What Counts As Proof That Your Abuser Can Change?

March 2, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

So, you think your verbal abuser can change. Great! But you're going to need proof of actual change. What counts as proof? Read this to find out.

Abusers capably convince their victims that they will change. The convincing begins after an abusive episode that the abuser feels completely alienates him or her from you, the victim. The abuser wants to get back in control of you. Usually, after a panicky promise such as that, you will see a change in your abuser's behavior.

The change may be so pronounced that you believe that it is the end of the cycle of abuse instead of the honeymoon period you've experienced so many times before. But what if the you are wrong? The next abusive episode will hurt so much more because you believed the promise.

Is there a way to prove your abusive partner can change?

Proof That Abuser Can Change Appears Over Time

My unique psychology permeates everything I do and believe; the same is true for an abuser's psychology. Just because the way my abuser thinks results in hateful acts does not mean it's easier for him to rid himself of those thoughts any easier than it would be for me to rid myself of my belief in God. Changing core beliefs is extremely difficult for anyone to do.

Before considering the signs of proof of change, please ask yourself this: "Do I want to be the one who witnesses my abuser's changing process?"

  • Do you want to be there with your abuser as they attempt to change?
  • Doesn't everyone make mistakes as they change?
  • Wouldn't you be the one most sensitive to your abuser's stress build-up during the changing process?
  • Aren't you going to be the one who suffers his/her temper and distress caused by change?
  • Who do you think will suffer most when your partner makes a "mistake" and backslides into his/her abusive ways?
  • And who do you think your abuser will cry to, apologize to, and beg forgiveness from after those inevitable mistakes?

Doesn't the process of change seem a whole heck of a lot like the cycle of abuse?

Abuser Can Change Without Your Presence

If your abuser truly seeks change, then they will pursue change whether you are physically with them or not. Similar to an alcoholic seeking permanent sobriety, the abuser will seek to remain abuse-free no matter what life throws in the way.

Your best move during your abuser's process of change is to ask him or her to leave the home so you can witness the process from a point of safety. If your abuser truly wants to change, he or she will accept your decision and pursue their goal without requiring you to be there with them 24/7.

If your abuser stays in the home, your presence during the abuse provides your abuser with an easy out for his or her frustration and anger. If you are not present, the abuser may be forced to find suitable coping mechanisms that do not involve abusing you.

Maybe your abuser will find that running, writing, or some other activity serves the same purpose as beating you up emotionally and/or physically once did. (Isn't that a load of crap if running can take the place of abusing you?! Whatever.)

False Change Insists On Your Presence

"Baby, I can't do this without you!" and "I will kill myself if you leave me!" are statements designed to manipulate you to stay present while your abuser pretends to change. The abuser may also pressure you to stay for the children and because of your marriage vows. He or she will try to make you see how selfish you are acting while they are obviously in so much pain.

Remember at the very least that if your abuser decides to change, then your abuser will also understand that their actions horribly affected your body, mind and soul. They would want you to be where you feel safe. They would want to earn your love instead of demand it.

Decide What Love Means to You

How would you like someone to show love for you? Write down your rules, and don't return to your abuser unless they meet your standard. Victims consistently decide that we will love unconditionally, which is lovely. But too many of us decide to love unconditionally while also remaining in harm's way. Love from a distance is still love.

I challenge you to apply this sentiment to your abuser. Place your abuser's name wherever "love" or "it" appears:

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

Is the sentiment still true with his or her name in there? Look for your abuser's ability to love you. Do not allow them to tell you how you should love them when they love only themselves. A healthy relationship flows both ways; don't let your abuser put you back on abuse's one-way track.

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, March 2). What Counts As Proof That Your Abuser Can Change?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

August, 27 2017 at 11:48 am

I'm engaged to an emotional and verbal abuser. A few months back I confronted him and told him he was abusive. I told him he was hurting me. The way he handled his anger was unacceptable. I thought he was going to leave me that day in all honesty. He didn't speak to me the whole day. It was around 1 am he called me up (he's a trucker so I don't see him in person as often as I would like to) and we talked for hours. I had never received a sincere apology for his behavior before then. But that night he did. A few days later (probably after mulling over it for some time) he video called me and admitted to having anger management issues and getting angry over miniscule things. And I told him "I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me you're abusive towards me." He choked back some tears (I have only seen him cry maybe once or twice before this) and told me "I AM abusive. And I apologize for how my actions and words have hurt you. None of this is your fault and I'm sorry. " I cried. I never thought I would hear him say that in the years I've known and loved him. Ever since then he's made progress and rarely does he ever revert back to the abuse he inflicted on me before. His anger is still a problem and he's in the process of working it out. The two times he has gone through an abuse cycle towards me he has told me "I will understand if you end our unhealthy relationship and I won't hold a grudge against you for leaving." And that's how I know he is serious. Never before have I ever got something like that out of him. He means everything to me. And maybe one day I will marry him. If and only if he continues making progress and never revert back to how abusive he was in the past.

April, 25 2016 at 4:21 am

I have been verbally abused off and on for almost 10 years. He is a jealous man and has a past. When he is loving he is truely loving and when he is bad he is really bad.
I have tried to help him through out the years but has not worked. I finally just about had it and he finally decides to seek help. My entire family has seen me go thru so much pain and no longer want me to be with him.....but I still love him. What should I do?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 25 2016 at 5:19 am

It's okay to separate from him while he seeks help. You don't have to stay in the same house for him to prove he is changing. In fact, it would be better for him to NOT have you around. You are his crutch, the one he abuses.
It is possible that with you gone he will find another crutch. (So much for changing, right?) The new woman will be his new crutch, but you will be free.
It is possible that he will change, get himself straight. You and he may reconcile. Or, you may have just had enough and decide you cannot return. That's okay, too.
You can love him from a distance and watch to see how his behavior changes. Don't believe his words. Believe his actions.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 19 2017 at 3:04 pm

Hello ... I've read both of your books Kellie ... and can definitely relate to most everything I've read and what you went through and I commend you for your strength and resilience!! I've been married for 28 years to an emotionally abusive alcoholic. At least I know now that thats what he is. We live in NC and now that both of our boys are grown there's nothing keeping me from leaving - although we have to live apart for a year before I can file for divorce ... I finally got back to work after the recession, which caused job layoffs for me mainly, etc. and I now have a good job and am able financially to leave ... I've begun therapy, and have found a place to go - and have even had the conversation with him about how I feel - he of course doesn't want me to leave, he "says" he's changing - not drinking "as much" - not calling me names ... as frequently - after I told him I was amazed at his attitude, he actually acted like an adult and asked me to at least keep an open mind - which I did promise to do - that however does not mean that I am canceling my plans to move out. I know that he will never truly change - if he was going to he would've already. IF he does change - it will be after I am gone, and I honestly don't see myself ever going back once I can EVER get gone. We have two sons ages 26 and 19, and I so hate that they've had to grow up in the environment that they did ... I, however have to forgive myself for what I cannot change, and now we have a grandson to consider as well - and I want him to remember coming to visit me as a positive thing, not one where his grandfather gets drunk and yells at his grandmother!!! As far as the original post I apologize for getting off track - I am just trying to convince myself that he really WON"T change ... I've honestly seen this already ... its just so hard to pick up and leave someone you've spent over half your life with - and I know that he is going to try to make me feel guilty once I start packing to move (the place I'm moving is not quite ready yet) ... However, if I want change I know that I have to be the one to make it happen, plus I'm unsure as to where my boys will go - there won't be room but for one of them at my new place .... Sigh. Wish me luck ...

Leave a reply