An anonymous open letter to people in abusive relationships who want to stay in the relationship despite the abuse

NOTE: trigger warning. This post contains graphic discussion of violence in relationships..
An anonymous letter. Edited for clarity, anonymity, and gender-neutrality.

You’ve probably been told to leave many times. And you pretty well know that this is what you “should” do. But you haven’t left, and you’ve got your reasons. And even if other people think those reasons are horrible, they still count.

People will say that your partner can’t change, that abusive behavior doesn’t just stop. Whether or not that’s true, I’m not gonna get into right now. What’s obvious is that you love & care about your partner, and want to see them happy and be happy with them. That’s really the most important thing here. Your world, your feelings.

I’m gonna give you some insight from the other side of the coin. From the perspective of the abuser. Cause I know what that’s like. Cause I was one. And I’m not anymore. And I know what it takes to get to the other side, and why so many abusers never stop. And I know pretty well what it’s gonna take for you to be able to share love with your partner free of fear.

Even if they tell you that it’s impossible and it will never happen, I know you still hope you and s/he can get there. So I hope you’ll listen to what I have to say. It’s the least I can do to give back.

My abusive behavior started because I thought I was entitled to control what people thought and how they reacted. A lot of people fuck up there – even people who never hit anybody, they still think it’s ok to mess with your mind and make you feel bad so you’ll do what they want. That counts as abuse. Abuse is about putting someone down, not just physically hurting them.

So even if your partner doesn’t do anything physical to you, think to yourself: “is s/he making me feel bad about myself? Does s/he seem to feel better when I feel so bad I don’t even want to talk anymore?”

It’s not like I grew up thinking “yeah I wanna be an abuser when I grow up” but I would notice how, when the shit hits the fan, more intimidation helps to get things done. It always seemed like if you got mad when people fucked with you, usually they would give you what you want. That’s kind of how some people in my family worked. One of them would scare you, and another of them would make you feel like you owed them something, like you didn’t have a choice. Does any of this sound familiar? That’s what I learned.

I didn’t go around abusing people or anything. I was a normal person pretty much all the time.  Nobody could hurt me, you know what I mean? I didn’t get close enough to anyone to get hurt. I was good. I had control.

And there it is. That word CONTROL. That’s what the abuse is all about right there – Control. And if the abuse is gonna stop, the abuser has to learn how to let go of control.

My abusive behavior didn’t stop till I got to the ROOT of my issues. Throwing things, grabbing my partner and screaming at her, calling her names, these were symptoms, but they were not the ROOT of the issue. The ROOT of it is the CONTROLLING MINDSET – the feeling inside that I was entitled to CONTROL things and people. Before the physical actions came the threats and name-calling. Before the name-calling came the raised voice. Before the raised voice came the snide comments. Before the comments came the feeling of entitlement to CONTROL my partner’s feelings, cause my comments were meant to put her down and put her in her place. That’s the ROOT of the problem. Without that CONTROLLING mentality, none of the other stuff happens.

Self-control and controlling behavior toward others are diametrically opposed to each other

Self-control is a good thing. Where things go wrong is when someone has to control other people. We all know deep down we can’t control other people. Not their thoughts and feelings, anyway. We can’t make people like us, right? But people who abuse other people forget that when they act on the impulse to control someone else, they are giving up their self-control, cause it’s all nerves and very little rational thought once you let your anger get the better of you.

You wanna know why we continue to abuse? Because getting your way with someone can’t be a one-time deal. If I abuse you once and give you time to really think about it, you’re probably gonna be better prepared the next time, more confident, with a plan. We gotta feel like we control you.

Many people who abuse their partners don’t like anything that reminds them that they don’t control their partner. They don’t like it because it makes them feel weak, and when you feel weak, you don’t feel in control at all. And like I said before, for folks who get abusive, that control is important.

Why does s/he take it out on you? I’ll tell you why. Because a close loving relationship by nature makes people more vulnerable, and people who like control too much don’t like being vulnerable. When you’re that close, sharing your body, your house, your life and everything, you have to depend on each other. Abusive people don’t like to think about that on their side. They’re fine if you are in a weak position and they are strong, but the minute you do something that shows how vulnerable they are or how much they depend on you, it’s like the rug got pulled out from under them. They thought they were good, strong, in control, and then you come and say [or do] something that they don’t know how to deal with, and the illusion of control has no leg to stand on anymore.

It’s never your fault when something shows your partner that s/he doesn’t have control. I know you might even try to make it your fault sometimes, even when you know it’s not, and I understand why you do it. It’s OK. I completely understand. But just remember that I told you – it’s not your fault.

Sometimes,for a little while the abuse takes a break, and you think things are getting better. But then it always comes back eventually. Even when nothing’s happening, you know deep inside that there are certain things you can’t say, certain places you can’t go. And it’s only a matter of time before something’s gonna happen, something’s gonna trip up your partner, and you’ll be back to square one.

How to tell if the abuse is really finished?

When you are able to tell your partner anything, and s/he simply accepts – even if s/he’s troubled about it. No raising the voice, no emotional manipulation, no retaliatory actions, no stalking, no blaming you for anything. That’s how you know.

When you’re no longer afraid to express yourself with your partner, in any way. When for example you can call your partner a jerk and s/he doesn’t jump. THAT is what it will take. That’s how you know.

When you don’t feel obligated or beholden anymore to your partner’s wishes. That’s how you know.

And if it sounds like your partner has a long way to go to get there with you, well, now you know why people say it’s pretty much impossible. Abusive people don’t just “stop abusing.” They have to change completely. They have to go through a transformation in which they completely leave behind many of the core values they had before, values that make it ok in their mind to act abusive.

Take it from me… I’ve made this journey. For me now, to be told No or be rebuked and even insulted? These are blessings. They are affirmations that the person understands they can be themself with me and not hold back, that at least I’m doing that part right.

Anybody worthy of your trust needs to get to where they can understand this. That’s what it’s gonna take for you to be able to really love your partner 100% without looking back.

If you want to be happy with your partner, they’re gonna need to do the necessary work on themself to be able to give you that happiness. This includes giving up the “right” to control you, guilt-trip you, and tell you who you can talk to and what you can do. And not only that: such a person has to want to truly change themselves, and work on it – saying that you’re gonna change doesn’t mean shit.

I hope what I’m saying helps somehow. I know things aren’t always so easy to figure out. But seriously, remember these things I’m telling you. Even if you can’t always take action, don’t ever let yourself forget. Reality in an abusive relationship is totally different from actual reality in the real world.

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57 Responses to An anonymous open letter to people in abusive relationships who want to stay in the relationship despite the abuse

  1. I’ve forwarded this to two different friends. Thank you.

  2. polybrunette says:

    Thank you for this. I am going to share this with my husband in hope that he will finally understand the changes that need to take place need to be elemental rather than ornamental.

    This also allowed me to recognize I used to be an abuser in a more defined way than I have before. I started making the change several years ago. I feel I am now in a place where I no longer attempt to control others.

  3. Reblogged this on Harley in Wonderland and commented:
    I’m on the receiving end of an abusive relationship right now. And if he knew I was putting this out there like this, he’d probably kill me.
    He didn’t used to be this way. When I knew him before. At least, that’s what I thought. I just found out from him today, that he was bad even back then. I don’t know what to do. I have made several half-hearted attempts to leave but I just know that if he really wants to change, he will. When he stops bullshitting himself, he’ll stop. When he’s finally able to accept responsibility he’ll stop. But it won’t until then. I really want to help him. I know that if I stay with him, while he’s like this, then at least he’s not doing it to somebody else. I don’t know how to help him. I’d really like to. I really would. I hate to see anyone I love, this angry. This, rageful that they can’t be happy at all. It’s not fair to them or anyone else around them.
    I’m just rambling now. I’m sorry. I’m just so hurt and angry with myself for putting up with so much. I just really want to help him get help.

    • I have so many feelings reading what you are writing here, I don’t know what to say. Whatever happens, keep yourself as safe as possible. If you aren’t safe, you won’t have much agency to help yourself or him.

      Hopefully, he wants to get help. The first step is knowing and admitting he has this problem. Without that, it will be hard to get him help, and the best way to love him will be to love yourself – because later on in life, when he looks back on his history, he will have more to regret and atone for the more he hurts you now.

      It’s hard when your own shame emotions gang up on you like that. It’s like you’re facing down two people instead of one. But please, forgive yourself, love yourself, and take care of yourself. That’s the surest first step to finding the road out of the dysfunction.

      Big hugs! Thank you for sharing, and if you need this comment taken down at some point, just reply here and I’ll take it down.

      • Thank you. I was just feeling bad that day. He hasn’t hit me in over four months so, he’s doing better with the physical part. He’s just so mean when he talks to me. Acts like I shouldn’t be allowed to “talk back to him” cuz then he threatens to hit me. It’s gotten to the point where it’s more annoying than scary now.
        And we had a big fight the same day I posted this. Not about the post of course, but because I had basically had it.
        We then talked and are starting to work things out better than ever. And you’re right about loving myself.
        Because I wouldn’t have gotten to this point if it weren’t for the decision I made a month ago to love myself first. ^_^
        He’s told me that he doesn’t want to be that way. That I deserve better than that. That’s a huge step. Especially since he said this after an argument in which he didn’t get violent. He used to apologize and beg forgiveness after each time. That’s why I stayed. I understood, that he wasn’t trying to be that way and that he really wanted to not do it. Every time, it happened, he promised he wouldn’t again. But the last time he promised, he’s kept it so far.
        I’ll keep you updated on our progress. *big hugs back* Thank you so much for sharing your story so much. It has really helped me a lot.

    • Miss Quinn:
      To read your comments is very, very saddening for me. I have been married 14 years to an abusive man. After ten and a half years of physical, mental and emotional abuse, and after three attempts, I finally fled to a domestic violence shelter with my two children. (Call a hotline.) They help with legal help, financial help, housing, etc. It was then that my husband – for the first time – admitted he was an abuser. I made him read the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. You need to read it. Repeat: YOU NEED TO READ IT. Miss Quinn, when you are in the middle of a situation, you are sitting there, in your own little world that you’ve been accustomed to. But when people on the outside looking in they can see things objectively for what they are. Reading your posts is so so familiar but so so sad. I see the pain. I see the hope. I see the cycle. The “Oh, it’s better now.” I see the joy in the (actually very pitiful) fact that he hasn’t hit you in four months. Did you know that I was in the shelter with women who were NEVER hit but lived with the emotional abuse daily, and they, although never haven been hit, still won their cases and obtained restraining orders? Abuse is abuse. And those promises need to be backed up with real work on themselves. So let me get back to my story: My husband’s remorse seemed real. He read that book and then he proceeded to go to the homes of my friends (whom he had convinced to actually turn on me and write letters on his behalf for our court case). He told them that actually everything I said was true and that he was an abuser and that they couldn’t commend him for change. He was scared of that. He came back to our place of worship and read his bible and other literature, etc. He let me control the finances, go out with friends, etc. It was all good EXCEPT for the fact that he still had a hard time identifying the root of the problem. He focused so intently on “can’t do this” and “can’t do that” that he started to miss the whole point completely. Fast forward over three years later and now we have a situation where he has almost completely detached from me emotionally. He withholds personal information, does not have any conversations with me other than to discuss business and logistics (never ever personal questions about me and how I’m doing or what I’m thinking, etc. but is quick to laugh, play and have sweet talk with the kids right in front of me after a period of icy silence between him and I), we don’t date, we rarely have sex, he sleeps in the living room and has been for three years, and although a lot of the overt abuse has stopped he still has abusive anger where he gets upset at me for petty things. Two weeks ago we had an argument that ended in another one of his threats to separate because I was still in the middle of cooking dinner when he came home and he was upset that it wasn’t done and ready. Then he criticized me for making the salad early. He said I needed to make it last so it can stay crisp. He also yelled at me a few weeks earlier because I used the back door to our apartment. We had just moved in and the back door had paint build up so it was sticking. Although I had been using that door all week, it stuck on me once so he yelled at me and treated me like I was stupid for choosing to use the door although it’s the one door that leads to the backyard where my laundry room, yard, pool, etc. are. But this is abuse. My point: the root is there. It was never pulled. He’s had no classes, no therapy, and simply has gone downhill without any. Immediately after our court case and his change of heart there was a matter of months where I could have my say and it mattered but that ended soon, and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t argue my feelings or point without it ending in abuse and his threats of separation. This is my reality and every day I have to live with the pain of being neglected, ignored, and manipulated while trying to raise my kids, always keeping my eye on the pulse of the situation and realizing the day may come again where it’s too much and I have to go. Then a life of being a poor single mom trying to make ends meet begins. So please think about all this and compare it to your own situation. Is he really better? You can pour out your heart to him and he takes your feelings seriously? You don’t feel like you walk on eggshells? I know I do. And the thing about me is that even though I’m fully aware of what’s going on I choose to stay (at the moment) because I have several things on my side: 1) I’ve educated myself for years. I know fully what’s going on and know I’m not to blame. I choose to ignore, to the best of my ability, his crap, and build myself up according to what I know. 2) I have past restraining orders/court cases that prove he is abusive, and can fall back on these if I need to in the future. 3) He has his name on file with DCFS so there’s no chance of him getting primary custody of the children, which was always one of my main worries. 4) I am a very spiritual person who has a lot of faith that God can supply me with “power beyond what is normal” and can “safeguard my heart and mental powers” and I am closely connected to a religious community who fully supports me and can defend me; although the bible teaches submission, it equally teaches that a man should cherish his wife and abuse has no part in a home and goes against what God says, and an abused woman has the right to protect herself by removing herself and her children from a unhealthy and threatening situation. 5) I have amazing friends that I talk to daily and spend time with. Their kids are friends with my kids. We even recently moved into a complex where one of my best friends is the manager and we have a pool here in sunny California. There is so much opportunity for fun for myself and my kids, and our friends have become like family. 6) The great thing about my husband is that he actually is very selfless when it comes to working. He works his butt off and makes good money. He will never ask me to work and any extra money goes to the welfare of the kids and I. So I am able to stay home with my children. My life and energy go into them and we have joy in our everyday lives and are very close. This is the primary reason I stay. My children are the most important thing in my life and my husband and I agree on being 100% involved in their care and upbringing.
      Okay, I’ve written a book, I think, but I just had to put all this out there. Please get some help and don’t kid yourself.

    • If you’re still in the relationship, or even if you’re not, please read the book called “Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men” By Lundy Bancroft. This was the catalyst that ended (and ultimately began) mine and my husbands marriage. It gave me words to speak for myself and the courage to say “I’m done”. And when I explained everything to my husband, straightforward, that he was abusive he went into denial and got even worse. He was not physically abusive…yet, and if he were I wouldn’t have even tried to show him what was wrong with him, I think that is a dangerous situation. It does not get better unless he realizes that he is abusive, he will escalate. My husband and I have split up. But he has realized his abuse and is reading that book and trying everything to learn how to recognize what he was doing and how to stop it. So we are currently “dating” and spending time as a family a few times a week, as we have kids. But read the book, even if you have left the relationship, it will help you understand what you went through and will help you in future relationships. I can’t recommend it enough. All my best to you. I hope you are no longer in that situation.

      • Thank you so much for mentioning this book. I have been reading this book and I feel at ease. I do not feel sorry for my husband and do not blame his father anymore. I feel I am getting all my questions answered. It’s giving me closure. Thank you..

  4. Pingback: What will it take to stop the violence? | Positive Juice

  5. Yoli Guzman says:

    I was abusive to my last partner, verbally and physically. I commend him for leaving me and not putting up with my behavior. It made me realize my issues and the demons I’ve been battling for years. I’ve been struggling with anger issues for years and this last relationship I’ve turned into an ugly monster. And too bad it with a relationship I was extremely happy with. I really want to change, I’ve acknowledged my problem. But negative comments like “an abuser will never change” just don’t help me. When I saw your article, it gave me a little sense of hope. I want to bring back my self respect. Thank you…..

    • Good luck. I think anyone that truly wants to change should get help and a chance to do so. Even terrorists. Though indeed there be consequences to one’s actions, something I am not taking away from, still – as long as one is still alive, there is room to become a better person. And each example can inspire others.

    • Yoli, it is completely doable to change!! It’s just rare because most people don’t want to. Reading your post makes me so proud of you. It’s difficult to admit what you just did and your attitude of commending your ex is very mature. Don’t give up on the process! Keep working on it. True intimacy and mutual respect is in your future!!!! There are a few books you can read that will do WONDERS. Read Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abuse RElationship”. And really, any of her books, “Controlling People” and “The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?” And if you can contact Patricia Evans herself, she’d be happy to hear from a woman. Usually, women don’t change. But it is possible! It has nothing to do with possibility. Just a desire. Patricia points out why women are less likely to change. For a woman to become abusive she must have been stripped from her feelings and femininity to become this; men only need to conform to society and their stereotypical role. It is much easier for a man to abuse than a woman. Anyway, just READ THE BOOK. And again, I am so proud of you!

  6. Hi, this is the most useful item i have ever read regarding the perpetration of this behaviour. you have made it simple, without blame or shame or victimising anyone. you’ve made it human and very useful for so many situations. I’ve worked in this area for over 15 years as a social worker and there is so little useful information out there for men or for women who don’t see him as a monster all the time.



  7. wxlog says:

    This is a big lie of the devil.
    Abusive people DO NOT change but for us the good folk we keep thinking they can or will because we love them, they are our parents, or siblings or lovers. and cannot imagine them being corrupt beyond repair. They have a mental problem.

    Mostly they have a personality disorder such as sociolpathy. They cannot be good even if they wanted. They must lie cheat deceive, abuse. By having hope you open yourself to an endless cycle of abuse and apology and hoping and waiting while your agemates are having a beautiful painless existence.

    The change they can seem to undergo, like thiouyous writer, is not really a changer. It is a running out of options. Having abused everyone in their circle there is no one else left and so they beg and declare complete change. The change look permanent. But it is false. It only sticks as long as they believe they are out of options.
    Would you rather not be with the one who loves you than the reject who cannot live without you?

    • By having hope you open yourself to an endless cycle of abuse and apology and hoping and waiting

      I know where you’re coming from, and when it comes to the abusive relationship itself, I agree – it should be ended as cleanly as possible, point blank. But some people don’t find the strength to end it; they are too in love with / connected to / intertwined with the person abusing them. Some folks, no matter how much they go through, no matter how much people tell them “you need to leave,” still don’t leave, still have hope. This article is of course written for those folks.

      If we look at things in this way (“what would it take for the abuse to stop”), even if it’s only hypothetically, we shift the responsibility for stopping the abuse onto the abuser, which is how it should be, it then becomes easier for the victim to have a better sense of self-love alongside their love for the person abusing them; they can begin to start thinking about what they are willing to tolerate … and perhaps whether such love for a person who, as you say, cannot love them back is better given through cutting off the relationship and freeing the abuser of their victim, so to speak.

      There is a tendency in society to [often unintentionally] blame the victim: you should leave, you’re putting yourself in danger. In abusive dynamics, a victim is often already crushed under a mountain of shame – that’s what gives the abuse its lasting power. We’ve got to find alternative ways to reach out that do not shame the victim, that help the victim understand things better and lead the victim towards getting in touch with their sense of justice on their own.

      • wxlog says:

        I am having a difficulty classing your views. Same for another man called sam vikinon.
        You talk of loving the abuser.
        My point is the abuser simply has no love to reciprocate. An empty emotional bank. Emotionslly crippled. Unable to express warmth and humanity.

        The best a healthy person can do is to establish suitable boundaries which can be quite difficult if they for example family.

        At the bottom of the matter you may have to deal with such a person, in the same way you talk to your shopkeeper. And resist any form of emotional engagement.even if you have children!

        Hold them accountable.divorce them if they wont meet spousal material and report them to police if they steal.

        For love,security,peace of mind,respect,growth,care etc get someone who has those.

        Life is too precious to give a few seconds away to a looser.

        Regards n thanks for allowing a comment


      • You talk of loving the abuser.

        I don’t just “talk of loving the abuser.” Abuse victims [try to] do it all the time. I guess for me the question is, what’s the best way to reach out to them, if “the facts” so often don’t do the trick?

        EDIT: I want to apologize for being kind of one-sided in my reply to you. I totally get where you’re coming from, and I would encourage, and have encouraged, people in an abusive situation to end it where possible. If it’s unfathomable to you to love someone who abuses you, that makes total sense and I don’t want to fault you for thinking that way.

  8. Hi I’m new to this; I have never really spoken to anyone about my ex except my friends and a few lawyers. In my heart I know some people can change but as I explained to the judge in my divorce when you’re on the receiving end of abuse its like a gambler putting money into a slot machine. When you start you put in $5 and the machine gives you $20 but before you know it you’re putting your whole life savings back into that dumb machine just trying to get your $5 back. You see you don’t call the cops on people like my ex they eventually get out of jail. He was scary like horror movie scary!!! Not only did he hit me but he shot guns at me, over my head he’d poke me in the face with them and leave bourses that only a gun barrel can make. I tried to leave but he had me convinced that he would hunt me to the ends of the earth. The sad thing is that the incident that saved my life also took someone very dear to me. The day before mother’s day my stepson and a friend came to eat dinner with my ex and me he had to spend mother’s day with his mom and my ex murdered him in the driveway. I watched as I waited on the cops and ambulance to arrive. Our little girl at that time was only 3 and I had to explain to her why she can never see her Daddy again nor can she play with her big brother he’s an angle now. I was only 27 at the time… That was 5.5 years ago and I still don’t sleep

    • I have to admit I did not know how to respond to this comment of yours when I first saw it. I have shown it to several people – I’m so sorry this happened to you! I hope, gradually, as time puts distance between you and when this happened, that you can get some semblance of normal living back.

      Thank you for posting here. I hope writing about this has helped, even just a little bit! It’s my belief that the more you become able to talk about these things, the more you can establish a sense of ownership over you own past, so that your past owns you less and less. So thank you for writing about your experience here. Big hugs!

  9. kvanoene says:

    Thank you for writing this. What you explain is my husband; black, white & grey. I had him read it and he agrees its him but his answer was “I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about it.” I love him and I want him to get better for me and the kids. He wasn’t alwahs the abusive person he is now. It’s his”blowups”. We are in counseling but the cycle continues. Is there any advice you could give me to HELP him when hhe’s in that state of mind? I domt know how much longer I can hold on, it’s been going on a year. Congrats to you for moving past your demons. Everyone can change, but change takes a lifetime not overnight.

    • kvanoene says:

      I’d appreciate any advice you have.

    • Is there any advice you could give me to HELP him when hhe’s in that state of mind?

      I still get very angry myself every once in a few months. When this happens, the first thing I do is turn myself away from any person around me, and leave the room/house if possible. There’s a lot more I could say here, but this is the thing that comes through for me.

      You can’t of course make him do anything in particular, but perhaps if he can see that his controlling anger is toxic (though it be hard to talk about), you can make an agreement with him that he must direct it elsewhere when it happens, NEVER at you or the kids, because then stuff happens that you’ll always regret and can never take back (not to mention that law enforcement might at some point get involved and break up your family).

      He should also understand that there is nothing wrong in and of itself with feeling angry. Anger happens, and I don’t want him to be ashamed of his feelings. I get angry sometimes. But anger is harmful when it is taken out on other people. Perhaps your husband would be amenable to having some other place to be angry? Outside the house, maybe? Someplace when he can go and not have to worry about hurting anyone? This is very necessary both for your mutual safety and also to give both of you the space to think and reflect on your own about the angry moment, without continuing the tension of being next to each other.

      • kvanoene says:

        That’s a great idea. Everyone, myself and our therapist to be exact, try to say he needs to control his anger but maybe a better angle is telling him he can be angry just not towards me. That could really help. I just want my husband back, it wasn’t always this way. And he’s not always *that* way either. Thanks for the advice.

    • You NEED TO get the books by Patricia Evans. You can find them on Amazon or at a bookstore. Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” and her sequel “The VErbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?” All your info you need is in there.

  10. You are amazing. Thank you for your gift of honesty and compassion. I truly value and respect your journey, and You as well.

  11. tressa22 says:

    I am currently seperated from my wife and daughter because of ny controlling behavior. I miss them so much and I realize if have controled and hurt my wife. I am enrolled in a men’s group and I have just read a great book called “why does he do that”? I am trying to change my mindset on my controling behavior everyday, I am trying to be the best me I can every day. I just hope one day I can make up for how bad I have hurt my wife and family.

    • I hope so too. Please don’t give up or stop trying. Ever. No matter how angry you get at them or if you start to feel like things aren’t fair, please don’t give up. My husband’s remorse (after I fled to a shelter) was so astonishing and unreal that even our DCFS worker said she was impressed. But after only a matter of months, his covert passive-aggressive abuse started happening. He never went to a group or therapist. Three years later I still walk on eggshells and can’t talk to him about my feelings, am scared because he threatens separation all the time (and I am a stay at home wife with two kids and completely dependent on him). It was like as soon as he realized how difficult it was and how him saying sorry didn’t change me into the Dream Woman or erase the past, he just slowly gave up. Now I get very little affection, almost no conversation, and I sleep alone at night, every night, for years. If he could feel my pain even for a moment he’d be so shamed. Please don’t do that. Continue to do the work. I am very proud of you for doing so.

  12. thank you for this. i am an abuser. i felt terrible and i really wanted to change. i’d ask my boyfriend to leave me, but he insisted to stay. the sad thing about being this complete mess was some people said “once an abuser, always abuser”. that makes me really sad because i really need help, and hope as much as i can to remind me anytime i forget to control myself. but the words make me feel like no matter what i do, this behavior will always be a part of me. Thank you, thank you for making me feel like there’s hope, that i can change, and opened my eyes to realize things i can’t see before.

    • I’ve struggled with this label also. I think, in part, that labels help only to the extent that they help people understand each other. If the label “abuser” doesn’t work for you, find labels that do work! Find labels that are honest about your struggle (since you admit you need help) without putting you in a perpetually criminal light.

      Much love.


  14. Sarah Potts says:

    I am about to confront my abusive husband and ask him to admit how he battered me the other night. We have been married for 33 years and although there has been some problems in the past these have now escalated out of control. I could have been seriously injured if he had not almost had a heart attack himself when he tried to grab me by the legs and pull me off the couch. He came at me with a body slam from height and then reigned punches on me, trying to thump me on my head. I am scared to think what he was about to do when he started dragging me. Off course he blamed me saying, “Look what you’ve made me do!” He has been away since that night for business and we have talked on the phone but with no mention whatsoever about the attack. This is his usual way of avoiding the issue and hoping it will blow over but this time it won’t. It is however a difficult time to deal with it as there has also been a death in the family and we have my granddaughter’s birthday at the weekend so tomorrow night it is. I fear I am expecting an unreasonable man to show rational thinking and am more than a bit wary. I am meeting him at a hotel which I feel is a bit safer with than our home. I am scared of being on the receiving end of more abuse as I do not think he is ready to accept responsibility for his behaviour. I will leave him if he will not seek help in some form but fear the disruption and upheavel it will cause to everyone around us who are unaware of any problem. I feel our marriage has been on a downward spiral for well over a year and he refuses to acknowledge my feelings. I would love for him to be able to change but am not too hopeful. I am also financially reliant on him at present but cannot ignore the feeling that I am still in danger should I stay. Any advice would be welcome. I can’t believe this is happening to me or that it is me writing this sad tale.

  15. Thank you very much for this post! I have been having great difficulty forgiving myself after I slapped my partner on the arm, in front of his sister! Although my partner and his parents have forgiven me (while his sister is still processing her anger), I had to hear a lot of painful truths about my behavior and attitude, and it felt as though I was going through a grieving process. Grieving the loss of the idea that I am always a moral person, and that my autism, ADHD, and lousy experiences with people can excuse poor anger management. That female aggression is not as powerful as male aggression. I was wrong about all that. Yes, male privilege does exist, but women can still be oppressive and controlling on the individual level, and that is to be taken just as seriously as male to female abuse. There often is nowhere to go for men who are abused by their wives/girlfriends.

    Every day, I wake up feeling grateful that my partner still loves me after I have been an asshole to him. In fact, I realized that even before that incident, I have been taking him for granted and not respecting his needs. He has been dealing with severe panic attacks over the last 6 months and having difficulty leaving the house. Neither of us have full-time jobs yet, but I have been out of the house more than him, and I yelled at him for not keeping it clean (even though I have not done much on my part, either). I have criticized his video-gaming habits and his tendency to spend a lot of time indoors, and blamed him for the fact that I have constantly been feeling bored. I missed the days when we were able to do more things together, but I now accept that both of us have a lot of shit we need to work on before we are ready to go places together again. In the mean time, I have to find ways to keep myself entertained.

  16. I know this post is old. But thank you so much for opening up and giving the other side of the story and some hope… today the police were called AGAIN because my boyftiend was beating me and i was screaming because i had my daughter in my arms i was so scared for her. Anyways i have been straddling the fence about staying or leaving cause i love him so much. Even though this article gave me a glimpse of hope… i think i will end the relationship and tell him to get help if he wants, and ill support him as a friend. But my daughter comes first, if it was just me maybe i could stick around but she doesnt deserve this life. Love stinks.

  17. Andrew John says:

    I was just asked to leave the house by my fiancée because of my verbal and physical abuse. In the past few months, I have called her some horrible names (i.e. bitch, whore, slut-all of which could not be further from the truth), held over her head that I am the primary bread-winner and was really strict on how she spent money, and laid my hands on her several times (i.e. pushed her into a wall/door, threw a remote control at her, shoved her head, got into her face and head-butted her, grabbed her, squeezed her, and threw her into/onto our bed). I was living in denial about who I was, an abusive man. Even writing these things out make me realize how disgusting I am and how much of a scum I am to be able to do that to the woman I love more than anyone or anything. I do not deserve her back and she has no reason to take me back. She should leave me, but with our wedding pending in May and a lot of money paid towards it, I am afraid that she will feel pressure to stay with me. As much as I want to be with her and am committed to change, I want what’s best for her and I am clearly not that person right now. I called the domestic violence hotline and am seeking to get into a batterer’s intervention program, am meeting with my priest tonight to confess and discuss options with him, and am seeing a therapist. I am just so ashamed that I put her through this and I know that she will never be the same because of it. I just hope that she has the strength to make the decision that is best for her, without worrying about external pressures. I am not sure what to do if/when she contacts me again.

  18. Human Pulse says:

    This piece is quite amazing and verrrry insightful. Thank you for having the courage to share your story with the public. Not an easy thing to do. But I feel we need to hear more stories like yours that provide some evidence that people who have behaved abusively and violently towards others, especially their partners, can change. I also think you are fortunate enough to have a conscience, and the capacity to use your conscience to reflect on, take accountability for, and transform your behaviour. This probably doesn’t happen to violent offenders or sexual predators as much because many of them have been labeled as psychopaths and sadists incapable of changing their ways. Still, if we understand the human brain better, we should know that there are ways to change these violent behaviours. New synapses and patterns can be created through mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual re-conditioning, storytelling, talk therapy, music, art, etc. But of course most prisons do not have strong transformative programs for violent offenders – just infrequent one-on-one psychiatric counseling and/or interviews with reporters curious about their history of crime. Some of these prisoners who are released back into free society have a high likelihood of committing such crimes again.

    In my opinion with regards to people who are often compelled to stay in an abusive relationship (most of the time, these people do not have many options and so, it’s not really a matter of choice that they remain with their abuser, but maybe more to do with a life-or-death situation), even if the abusive partner starts to take accountability, and actually when they do start that process, I think the person being abused should sever the tie. Why? Because a cycle of violence has already been built into that relationship. I don’t think the abused person might ever feel completely sure or secure in the knowledge that their once-abusive partner will never raise their hand again. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs – once they’ve been conditioned to respond to something in their environment in a certain way, that’s the way it’s going to be. I’ve been in situations like these, and in all those times, the only way for transformative healing, recovery, and change to happen is if the person is out of sight, out of mind, or if the two people separate and just remain friends. But doing the latter might still require taking some time away from one another before redefining the relationship and setting boundaries.

    I do have hope though that in creating stronger, healthier nerves in our brains, and in challenging and coming to terms with our past, our ways of being with one another can change in actions that reflect a profound sense of love and care for all of humanity. I believe that’s within our capacity as humans, to always change in the direction of good so long as the society we live in gives us access to those transformative blessings. I think we still have a long way to go in this regard.

    Thanks again for this powerful and honest piece!

  19. Heidi Arndt says:

    Thank you for writing this. (I was prompted by our family’s therapist to seek out the perspective of abusers.)

    I’ve been separated from my husband for about three weeks. We have been having him over every night for dinner and even had a couple of nights where he stayed over, but, for now at least, he’s still stuck in the idea that he is being punished and, if he just did the right thing, he would be back home again.

    It seems as though I have lost the faculty to communicate with him the emotional gravity of the change that is necessary before he comes to live back at home with us. He doesn’t understand that our trust in his actions just aren’t there. We’ve been proven wrong far too many times to accept that this time is going to be it (especially when he’s really not gotten to the root of what is causing his feelings of helplessness and insecurity).

    There were many circumstances that were created by him that kept me feeling trapped and unable to easily extricate myself from this relationship. (Trust me, I’ve had 16 years to think about this and really study where we were, where we’ve been, and how we got here.) When the circumstances reached their zenith in September of last year, I knew that it was time to go, and so did my children, who, up until that point, had begged me to stay.

    I hope that my husband is able to find the kernel of good in him so that he an live his life happy. (God only knows that he’s been unhappy for such a very long time.)

    I am prepared to move forward alone, should things not change or if that epiphany never occurs. I’ve lived far too long under the yoke of shame and fear of the ant farm being shaken or being yo-yo’d one way and then another.

    I commend you with your journey and hope that you are able to continue it without giving into the temptation of falling off the wagon and allowing anger and fear to rule your world. I just hope that our world will find its way to be mended as well.

    • Heidi,

      I have recently gone through the same thing. My husband has moved out but comes over a few times a week for dinner and to spend time with the kids. When it escalated to the point of me seriously being scared of him doing something that everyone would regret, I told him it was over (after 14 years) and that I couldn’t do this anymore. The book “Why does he do that? inside the minds of Angry and Controlling men” by Lundy Bancroft really helped me to put words to what I was feeling and had been going through since nearly the beginning of our relationship. We went through about 5 days of pretty intense fighting, when he was in denial of the abusiveness that I was accusing him of. Then I guess it finally hit him (after me bombarding him with stuff from the book, in technical terms, that he was doing to me) and my standing my ground. It got scary for me because he had never hit me but I honestly thought at that point that he might. Anyway, now he is reading the book (and he doesn’t normally read books), trying to understand what he did, learning about passive/agressive behavior and anger and being controlling and how to not do those things anymore. I think he’s changing, but I still cannot give in as much as I want to. I told him that I don’t know how long it will take me to trust him and that we both need to take time to heal. He understands and isn’t pushing anything at all. He’s also dealing with a lot of things he went through as a child and how those things have affected the way he treated me and the kids. I’m still a little on edge at times thinking of how he might react to this or that, but so far he has been nothing but gentle and kind and understanding. It’s strange for me, but part of the healing process.

      My husband also realized how unhappy he also was in the relationship for so long, so that was probably another factor in why he began to accept what was going on. But I think if your husband thinks he is being “punished” he hasn’t realized anything yet and probably isn’t going to change. He needs to accept that what you are doing is protecting yourself and your family from him, not punishing him. I would buy that book and ask him to read it. Not every part of it will pertain to him, let him know that, but tell him to read it and see if he can identify with any of it. Maybe tell him the parts that you identify with. If he refuses to admit it all the pain he has put you through he is not ready to change. My husband is and I’m still so skeptical because of all the past broken promises.

      As I write this I get nervous that he will read this as he is on line a lot lately searching these things out to try to heal and help himself be a better person and a better husband. But I feel that he’s changing now so I would hope that he would understand that I’m writing this to help others in a similar situation, as well as learn from others too, and maybe he would comment here himself to help other women and men dealing with this and trying to heal. It’s a tough thing to go through. I wish you the best, just remember that no matter what you may have felt in the past, it’s not your fault. Try to remember who YOU are and be the best YOU that you can with or without him. 🙂

      • It always starts with a crack head mom or molestation. He will never be the kind to live you unconditionally as you and your kids deserve. All change will regress. Please keep him at a distance so not let him snake his way in. Bc he will try to tighten his hold on you and once again you will be abused. He’s done it to you before it’s so easy for him to go back. Believe me I have tried we have kids together we’ve known eachother since highschool. They do not change. What change is made will never be enough. They Wil never fully treat you as you and your family deserves even at his very best he still will cross lines.

      • It always starts with a crack head mom or molestation. He will never be the kind to live you unconditionally as you and your kids deserve. All change will regress. Please keep him at a distance so not let him snake his way in. Bc he will try to tighten his hold on you and once again you will be abused. He’s done it to you before it’s so easy for him to go back. Believe me I have tried we have kids together we’ve known eachother since highschool. They do not change. What change is made will never be enough. They Wil never fully treat you as you and your family deserves even at his very best he still will cross lines and boundries a man never should. He will always in some way remain broken. It hurts so bad you can show him the path but he will never make it to the final destination and you will remain miserable. For true happines get out now and find a man who sticks up for you and puts you first. One that would put your happiness before his own. You owe him nothing. Please do not look back.

        If he was changing you would feel afraid to post it. He has a hold on you still and you may not realize it.

      • Sorry for all the replies I accidentally added on to the same one.

  20. I decided to leave my boyfriend last November because of his endless affairs to different hookers. And every single time that he was caught he is blaming me, that it was my fault why he did it. It really effects me emotionally. My self confidence is on downward spiral. I hated myself thinking that I was very difficult to love and too Ugly. Our separation was a bit brutal. After few months of no contact I decided to send him a message for a closure. After few days of talking to each other he asked for another chance, which I know deep in my heart that I cannot / do not want to go back to where I used to be. He said he will change. Until I received a message from a girl which she calls herself a special friend of my ex boyfriend. claiming that I am begging for my ex boyfriend to come back, cause that is what he told her. I told my ex about the message and the blaming game began again. He accused me of having hook ups right after we separated. And that I hope I made the right choice and that I am having sex with one of his friends.

    We were together for 2 years, he always blames me for everything. He even hit me in the face because of the 2 guys that keeps on staring at me , he is very jealous. He always checks my phone from missed calls to my phone’s gallery. He even forced me to have sex with him anytime he wants. I always cry my self to sleep. I thought I was just under depression, and I was completely wrong.

    I never realized that the relationship was abusive until the last time I talked to him, where in he lied again. And blamed me for everything. Almost all our common friends and acquaintances thought it was all my fault because of how he told them.

    As I write I am still in a constant battle of unattaching myself to him. I am still putting my broken pieces together. To all the woman out there who is experiencing this, please end it as soon as you can.

    Love yourself.

    • Please stay away..i wasted over ten years of my life in a situation like this. Parts of him improved over time some even completely but even so they still will be manipulative, selfish, and will verbally abuse you. He may stop cheating but still will hit on women in front of you or behind your back. Even if he seems to get better he will go back. You deserve more than this. A man should defend and protect you from monsters like this. Everything will always be your fault. If you see the red flags that I’m sure you already know all to sell in your next partner run and do not look back. These men seem to know how to pick their victims. You will be a constant target as you probably are too sweet for your own good. I am glad you made it out alive, do not look back you deserve so much more.

  21. Nice thought but in all honesty they are a ticking time bomb. You take one step foward and in one weak moment they can take 10 steps back. No women should stick around in a situation like this. I have been in it and yes they mày change for a few months maybe a year but in one moment of weakness you could again find yourself with your life in his hands. The hands of a psychopath who can not feel for others. You deserve much more do not waste your time.

    They do better on their own they won’t change until they are in their own even then if you get back together things mat seen great but a path once traveled is easily reventured. ETheyach time you think its finally over you will be hurt worse and worse when you see them slip back to their old ways. They do not respect you or they wouldn’t treat you that way. It only takes a trigger or a few drinks and they can have you up against a wall with a knife to your stomach even after years of doing well. If children are involved please run because you will be miserable and they will be at danger.

    I used to believe that they can change but an anger rooted that deeply is not easily lifted. It takes a very intelligent understanding person to see their effect on the world, on others, and to change. This type of person would never stoop to such levels that an abuser constantly leaps to. They would not make you cry in order to amuse themselves as an abuser does. Men like this, abusers, only think of themselves and demand things like respect without the williness to provide it themselves.

    Pick someone who would always put you first. Someone who cares about your happiness and feelings. I beg you to please not count on change. Men like this do not change. No offense.

  22. sally jones says:

    I know I have to leave this relationship. all the signs are there. He wants to leave too. I want to leave. Neither of us can. We keep coming back to each other. I know it is him that is the abuser and he blames me for everything and says I am a horrible person and I should kill myself, and calls me stupid, and horrendous names. I constantly ask him to not call me those names and his response is then do be those and I won’t have to call you them. If I stop talking to him or stop calling, he tells me I am not trying hard enough to change and I don’t care enough. If I call, he tells me that I am stalking him. No matter what he says, and I do, he will find something wrong with it. I know I should leave. I am afraid. I don’t know if I should take that chance and lose him. Or take that chance and hope that he will miss me and want me back.
    He was sweet, cute, kind, caring at first. (and married). I was seeing other people. Once he found out, we decided to become monogamous (although him being married never occurred to HIM that it was a major issue) So, I just saw him. and I can’t go certain places because he thinks I am “shutting around”. He says he wants out. So I don’t call him…then he calls me and asks why I don’t call… I don’t know whether I should just cold turkey not contact and see what happens or what?! I used to be a strong confident woman, but now I am afraid of my own shadow -as he keeps telling me how bad a person I am.

  23. giovannaleah says:

    Thank you. I left a week ago and I’m hurting and feel horribly guilty, cause I know that even though he’s been hurting me, I know he’s hurting too. I really needed this to know I made the right call.
    Thank you.

  24. Th(ink)! says:

    Thank you for this post. It is a liberating read.

  25. Thank you for writing this. As someone who has survived a ling relationship with someone who has Othello syndrome, it’s helpful to see abuse from the other side.

  26. Pingback: Trying to Understand – this is me again

  27. Debbie Batchelor says:

    Thanks for this article. It’s very helpful tp see the view ftom the otherside.

    I never thought I would be in a controlling relationship but now recognise all the signs.

    Thanks again

  28. Gretchen Brittain says:

    I am sobbing reading this and I…can’t stop. I am a 50 yr old woman deep in this for the last more than 3 partner, he is 52 ..he wakes up Raging at me..just after sleeping..waking neighbors and making sure he is near an open window or door so that he can have an audience and further humiliate me I don’t know why he does this but he makes sure to always do that it’s been years now and he calls me names and shames my life’s work and my recent menopausal weight changes and he forbids me to see my lifelong friends, I love him very much and I have an 8 year old son who he has helped me parent for 3 years and they love each other but now he’s starting to say things and screaming and hurt me with words that have no viable reply from mem. in front of him. My son is away on summer vacation right now and so I’m happy about that I am wondering what to do to get out because he kicks me out says he’ll lock the doors and do all kinds of destructive badgering but take it back in 5 minutes are in a day and my head is spinning with the back and forth and the scrambling and I don’t understand this thank you for posting this because I’m going to read it again and again and again

  29. Nick Jutkus says:

    These words of yours have left a deep impression on me and my controlling ways. I am recently out of a relationship and convinced I need to change. I’m taking the steps and trying to work through this change. You clearly have a good understanding of this. I find it nearly impossible to find good information on changing my behavior which i have been looking for, for nearly a year.

  30. This is the best article on emotional abuse I’ve read, having just ended an emotionally abuse marriage. But I also recognised some traits of myself from ten years ago. Never read anything better.


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