December 15, 2008 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Do (physically) abusive people ever change their ways?

I am in love with my abusive ex boyfriend. We broke up a long time ago but I have never met anyone else like him (you know, the good bits about him), and given we started dating at a young age, I feel that potentially his abusive bouts were "growing pangs". I want nothing more than to give him a second chance, even though at this point it could easily mean a huge life changing mistake on my part.

We have both dated other people in the mean time, but I still really, really miss him. I used to consider myself a very strong person to whom this sort of bs could never happen, but now sort of think it could happen to anyone. I got over beating myself up for "letting it happen", directed the anger at the responsible party, and, gasp, tried to work through his issues with him.

So, mefites, is it possible for people to change? Am I just being a typical victim? Do I need therapy, stat?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The common wisdom is that abusive people only change their ways after years of intensive therapy.

There's nothing you can change on your side that will make him all better. He has either done his work or he hasn't.
posted by tkolar at 3:29 PM on December 15, 2008

So, mefites, is it possible for people to change? Am I just being a typical victim? Do I need therapy, stat?

In my experience: no, yes, and no.
posted by rokusan at 3:31 PM on December 15, 2008

I feel that potentially his abusive bouts were "growing pangs".

And what evidence do you have that he's grown up?
posted by desjardins at 3:33 PM on December 15, 2008

Am I just being a typical victim?

Oh, and yes, you are a walking talking stereotype.
posted by tkolar at 3:34 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yes, don't you think you'd enjoy being in love with someone who you don't have to worry about beating you up? As Axl Rose said: "You ain't got no one, you'd better go back out and find [him]"
posted by johngoren at 3:38 PM on December 15, 2008

(and by 'him' I don't mean this creep.)
posted by johngoren at 3:39 PM on December 15, 2008

The mantra for this situation is "I don't want things that will hurt me." Repeat as needed until it's the truth.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:41 PM on December 15, 2008 [8 favorites]

A good therapist will help you figure out why are attracted to abuse, and work through it to get to a healthy place. When you reach that place, you will probably look back and wonder what you were thinking.

But regardless of the emotional pull, avoid people who abuse you in any way shape or form.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:48 PM on December 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

Has he ever explicitly said something like "Baby, I've changed" or "I'm different now"? Because from my experience, this is a sure sign that he hasn't changed, not one bit.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:48 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know the answer to these questions, right? He's not going to change, you can only change yourself, you should absolutely under no circumstances go back to him, and yes, you need therapy.

There you go. I'm pretty sure you knew that already, but maybe it helps to have a complete stranger put it in writing!
posted by craichead at 3:50 PM on December 15, 2008

My personal opinion is no. According to the book, "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft, the answer is more than likely, no--he won't change, especially when you are still in the relationship. Please read it before you make your decision.

Second chances, while sometimes appropriate, are NOT appropriate or wise when it comes to abusers. Abusers are manipulative and can say all of the right things to get you in a relationship. But without a lot of therapy to address why they abused in the first place, there is little or no hope for a happily ever after here.

From one who was in a mostly verbally and emotionally abusive relationship (which in and of itself was intolerable), and who has learned a lot about abusive behavior through therapy and volunteering at a domestic abuse center, I do not for one moment think that the abusive bouts (as you call them) are "growing pangs".

You sound like you really have worked through a lot of this. But there is work left to be done. Therapy will help you. Wishful thinking will not. Please, PLEASE, PLEASE stay away. Abusive relationships are self- perpetuating and therefore, by their nature, the longer you are in one, the harder it is to get out. Your happily ever after lies elsewhere.
posted by murrey at 3:53 PM on December 15, 2008

The "good bits" are part of the abuse. You wouldn't come back for more abuse if not for the good bits. So, no. Just stay out of this.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:53 PM on December 15, 2008 [7 favorites]

The stats on abusers changing are startlingly low, around 2%. I don't feel like looking it up right now, but that is the consensus I've read over and over.

Is this person of the utmost character already? Stronger and better than 98 percent of the abusers who say they will change?

This was one of the many things I learned and kept in the front of my mind whenever I had a stupid moment of thinking the good things could outweigh the bad.

Don't do it, babe.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:54 PM on December 15, 2008

Of course people can change. A better question is "has this person changed". Regarding that question:

(1) I wouldn't count on it;

(2) You won't ever know -- ever -- unless and until he does it again.

For his sake, I hope he's changed. For your sake, I hope that you don't give him the chance to prove to you that he hasn't.
posted by Flunkie at 3:58 PM on December 15, 2008

So, mefites, is it possible for people to change? Am I just being a typical victim? Do I need therapy, stat?

Not when they're around the people they've abused, yes, and yes.
posted by Jairus at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do (physically) abusive people ever change their ways?
Yes, but only with a lot of effort on their part. And it's much more common to regress into the same old patterns/problems when reviving former relationships.

Do I need therapy, stat?
Doesn't seem like it would hurt.

You seem like a decent person. Someone who deserves to be loved without the -love to hurt you- crap. I say try your luck elsewhere.
posted by moonshine at 4:00 PM on December 15, 2008

Yes, I believe it is possible for abusive people to change. But you have not said one single thing that indicates that he has done so.

(Did you notice that pretty much everything you said was about yourself? And yet you say you've stopped holding yourself responsible for his behavior?)

Crying and saying he is sorry and will never do it again if you'll only take him back *does not count.*

Showing evidence of significant introspection, taking full responsibility for his actions, making sincere and humble amends *without* immediately trying to get you back, doing serious joining a group for abusers, reading books about abuse, taking an anger management class, coming up with a plan for how to handle his anger...basically acting like someone whose denial has been shattered by the recognition of his violent criminal behavior, and who has made changing his life into his number-one priority...

Those are some of the signs that *might* indicate the kind of personal accountability and growth that can help overcome a history as an abuser.

Not seeing any of those things? Walk on, then -- and into a therapist's office. Because yes, you do sound like a typical victim.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:01 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Correction: "...doing serious therapy, joining a group for abusers..."
posted by ottereroticist at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2008

The question you should be asking isn't, "Has my abuser changed his ways?" but rather, "Can I find someone else I will like more than this guy who abused me?" The answer to that question is an unqualified yes.

P.S. Don't mistake missing a past boyfriend (which everyone does, less and less as you get older and happier in your current life) with a need to be with that past boyfriend. One is nostalgia, the other is compulsion.
posted by incessant at 4:06 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's certainly the philosophy that no one ever changes ever, but I would be wary of treating that worldview as if it were airtight logic. People do change; to retract individual agency inherently undermines the idea that human beings, even formerly abusive ones, have the capacity—and the right—to control their own lives.

Are you being a victim? I don't know. But to respond to others here: the abusive ex-boyfriend made a choice to physically harm her; you wouldn't say he had no influence of his own actions.

And if you accept his will to harm her, then you grant him the ability to never harm her again.

I'm not saying to go back to him. Like you and others have mentioned, there is a palpable danger involved with people with violent pasts. That being said, you cannot ever take away his right to change, because it truth, right now that's all he has.
posted by trotter at 4:07 PM on December 15, 2008

I would think that if he had changed and was truly remorseful of what he did to you in the past, and if he cared, he wouldn't want to go near you for fear of relapsing and abusing you again. Look at it this way - if he loved you would he encourage you to be around someone who has a history of punching you in the face for no good reason? No, because he wouldn't want to put you at risk.

Or another persepective -- if your very very best friend was contemplating going back to an abusive boyfriend, what would you say? You would tell her to run for the hills, wouldn't you?

So yeah, add another vote for "Don't go near him." Because you would never feel 100% safe that he wouldn't hit you again. And then when he did (because chances are he would) you would hate yourself for letting it happen to you again.

Also, while I'm not a fan of the over-used askmefi suggestion for therapy, I would maybe look into it if I were you, if only for you trying to excuse the abuse on his 'growing pangs'.
posted by gwenlister at 4:21 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's 99% likely that you are fooling yourself, and, as others have noted, only stuck on him because the abuse satisfied some deep need in you.

See a therapist. Really. Healthy people aren't attracted to those who intentionally hurt them.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:30 PM on December 15, 2008

I think it's possible to change, yes. I also think that it takes a lot of time to do so, a lot of effort, and a lot of motivation to keep those changes in place for the long haul.

My biggest bit of advice: do not enter this relationship in the hopes of convincing him to change his ways. Don't get back with him if he has not *already* changed. You cannot motivate him to change, drive him to change, or otherwise make him change.

A good relationship enhances your good qualities - it does not do much for your negatives.

The initial parts of a relationship, even one you're returning to after a period away, are generally blissful - no one argues, fights, has problems - and what comes after that is the hard part. I have no doubt that even the worst abusive individual can maintain a happy demeanour for a brief amount of time.

If you're seriously considering the idea of rebuilding, talk to him about your concerns. Give him the ground rules - and make sure you mean them ("If you hit me, once, for any reason, this relationship is 100% over and there will not be another chance given.")

And listen to him, very very carefully. Take off any blinders you have while you're listening. Pretend you're someone who loves YOU very much (your Mom, perhaps, or your best friend) and hear what he's saying as you tell him your concerns.

What do your friends and loved ones think? Quite often the people who love us have very good antennae for our relationships but are afraid to speak up lest they offend you.

Ask yourself what indications there are, for you, of him having changed. How does he handle stress? How does he handle long-term problems? How does he cope with interpersonal problems? Has he been through therapy? Has he learned new coping skills? How's his anger?

Would you trust him to treat someone else better than he treated you in the past? Or are you looking at this as you being able to 'manage' his issues because you already know what they are?

Does he recognize how incredibly wrong he was in the past? Is/has he asked you for forgiveness? Acknowledge that what he did was absolutely unacceptable, wrong, terrible and, yes, abusive? Or does he rationalize it in some way?

If he hit you again (or was otherwise abusive) would you be able to walk away once and for all? If not, then you cannot - cannot! - enter this relationship again. Your well-being and safety is the most important part in this equation and you can't allow love or "love" to compromise that.

Couples counselling, if you're both sure you want to move forward, would seem a good idea. Learn how to trust each other, learn how to communicate changes, learn how to deal with problems/issues/crap in a positive manner as a team... etc.

And yeah, individual counselling can't hurt either. Not because you're crazy - but to make sure you're looking at this from a healthy perspective yourself. Do you have codependent tendencies? Do you legitimately like yourself and enjoy being by yourself, too? (Etc).

Yes, people change. Sometimes in pretty dramatic and major ways! But there are just as many people, if not more, who only think they've changed..
posted by VioletU at 4:37 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, apparently I am verbose this evening. Apologies for nattering on and on!
posted by VioletU at 4:38 PM on December 15, 2008

Yes, it is possible. But not PROBABLE.

Someone has to be highly selfmotivated-and go through a lot of counseling-not to mention having to develop insight into themselves.

This is rare. Very rare. Yes, once in a great while, it happens.



I would suggest you consider that particular door closed. It's too dangerous NOT to.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2008

I'm kind of hesitant to post these links, and I'll explain why in a minute. But yeah, sure, people do, sometimes, sort their shit out:

I’ve long since sought forgiveness from the son I used to abuse.
"It's really important for men who have been perpetrators of abuse, verbal, mental or sexual on partners and families. It's important they acknowledge there are issues.

"The first step is to acknowledge it. Without that there can't be change. Sitting down and talking with people who have been able to work through those issues for a better life. By exposing the negative you provide the positive change.

"One of the saddest moments (in my life) was when, because I was so controlling, her (my wife's) thoughts were no longer her own."

The reason I'm hesitant. Well, try Googling your favorite newspaper for stories on abuse. See how many you get on people you reform compared to horrid, horrid cases of awful, tear-jerking abuse. And see how much work it takes for those people - they don't show up one day and go, 'hey, I'm better'; it's typically a long, hard journey toward healthy behavour.

So I'm hesitant because you sound so desperate to get together with your ex that you're looking for any excuse to do so. What you've written here tells me nothing that would indicate your boyfriend has changed - counselling? therapy? jail time? In fact, you present no kind of signifcant life events or work toward being a better, non-abusive person at all. Just a desire to get back with an abuser because you love him.

So year, maybe the answer to the first question is yes, people can sometimes change. But there's no evidence he has. Just that you're sick of being away from him and rationalising so you can get back together. And that sure as hell sounds like a big, fat, yes to question two.
posted by rodgerd at 4:55 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

He may have stopped hitting women, but is he still controlling and abusive in other ways? I've met some "success stories", in terms of men who were former batterers, and they still aren't a cup of tea-- the psychological underpinnings are still there even though the criminal behavior has stopped.

Tangentially related is the old saw, "What do you call a drunken horse thief who stops drinking?" Answer: "a horse thief."
posted by availablelight at 5:17 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

I asked a question here a few weeks ago about how to deal with a brother-in-law that's been abusing my sister. There was a lot of good advice on abuse in general that might be worth reading. Her story, like many abused women, is pretty similar to yours. I don't know the answer to your question or what to tell you, but I can relate her story. Maybe it'll help.

They started dating in high school. He was abusive then. After high school, they broke up and for years dated other people. Eventually, they wound up getting back together, got married and had kids. The abuse slowly crept it's way back into the relationship. Most recently, he wound up choking her in front of the kids. Cops were involved and he wound up assaulting my other sister when she tried to help. He hasn't changed, it never went away. In fact, it's gotten worse.

But she still tries to make it work. Now there's a marriage and kids involved. The longer she's with him, the harder it is to let go.

Again, I don't know what you should do. And I don't know if some people can change. But in my sister's case, this asshat hasn't. Please... don't wind up in the same situation. These guys are very good at hiding their dark side, even from themselves. Just remember to love and respect yourself as much as you love someone else who might hurt you.
posted by csimpkins at 5:56 PM on December 15, 2008

So, mefites, is it possible for people to change? Am I just being a typical victim? Do I need therapy, stat?

Yes, but it's unlikely. (No offense, but just look at how hard it is for you to stop loving someone who has physically hurt you -- change is hard and takes a long time). Yes, you are saying things that many other victims say. And yes, if you are not in therapy, you really might want to consider it.

You have a few other options, of course. It seems like this person and this situation is really compelling for you. And it sounds like you are on the verge of choosing to get caught up in this cycle again. You can certainly choose to engage with this guy again, and you very well might. Maybe testing the waters one more time will be enough for you to have had enough.

I do think he'll abuse you again, so I really worry about you making this decision. I know that once you're in the cycle, it's easy to lose perspective and to start believing the logic of the abuser. I'd think very carefully about whether you want to risk that.

Therapy really is an alternative. Whatever you do with this guy right now, I would highly recommend it. I can understand feeling frustrated that your emotions haven't shifted at all over these past years. But therapy would be a way to work to change the underpinnings of your own perspective on this.*

*If you think about it, all therapy is is getting high-quality, professional assistance -- consulting an expert -- about your emotions, thoughts, and life choices. People consult professionals about their hair. People pay thousands of dollars to affix metal rods to their teeth in order to align them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. It seems like a very worthy investment in your future life for you to get some input from a competent advisor about patterns of thought and emotion that will influence your choices and happiness for the rest of your life.


I think you should ask these people the same questions you are asking us -- 1-800-799-SAFE
posted by salvia at 6:06 PM on December 15, 2008

Ah, ick.

People don't like to say this because it can encourage people to stay with abusive partners, but yes, sometimes they change. When I was four or so, my dad was physically abusive and, for whatever reason, stopped after a year or two. He didn't get therapy or anything. From what I know, he was on drugs during the early years of their marriage and when that stopped, so did the physical abuse. For years after that, though, he was sometimes emotionally abusive to my mother. By the time I was 20 or so that wasn't the case anymore. I think being in a protracted process of dying (due to health problems) humbled him and he finally came to appreciate everything he'd put my mother through. That's about four years where he wasn't abusive. So when people say that abusers absolutely don't change, or need years of therapy to change, that isn't 100% true. Everyone is different, and I think we should at least be honest about that.

But the truth is people say that for a damn good reason. While I loved my father and I miss him often since he has died, I frequently wished my mom would get divorced. I brought this up a few times and she wouldn't listen, which I felt was unfair because she was keeping me trapped in the situation too. If someone treated me like my father treated my mom, I would hope I'd have the good sense to leave. It was not a good environment to raise me in, and even though my father was not directly abusive to me and loved me very much, having to hear and see the arguments was bad enough. My mother absolutely could have found someone who would have treated her better, and even though the physical abuse stopped, the emotional abuse for years afterward was nearly as bad. Being single would have been loads better, even if she was lonely. The fact of the matter is no single person is worth putting up with that much bullshit, and life would have been better for both of us had she left him. While I'm glad he got progressively better as his life went on and regretted what he'd done, I know that most people don't need failing health before they realize it's not acceptable to abuse others, emotionally or physically.

And while intellectually I knew theirs was the perfect example of an unhealthy relationship, it still gave me the skewed perception that drama was normal in a relationship. It's difficult to undo that, though thankfully I managed.

This idea that there's only one person for you, and he happens to be abusive, is absurd. You just haven't had a good partner yet, and once you do, you'll look back at this and wonder what you were thinking. You absolutely need to pursue that instead of getting back together with someone like this guy. And if you ever want to have kids, trust me when I say you would not be a very good mother to be with this guy. I love my mom very much, but staying in that relationship was by far the worst thing she could have done to me growing up. I constantly felt sick at the things going on, and helpless to do anything to stop it. I probably cried once at a day, at minimum.

Not to mention it's a huge emotional burden to place on anyone else who loves you, like your friends and family.

Please get some therapy. Nothing anyone says here will be much good without it. It's a difficult and delicate process to get out of the mindset you're in, but it absolutely must be done.

Good luck. I'm sorry you're feeling this way, and that this has happened to you.
posted by Nattie at 6:17 PM on December 15, 2008

Skipping a lot of comments to quote my grandma again: "People mostly change to become more of who they already were."
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

Of course people can change, but as mentioned upthread, you need to be concerned with whether or not he has changed. And frankly, the odds aren't good.

You have done what very few people can do safely--leave an abusive relationship. Stay gone.
posted by agentwills at 6:52 PM on December 15, 2008

posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:55 PM on December 15, 2008

That's why they call it the "cycle of abuse". He may chill out for a while...but eventually he'll be back to his old ways.

1. Tension Building
2. Incident
3. Reconciliation
4. Calm

Annnnnnd repeat! Over and over and over again. It's not going to end.

You sound like a typical victim :( I don't doubt that you love the good parts of him, but I think you also love who you WISH he was.

Get out now. Don't get into this again.
posted by pdx87 at 6:58 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're asking the question, "Can he change?" And you're probably wanting Random People on the Internet to tell you "Yes, it's possible for him to change," so that you can justify going back to him, hoping things will be different this time.

But I think the more relevant question is "Have YOU changed into a person who isn't willing to tolerate being abused, and knows how to respond to abusive behavior?" And for help finding the answer to that question, you should seek counseling. Find someone good, who specializes in abuse. My gut feeling is that if you're here, asking this question, you're not ready to consider going back to this man.

I would also second the book by Lundy Bancroft. It would be impossible for me to overstate its helpfulness in dissecting abusive patterns and behaviors.

Counseling really helped me. I hope you will consider finding a good counselor, and in the meantime, I wish you luck.
posted by eleyna at 7:29 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Nthing the Lundy Bancroft book.

Here's my two cents, though. Absolutely people change-I wouldn't be doing social work with abusive parents for gaaah 17 years now if I didn't believe it. I'm sure not naive about this, though. While in general I think it very, very hard for a batterer to change without an intensive intervention and their own genuine commitment to the process, a lot, I think, is dependent on a couple of things that you haven't shared with us:
-all the stuff folks have mentioned above re his willingness to change, your strength, etc, which I won't repeat
-What was the violence like? In what context did it occur? For instance, I am much more worried about the man who maybe never does anything more physically violent than a really hard arm grab and a shove, but belittles, controls money, isolates from friends-those guys who really exhibit the power and control dynamic-than of the boyfriend who, say, got really angry one night when he was 16 and slapped one time. Did the violence escalate? Were there other controlling and scary or jealous behaviors? How did he act when you broke up? Did he stalk or threaten you?
-Was he using then and is he clean now? Substance abuse doesn't make someone a batterer, but if often goes hand in hand, and if he has a substance abuse problem and isn't clean now, no chance.
-Do you know anything about what his life has been like since you? Has he been in trouble with the law? How would his other ex-girlfriends describe him (do you have any reliable sources)? DUIs? Conflict with employers? Does he seem to operate with a sense of entitlement when dealing with the world? (I would've....if x hadn't screwed me over)?

I'd echo that a good therapist or support group can be your best resource right now. Research I've seen, by the way, shows that batterers really need at least an intensive 52 week intervention focused on battering, not on "anger management" in order to change. YMMV.
posted by purenitrous at 7:48 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

A good therapist will help you figure out why are attracted to abuse, and work through it to get to a healthy place.

That inference is totally unwarranted. Enough pop analysis, please.
posted by Neiltupper at 8:21 PM on December 15, 2008

People can change. Usually they don't; it takes a lot of work and not everyone is up to the job. I'd assume your abusive ex has not changed unless there is some real reason to believe otherwise - say, he was in a 4 or 5 year relationship with someone else and never abused her.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:25 PM on December 15, 2008

Abusive people can change. The one I know best has taken over thirty years to do it.

The abusers and abuseds whom I know have taught me that it's extremely risky to return to an abuser within a time frame of less than ten years even if s/he swears s/he's changed.
posted by jeeves at 10:12 PM on December 15, 2008

Yes, I believe it is possible for an abuser to change but they have to want to change and must be willing to do what it takes. I don't think that maintaining a relationship with an abuser is a good idea because the relationship was created based on the dynamics of an abuser and a victim. It is a cycle of codependency and one person is always going to overstep their bounds... or the other is not able to maintain the boundaries. If one is an abuser and the other a habitual victim, where does it end? One person has to do what it takes for the cycle to end because it will never be under control

Personally, I think that the relationship is a lost cause unless you both want to live in health- not just one.
posted by agentsarahjane at 12:33 AM on December 16, 2008

I think returning to an abuser sends yourself a negative message about your own self-evaluation, that you're not worth being protected, and that it's forgivable for people to physically harm you since you're not worth much.

The other thing: even if it were possible for him to change, it would be impossible for you to forget--subconsciously, I think that in every passionate disagreement you'd have a little seed of fear, and it would make it impossible to be fully yourself.

Regarding 'I haven't found anyone else like him'--you'll find someone better. I mean, lots of people go through that mooning over someone when they break up, it's the death of a fantasy of happy ever after. But just because you haven't found someone else that you love doesn't mean you won't, it just means you haven't yet.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:08 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, we assume that “abusive” individuals approach the world and analyze their actions the same way we do. They don’t. I deal with these people frequently and I still make this mistake; human nature I think. The other day a distraught fellow brought a baby into our emergency department that was, obviously, dead. We resuscitated it and comforted the young guy while the infant was having a CT scan. The results clearly indicated he had killed it by shaking. Further evidence indicated there had been prior abusive incidents. My point is these scumbags are masters of deception, if there is any hint of this element in their character move on and never look back. Of course this is pointless; you have already allowed him close to you again. Good luck.
posted by rotifer at 3:26 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Someone wise once said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

That is to say, going back to this guy would be insane. Maybe he's changed, maybe he hasn't, but you don't need to be the one to find that out. Find someone who has never - and will never - abuse you in the first place.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:03 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are over 6 billion people on this planet.

I don't even know you, and I can say with absolute authority that you can find someone to love in this world that doesn't abuse you. Again, let me emphasize... over 6 billion people on the planet. Your love interest could be -so- narrow that you only want to date bisexual street artists that are 1/8th Iroquoian on their mother's side and have a love of Japanese folk art... and you could find someone that fits that description who isn't abusive. It's a great big world.

As to your question about people changing. 99 percent of people never change. People I've known for years are exactly as big of assholes or as kind as they were the day I met them. Some of the people I've known for nearly 30 years still have the same quirks they had when we were in preschool together.

Do what you have to do (therapy, change of locale, spending more time on yourself) to shift your mindset from thinking it's ok to want to love and be with an abuser to being able to spit on him and move on.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

You miss the good things and your mind won't let you remember the bad things, as a way of being kind to you, and a way of letting you survive. The body doesn't remember pain.

If you were 50 or 60 and writing this post and the abuse was back when the boyfriend was in his 20's, I'd say, 'yes, go for it." A "long time" is not enough. It must be a SIGNIFICANT long time, no less than 20 years (imho), and he has to be presenting real evidence as to his change, such as years and years and years of therapy.

You shouldn't beat yourself up for falling for it; sociopaths are clever individuals and incredibly intelligent women fall for them on a regular basis. There's lots of information about this on the internet if you want to go look for it.

Thousands and thousands of men "grow up" without abusing their partner. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE. EVER. NEVER. NONE. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.

Please don't do this.
posted by micawber at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

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