a "character" issue. Why? Because in order to change the behavior, they have to change something inherent about themself. All the time. Changing/stopping the abusive behavior for a month or two is all fine and good, the question is, can they do it over the long-term. Generally, no--they can't. It's why it's VERY rare an abuser, if ever, changes.

You said "its like saying no one has control of who they are," which is ironic. Because the abuser willfully chooses to buse others. It's a very deliberate action. It's who they are. If they wanted to stop, they would. If they were truly committed to change, they'd seek out help and actually commit to change. Most never do. Because they don't see what they are doing as "wrong." It's par for the course. That's why one of the hallmark signs of an abuser is the blame game. They take zero responsibility in most cases. It's always everyone else's fault.

Quote:
Originally Posted by that_girl View Post
I don't buy that. It's about deep rooted issues.

The abuse PROTECTS them from getting hurt. Sounds crazy but it's true.
It's well documented that abusers lash out because they are unhappy with themselves. With that said, at it's core, abusing someone else in order to "protect themself" and to make them "feel" better about themself is a very sickening concept to me. I can't fathom someone hurting someone else to feel better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by that_girl View Post
Does that mean the victim has a character flaw of being a doormat?
The person the receiving end is never at fault for the abuse being shelled out to them. Nor are they "flawed" for being abused. Calling a victim of abuse a "doormat" is once again, blaming the victim.
If someone chooses to stay with an abuser, that is their decision. But someone else's behavior/abuse is not their fault. That abuse lays solely on the shoulder of the one dishing it out.

Last edited by Jellybeans; 08-15-2011 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 08-15-2011, 12:04 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

I still don't agree with you.

People are complex. You can't say ALL abusers are one way or the other..
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Old 08-15-2011, 12:22 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Abusers who do not see the abuse as wrong, seek out help on their own, and especially commit to stopping the abuse/changing their abusive ways/behavior will never change.

Repeating the same behavior will always give the same results.

I do agree with you that people are complex. Abusing is different then say, someone who gets upset and lashes out one day. It's a pattern.
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Old 08-15-2011, 08:14 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Jellybeans, I agree -- and ThatGirl apparently does also -- with nearly everything you've said. We agree, e.g., that BPDers and other abusers should be held fully accountable for their own actions. We also agree that identifying an abuser's harmful behavior as a pattern of BPD or other PD only provides an explanation of that behavior, not an excuse.

The only area of disagreement seems to be the issue of whether BPDers and other abusive PDers always have bad character. On this issue, I suspect the three of us are saying the same thing but using different terms. If you define a personality disorder (PD) to be (or include) a character flaw then, yes, we all agree that a BPDer must have a character flaw. But ThatGirl and I are defining "character flaw" to be something much different than a personality disorder. While I do not know exactly how ThatGirl would define it, I regard "character" as including the moral and ethical traits of an individual.

This difference in definitions is important because, of the many BPDers I have known, not one of them had bad morals or ethics that I could see. Their problem was not a lack of ethics or morals but, rather, an inability to control their emotions and an overuse of black-white thinking -- resulting in a distorted perception of other people as being as "all good" or "all bad." Hence, despite their strong morals and ethics, they mistakenly perceived many people as "Hitler" and treated them accordingly.

As far as I can tell, all the good ethics, morals, and religious training in the world will not make a dent in the abusive and vindictive behavior of BPDers because those traits cannot correct the underlying disorder. It therefore is common to see a high functioning BPDer treat business associates and strangers with kindness and generosity all day long -- and then go home that night to verbally abuse the very people who love them.

Granted, BPDers are still very much "at fault." Their fault is in making the choice -- every day -- not to acknowledge their issues, not to seek treatment for those issues, and not to accept responsibility for their hurtful actions. This does not imply a lack of morals, however. If that were the case, it would be easy to treat them by teaching them morality. Instead, they refuse to seek treatment because it is rare for a BPDer (especially those who are high functioning) to be willing to go through the painful process of learning how to manage their issues. I would be surprised if as many as 1 in 100 high functioning BPDers has sufficient ego strength and self awareness to stay in therapy long enough to make a difference. BPD is so pernicious because, by its very nature, it is usually invisible to the sufferer and makes her fearful of finding flaws in herself.

Finally, I agree -- and I suspect ThatGirl does too -- that there is a subset of BPDers and other PDers who do have character flaws such as bad morals and weak ethics. Yet, because that is not true of the many BPDers I've met, my experience is that most abusive behavior arises from traits of mental disorders such as BPD, not from character flaws such as bad morals and weak ethics.
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Old 08-15-2011, 08:27 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do emotional/verbal abusers change?

Being guilty myself of verbally, emotionally abusing my wife I can tell you that it can change. After many years of putting my wife and family through hell I finally realized what I was doing. I gave every excuse possible before I finally realized the problem was within. To me it is definitely a personality trait that will probably never completely go away. I wish it would but I would be lying to myself. My wife has notice the changes but it is too little too late. Our marriage of 11+ years is ending and I have no one to blame but myself. I had a beautiful wife and 3 amazing kids who I have let down by my actions. All I can hope for now is that she can finally be happy and I can learn from the terrible mistakes that I have made.
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