Can Partner Abusers Change?
4 Signs of Change
in Domestic Abusers
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
When you are in an abusive relationship, you long to know: why does he/she do that? What is going on in the mind of an abuser that causes him/her to strike?
Is it tangible? Would you notice it if you saw it? Is it something within them, or is it something in the dynamics between the two of you?
Abuser Owns Abuse Problem
Our belief is that an abuse problem lies within the abuser. He/she is the only one who can effectively change the interaction pattern of domestic violence.
You can walk away from it... or dive right into it. Alternatively, you can strategically seek to influence the way it plays out. But, in the final analysis, the perpetrator is the only one who controls the abusive behavior.
Given this, the most important question is how does one inspire change in the abuser? After working with couples in abusive relationships over the last 15 years, I am convinced that the cornerstone of lasting positive change in domestic abusers is personal accountability.
What is Personal Accountability?
Personal accountability refers to the ownership of one’s beliefs, feelings, needs and actions. You can think of it as personal responsibility for the thoughts one holds, the emotions one experiences, the emerging needs one has and the behavior one exhibits.
Here are four ways we recognize lasting change in people who once abused their domestic partners.
1) Personal accountability for one’s thoughts.
Once the abusive person recognizes that they are fully responsibility for their thinking and the beliefs that they hold, authentic change begins. What you think is what you create…in yourself and in your life.
2) Personal accountability for one’s feelings.
As a batterer realizes that they are exclusively responsible for the feelings they experience, they open up to breaking the cycle of abuse. It’s no longer about how she/he made me feel such and such. And from here, a new window opens in which the abuse dynamics can be interrupted.
3) Personal accountability for one’s needs.
Here is where we see the greatest challenge for batterers. Characteristically, they want their needs filled by you as though you hold the responsibility to satisfy their arising personal needs and often times without their revealing to you that a need exists.
When these people fully embrace the fact they themselves are responsible for fulfilling their own personal needs, they can more effectively engage collaboration with you, rather then manipulation and coercion to get their needs met within the relationship.
4) Personal accountability for one’s actions.
This is the one we see most often around domestic assaults in the life of an abusive relationship. She (he) made me do it. I did it because she (he) did... I had to do it because she (he) was...
The fact of the matter is that each and every one of our actions comes from one place: within. No one can make you do anything that you didn’t initiate or buy into on some level. When people awaken to personal responsibility for their abusive behavior, positive change is authentic and lasting.
Being responsible to oneself and for oneself is the cornerstone for successful change in domestic abusers. If you seek to effect change in your relationship, find expertise in breaking the dynamics that endanger your life...otherwise you could be adding to the conflict that you live.
For more information about help for abusive relationships, visit http://www.enddomesticabuse.org/domestic_violence_trt.php and claim Free Instant Access to The 7 Realities of Verbal Abuse. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.
© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.