Abusers take many years to become the destructive partners they are. They begin absorbing negative messages early in their childhood, from movies and rock videos, from their male relatives, from the less-healthy aspects of their religious training. Sometimes by the time a boy is four or five he has already learned:
* to speak down to females as if they’re stupid
* to order females (especially his mother) to do things for him
* to throw temper tantrums when females don’t do what he wants
By the time he’s twelve or so, he may be starting to hear a world of bad messages from his peers. And that means he’s starting to think and say things like:
* “If I buy her a nice dinner she better put out.”
* “Don’t let a girl talk back to you like that.”
* “Man, you’re getting whipped. You’ve got to show her who’s boss.”
I can remember some boys talking this way by the time we were just entering teenage years, already practicing how to be an abusive adult male. So by the time an abusive guy is 18, or 25, or 30, he’s been learning his contemptuous, male-dominant mentality for a long time, and has been practicing the behaviors that go with it.
With that long a history shaping his outlook, his behavior, and his demands, he isn’t going to change overnight. In fact, it’s going to take a hell of a lot to get him to change at all; most abusers never do.
So why is the typical Abuser Intervention Program 40 hours long (26 weeks, an hour and a half per week)? Do we really believe that in 40 hours of counseling and education we’re going to change an entire way of living that has been years in the making?
(It’s actually not the fault of the programs that they’re so short; their length is determined by how seriously the courts take domestic violence. To this day, the legal system still considers men’s assaults on their partners and ex-partners a minor offense — except in the cases of near-lethal beatings — and judges keep complaining that the programs are too long!)
Abuser programs can’t work magic. For an abuser to make lasting changes, he has to work on himself very hard, and he has to completely stop blaming women for his behavior. He has to stay in an abuser program far longer than the minimum time that the program lasts; something more like 18-24 months, not 3-6 months. And it’s very hard to get an abuser to stay in a program that long, because deep down he blames his partners, current and past, for everything he does.
Don’t let too much of your life slip away, hoping that he’ll change. Over the past three decades I’ve heard a hundred or more women say, “I wish I could get back all those years I lost trying to get him to work on himself.” But I’ve never once yet heard a woman say, “I gave up on my abusive partner too soon. I wish I’d given him more of a chance.”
You have the magic, but not the magic to change him. Your magic is the ability to build a new life for yourself, a life that’s about you and not about him.
Was with my ex abuser for five years and just left the relationship 5 months ago.Throughout our relationship I was abused in every way,emotionally,verbally,physically,financially,and through the internet/texting too.I am now trying to get my life back and am alone and only discovered within less than two months he’s with a new partner and expresses his undying love to her and her the same?She is pretty and I’m convinced that he will change or already has for her.I went above and beyond to make him happy yet,it was never good enough.He has an extensive criminal record and much includes domestic violence on past woman.And he’s a habitual offender running from the law.I am wondering if he will change for his new love because she is pretty?
That’s what he wants you to believe. He will not change for anyone else until he wants to get help for himself. It’s his M.O. to be charming and appear to be perfect in the beginning but that’s just to lure in his next victim. Consider yourself blessed that you are free from him and you have something better waiting for you. You were fearfully and wonderfully made, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
No! Who we are doesn’t change based on how pretty someone is. The bad traits come out once the relationship is intimate. Not to be arrogant but I’m very pretty and I’ve unfortunately dated abusive men – they didn’t treat me any better than they treated any other serious gfs they had in the past (that they blamed and complained about). Also arguably one of the most drop dead gorgeous friends was in a very abusive relationship several years. Relationships don’t start with abuse, that comes once the woman trusts them. People with good hearts wouldn’t treat anyone the way you were treated.
Our program provides a batterer’s intervention group. Tuesdays are always bad days for me as I sit in a room and listen to a group of abusers claim to be the victim and have the word “but” in every sentence that comes out of their mouth. To be honest, I have never had one finish a program. I have never had one come in of his own accord. They either come in because they are court ordered or because they have been charged and are trying to receive a lighter sentence. Most of the time they show up just a day or two before they have court and think I will write a letter saying they are receiving services. They sit and try to convince me that they aren’t bad guys, that it isn’t their fault, etc. I think I am one of only a few women who work with batterers. When the abuser is court ordered for services, the victim often won’t come in for DV services unless there is some sort of case going on with their kids so we aren’t getting the full effect. His attendance at batterer’s intervention is used to convince her that he is sorry and she isn’t getting what she needs to know the difference. I try to talk to the victim when she is willing but that isn’t often. When I get to work with both parties and they haven’t separated, the first several months (when they come in that long) is spent hearing them both say that there is no abuse or that they are both abusive. They don’t know that we listen for their slip ups like the victim never expressing her own opinion but only his, like the abusers in their group blaming her for most everything, the single words he says like “control” when he speaks of her or his kids, his theories on discipline, how he “lets her” do things or go places. The one good outcome we have had in some of our cases is that in the abusers attempt to convince everyone that he has changed, she gets the chance to get out. This kicks off another round of services as we try to offer supports to the victim so that she can live independently while simultaneously working with her to find her power so she can live independently without our support. There are so many parts that need attention for the victim to heal and actually become a survivor.
Im sorry, I love your posts but I have one major concern. I find it extremely inappropriate to link to actual real pornography sites on this blog post. Why is that necessary? It defiled me clicking and looking at it.
You have good reason to be upset by that link. The website was hacked, and a number of links were put in. The hackers actually added whole sentences, making them look more or less like something I might say, and then inserted links to porn sites, and also to criminal defense attorneys (to help the abusers, not the abused). Once the hacking was brought to my attention by a reader, I was able to delete them and my web person says they shouldn’t be able to get in again. Here’s hoping! (I wish I’d seen your message back in the middle of January — for some reasons some new messages pop up in my email and some don’t. It wasn’t until about three weeks ago that someone alerted me by email about the problem.)
Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I have read your book, “Why Does He Do That”, your words helped me through my healing process in a way that I believe no one else could have.
I came across this article tonight while missing my abusive ex. It has been years, but, I am still healing from it. Your words moved me yet again. There was a time in my life where I thought I would never get away from him. Twice now you have helped pull me back to reality. Thank you
I am a certified domestic violence volunteer advocate requwsting for you to please also anseer people’s questions on Quora because a lotbof survivors go on there with questions about abuse and Narcissism. I answer their posts as I can, but I cannot do so all the tike due to my busy college schedule.