How to get Dr. Irene's Advice: Look here!

Ask The Doc Board

The CatBox Archives

 

(Archives)

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Doc@DrIrene.com

Has He Really Changed?

Has He Really Changed?

January 9, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,

Thank you so much for your site!!  The article about "Protecting the Children" was especially important to me this week.  Briefly, here is my story:

Nine years ago I left my emotionally and verbally abusive husband when my son was almost 2.  I worked very hard to boost my self-esteem and go from victim to survivor.  I graduated from dental school with a 4.0 while working part time at the shelter and trying to be a great mom.  I tried to build a loving home for my son to grow up in, and I was sure I would never allow an abuser in our life again.

Three  years ago I met a "wonderful and caring" man.  He worked with people in the helping professions, and he seemed to know what it takes to make a relationship work.  After about a month, things started to slowly change.  

The relationship was full of turmoil and great times.  He let me know that the bad things that happened were my fault or my son's fault.  Of course I believed they must be my fault since he was such a "great guy".  He exhibited every behavior in Evan's book as well as financial and sexual abuse.  For the most part I was able to keep my son out of the direct line of fire, but he was obviously still greatly affected (he and I have talked about his feelings about this a lot - he is a wonderful healthy child!)

I was so devastated and confused I couldn't get my bearings.  The memories are still so painful, it is hard to remember them without crying!!  About 1 year ago I hit my limit. I left, started counseling and got my perspective back (for the most part).  He came back with promises of change, and I have slowly let him back into our lives (big mistake!).  I no longer react the same way, and so he has been changing too. 


The major outbursts of yelling, name calling and 1 episode of physical abuse have occurred every 3 months for the past year.  The next is due in February, and I don't want to go through that again.  However, over the past 2 months he has been much better with words and actions, but I am still cautious. 


Is it possible that this change is permanent or real?  He hasn't gone through counseling and I still see brief glimpses of of his lies and need to control.  He is so smooth, I am concerned that he is just adjusting his abuse to be more covert and less frequent because he knows I have figured him out.  My gut says it's not worth taking the chance with him.  What is your experience with an abuser's ability to change when he won't label his "bad" behavior as abusive and hasn't received professional help?  Your advise/input would be greatly appreciated!!

I have also joined the "Ouchhh" support group and have found lots of support and caring.  Thanks again for all you are doing to help victims become survivors!!     Shannon

Dear Shannon,

It is likely that the changes in his behavior are a function of the changes in your behavior: he can't get away with some of the old stuff anymore - since you set limits and won't put up with it. Good for you! 

Unfortunately, this essentially means you can never really let up, trust him, and enjoy a partnership. He is likely to remain "good" as long as you remain on guard. That's a tough job for you, especially since abused people tend to want to trust very, very much. 

Abusive thinking and the behavior that goes with it is not so easily remedied. It's elimination is not an act of will, though self-control is a mainstay of anger management and is  a necessary step in the right direction.  But that's just the tip of the ice-berg. Recovery requires a change in your husband's underlying thinking patterns; in his overall philosophy of life and distortion of reality. That's hard stuff: not the act of being benign as much as "getting" what it is he has to do. (The way he lives life now is really, really hard!)

Your three-month cycle? It is 99.99% inevitable from how I read your letter. You may have slowed it down with your caution, although your husband seems to get into abuse very quickly - judging by your solitary one-wonderful-month together in the beginning. But, you don't need to go through the abuse phase again. You know the warning signs. When you see the storm clouds approaching, have him leave. This is not the time to listen to pleas, explanations, and promises. Listen to your inner voice of knowing. 

Insist he get treatment, and remain in it, no "if"s, "and"s or "but"s.

My very best wishes, and thanks for the kind words,   Dr. Irene

1/20/00

Dear Dr. Irene,

After your initial response to my question - Is this change in him real? - I read some more books and spent a lot of time thinking about what I needed to do.  I read Vanzant's book "In the Meantime", and started working on "cleaning house".  It helped me to focus on what's best for me and put aside the fears, anger and blaming.  Once I did that, I could clearly see it was best for me to leave.

My partner agreed, on our 4th anniversary, that it would be best to split.  We had a long talk about our feelings and the relationship. During the conversation he admitted to being abusive in the past, and it was because he was so afraid of commitment (I don't believe this is why).  He didn't want to go talk to someone because that is part of "white culture" (more excuses).  Then he said he could have any woman he wanted, and I told him not to say things like that to me.  He back peddled and said he meant that he could have anyone, but doesn't want anyone but me.

After our talk I felt very uneasy, so I picked up Evan's book "Survivors of Verbal Abuse Speak Out".  I went right to the section about abuser's recovery.  It confirmed in my mind that an abuser who has fully admitted he/she has a problem will seek out information and help. It becomes a high priority. YES!

I began to see my ex-partner's patterns even in our separation.  The very covert abuse and unwillingness to take full responsibility for his issues.

I feel a great weight lifted since our separation, as well as sadness and grief over the lost hopes.  I know I made the right decision and wanted to thank you again for all your help!!

Sincerely, Shannon

p.s.  I love the cats!! 

Thank you Shannon. Dr. Irene