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Can Emotional Abusers Change?

Do emotional abusers change?

Lisa's husband is an abuser. Lisa doesn't want to live in a marriage with emotional abuse. She feels humiliated, put down, and disrespected.

Lisa wants her children to grow up seeing a respectful relationship between their parents so they will also grow up to treat their partners with respect.

However, what they see is their father being angry, insulting, and controlling their mother and a mother who often cries and seldom smiles.

Lisa wants to know, as do many others, "do emotional abusers change?"

She is unsure of her future!

Before I answer this question, Can emotional abusers change I what to explain the difference between a difficult relationship and an emotionally abusive relationship.

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Abe Kass, MA RSW RMFT CCHT, the writer of this article, is a professional couple therapist for more than 25 years. Most of what you find on the internet regarding the question, 'Can emotional abusers change?' is written by unqualified writers! You can TRUST the information on this page.

A difficult relationship 

In a difficult marriage or a difficult committed relationship, fighting is typically about a particular issue.

For example, one partner wants to save money and the other partner wants to buy furniture for the house or one partner want to spend more time together as a family and the other partner wants to watch sporting events on TV.

In a difficult relationship, the trigger for arguments are differing opinions regarding what to do or what not to do.

Not over WHO is entitled to decide the outcome of a particular issue.

An emotionally abusive relationship 

In an emotionally abusive relationship, the trigger for fighting is that one individual is not complying with the other partner's wishes.

An abusive relationship is characterized by one individual who wants to CONTROL his or her partner, and this includes making all the decisions.

Aggressive anger is typically used to bully and intimidate the target of abuse.

An abuser's effort to control is true for every type of abuse — emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

Sometimes the emotional abuser can become violent with hitting, pushing, throwing things to break all resistance in their partner. This is called domestic violence.

If violence occurs in your relationship, you should call the police.

Safety must come first.

If there is violence and you do not respond decisively, you may become seriously injured.

Sadly, many good people have died at the hands of their own partners.

Only when you are safe from being hurt, can you then ask, "Do abusers change?"

You do not have a genuine relationship if you are being assaulted.

If your partner assaults you, you need to get away from him or her.

Wondering, 'can an emotional abuser change' when your life is at risk is misplaced. Sadly many victims of abuse make this mistake; don't be one of them.

Now that you know the difference between a 'difficult relationship' and an 'emotionally abusive relationship', I can answer the question, "Can emotional abusers change?"

The short answer is if you suffer from emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse, it is possible for the offender to stop with the right education and therapy.

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Abuse victims want to know, Can abusers change?

An abuser can only be educated or benefit from therapy to stop abuse when he or she has the following 5 character traits:

Without the following 5 character traits, the abuser is showing that he or she is not prepared to replace their abusive behavior of harshness and cruelty with the non-abusive behavior of respect, sensitivity, and kindness.

The 5 character traits needed for an abuser to change

1. Objectivity

If an abuser is to change, he or she must be able to recognize his or her abusive behavior. 

To do so, the abuser must be able to step away from his or her patterns of behavior and feelings and see clearly what he or she is doing to his or her partner and how wrong it is.

Being objective is a mental skill that can be developed if it does not come naturally.

Being objective means recognizing the abuse. Without this, an abuser cannot change.

2. Responsibility

The abuser must accept responsibility for his or her behavior.

In other words, an abuser MUST NOT blame his or her partner for the abuse.

Respect is a human right. It does not need to be earned. The victim of abuse is never at fault!

Having abused his or her partner, the abuser must take 100% responsibility for what he or she has done.

Taking responsibility includes having REMORSE for past behavior and a willingness to find ways to prevent the abuse from happening again in the future. 

Once responsibility is accepted, then a plan can be made to eliminate patterns of bad behavior and to correct unhealthy relationship beliefs. The first step is being able to identify the signs of abuse.

If there is no acceptance of responsibility, then there will only be blame, avoidance, and no positive change will be possible. 

3. Humility

Humility is an essential ingredient if an abuser is to change.

Humility gives the abuser the courage to say," I am wrong, and I am sorry."

Humility gives the abuser the opportunity to learn and understand what the abuse has done to his or her partner.

The opposite of humility is arrogance and stubborn defiance. If the abuser has those bad character traits, he or she will never change. 

4. Self-discipline

If the abuser commits to make positive changes in his or her behavior, he or she needs self-discipline to succeed.

Self-discipline ensures that the plan to become a non-abuser stays on course.

On-and-off abuse still equals abuse. This means that the abuse must stop 100%.

Consistent application of the plan is absolutely necessary for the victim of abuse to feel safe, to heal from the abuse, and for the relationship to recover. And this can only be achieved when the abuser disciplines himself or herself.

5. Motivation

Your abusive partner may have all of the above positive character traits. However, this is not enough if they are not motivated to change.

Your partner also needs to be sufficiently motivated to want to do whatever it takes to stop the abuse. 

For example, the emotionally abusive husband or the emotionally abusive wife or the emotionally abusive partner must want a healthy and happy marriage or committed relationship.

Your partner must be prepared to sacrifice his or her wants to achieve these relationship goals. 

A willingness to sacrifice to achieve the goal of becoming a non-abuser may include self-study, individual therapy, relationship therapy, group therapy, or any other concrete plan to change some deep-rooted beliefs and patterns of behavior.

Successful personal change requires commitment. Commitment requires motivation!

The abuser needs to understand the benefits for himself or herself and all the family members when the abuse has been eliminated.

Without this powerful motivation to be better, the 'abuser will remain an abuser.'

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Abusers CAN — with the right effort — change for the better

An emotionally abusive wife, an emotionally abusive husband, or an emotionally abusive partner CAN change

All types of abuse — emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse — should not be accepted.

You should not allow yourself to be abused.

The best solution is for your partner who abuses you to transform himself or herself into a respectful, cooperative, and considerate person.

If this cannot be done, you should consider ending your relationship with your abuser. However, doing so is not so simple.

Separating from or divorcing your partner has many risks. Especially if you have children. The details regarding all this are beyond scope of this guide.

Leaving your abusive partner should not be your first choice.

Separation or divorce should be considered only if the abuse is unrelenting and the relationship is beyond repair.

Talk sincerely to your husband, wife, or partner. Try to get him or her to see how his or her abusive ways are wrong and that they need to be replaced with respect, fairness, and kindness.

If your efforts are rejected or lead to continued abuse, get outside help with your partner or alone.

Get help from a qualified relationship specialist or an organization that supports families.

You can find a caring relationship specialist here:

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy                         

Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy     

* * *

Know, when there is abuse in your home, and the abuser has committed himself or herself to stop abusing, positive change can take time.

Victims of emotional abuse need to be patient and understand this.

Slow and steady progress towards a more respectful and harmonious life together as a husband and wife or committed couple is definitely worth the effort and time needed. 

Yes, you CAN eliminate emotional abuse in your relationship; emotional abusers can — and do — change.

Objectivity, responsibility, humility, self-discipline, and motivation are the necessary character traits needed by the abuser to make these necessary positive changes.

More help to stop emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse

Free Emotional Abuse Quiz:

Take the free, no email needed, immediate results quiz, Can Emotional Abusers Change?

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Free video on how an abuser can change:

Watch the video on HOW an emotional abuser can change to be a respectful partner, How to Heal from Emotional Abuse.


Here is a great, easy to read, book about how to free yourself from abuse. It is available on Amazon for a small price:

The 15 Essential Facts Victims of Emotional Abuse Need to Know by couple expert Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT CCHT — author of this guide.

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We have more self-help Stop Abuse books:

Check out our best self-help books on abuse in our SmartLife bookstore. Learn more about the books that can free you from abuse.

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Topics: Can an abusive relationship be saved, Am I in an abusive relationship, Can emotional abusers change