Signs He Isn’t Changing

10, April 2011 at 12:30 AM (defeated, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , , )

If you would like to print out a version without my comments, please see the page Signs Your Abuser Isn’t Changing.

I found this on youarenotcrazy.com, a good site I discovered this week. Unfortunately, the site design is such that I cannot link to the section I want to talk about, so I have to manually re-type the relevant parts here. My ex did every single one of these things.

List of clear signs he isn’t changing:

He says something to the effect of: “I’ll change, but only if you change, too.”
Or, he uses the same argument to defend past behaviour: “With my ex, I would have treated her a lot better if she would’ve just grown up (done what I wanted her to).” This shows he still believes that men are not responsible for their abusive behaviour if provoked. He still believes he is entitled to being abusive– he can give himself permission if she “steps out of bounds.”

— In my case, this was said often as a blame-shifting tactic: he will only acknowledge his abusiveness if I admit I was abusive to him (this is manipulative and coercive). He also said this to excuse physical aggression: though he would admit he has no right to become physically aggressive, still he claimed he wouldn’t have become aggressive if I wouldn’t have said something, or if I would have said something in a different way. This makes me “responsible” for his aggression and the fear I had of being hit. I was also told I should just “know” he won’t hit me, and “knowing” he won’t hit me I would not be afraid; my fear of him was posited as irrational and the result not of his aggression but a character flaw in me: I was being “too sensitive” because people have hit me in the past. In other words, I should recognise it is not he who is making me afraid, but my experiences with others in the past; change my sensitivity and his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Or: change my attitude or knowledge and recognise though he lunges at me he will stop and hit himself or something nearby instead, and again, his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Though he never stopped being physically aggressive, and it became more frequent and unpredictable in where it would be released, I think he did get to the point where he admitted it is never justified under any circumstances, and that my fear was real, valid, and in response to his actions and not others’.

He claims he needs your help to change, he can’t do it alone.
This tactic is controlling and manipulative- it’s generally a way of tricking you into “working on the relationship” when you really just want out. This attitude is prevalent in men who refuse to accept responsibility. In his perspective, his abusive explosions are a result of you having the nerve to stand up to him, your refusal to be bullied, or you insisting on your own identity, including a life that doesn’t revolve entirely around (or interfere with) his desires.

— He always, always “had a different perspective”, and mine was always, always wrong. He would avoid taking responsibility by giving me endless reasons and explanations why he did what he did– this diverted the focus away from what he did and how it made me feel or what effect it was having on our relationship and put the focus on my capacity to be understanding, patient, etc. (and of course, I was never understanding, patient, etc. enough for him, because I refused to make why he was hurting me or damaging our relationship my primary concern and insisted that what he was doing was more concerning to me). I felt bullied, a lot, into having to discuss what was supposedly behind his destructive behaviours; this way, I could never discuss the effect his behaviours were having on me. I was always “working on the relationship”, even after he left the last time, still coming up with ideas and proposals and solutions, still writing them down, still trying to discuss them. He always had other ideas about what was wrong, and I did my best to accommodate– if he thought the “real” problem was he didn’t have enough time alone, I left him alone more; if he thought the “real” problem was he wasn’t getting enough affection, I tried to be more affectionate; if he thought the “real” problem was I didn’t “give him a few days off to recuperate from an argument”, I layed low for a few days; if he thought the “real” problem was he was working too much, I figured out a budget so he could take days off. And of course, no matter how many times or in what ways I accommodated him or capitulated to his needs, it never satisfied him and he always had a new “real” problem whenever I tried to bring up the problems which were real to me. To him the “real” problem was never his abusive behaviour, it was always “ours”. Closest he got to that was asking me to go to couple’s counseling “with him”– as if this was something he could go to alone but he needed my help. I was too confused by this request, and suspicious of his agenda (he was telling me at the time that my character was so “deeply flawed” that I wasn’t seeing how I’m really partially to blame for his behaviour and by not taking responsibility I’m only hurting myself); not until the very end did I agree to couple’s counseling, only when I was very, very desperate that someone hear my side of things. He backed out of the relationship almost immediately.

He brings up that you haven’t recognised and appreciated how much he’s changed.
This shows he doesn’t appreciate or recognise how much pain he’s inflicted on you, or learned to empathise. Once prisoners are released, their tormentors are not deserving of thank you notes or awards banquets. If he understood the pain he put you through, really faced it, he would comprehend how indebted he is to you for putting up with him. If he learned to empathise in this way, and took responsibility for his actions, his guilt would motivate him to reward you, not ask for reward. He clearly doesn’t understand the pain he has caused.

— This section really hits me hard. This was something I always felt or suspected, but never had the right words for. He did often remind me that he learned this or that from some book and I should look at how well he’s putting something into practice, and I always felt like, um? Not hurting someone is supposed to be the default, so I don’t get why I’m supposed to praise you? I could also never wrap my mind around how he could treat me so bad and neglect me so much and have so many complaints about me when really I thought if he just thought about it for a second, he would realise he’s got the love of a good woman who has stuck by him through everything, why couldn’t I get even the tiniest word of appreciation for that? (My theory: the guy hates himself, he’s hated himself since way before he ever met me [there are written records of this], so deep down maybe he can’t take seriously, and certainly he can’t respect, anyone who would love, stand by or up for him.)

He’s in a therapy program that has not contacted his abusees.
Abusive men simply can’t change unless they have accepted responsibility, and the only way to do this is by hearing her truth. Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period. It’s foundational to maintaining their abusive mindset. Only the women know the truth and live with the fallout, and unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.

— YES. For the longest time, I thought he was getting help for his issues by being in counseling. He admitted his therapist never challenged him, and that the therapist probably had such a distorted picture of our relationship from the time when my ex was using therapy to “vent” and get validation that if anything the therapist was probably enabling him. We discussed getting a new therapist, which he eventually did. I hoped he was taking a more responsible approach, I was assured he was dealing with his issues. Nothing changed. He came back every time distant, standoffish, and sometimes with new ideas about how his needs weren’t being met well enough by me and this relationship. I suspected the same dynamic had been created with his second counselor as existed with his first. I always thought, now how can she possibly know what to counsel, if she’s only getting his side (which is probably extremely biased in his favour)? I resented his therapy/therapist incredibly, because as I saw it, it was only contributing to an escalation in his abusive behaviours and actions. He faulted me an incredible lot for not supporting his “therapy”, and I felt very guilty all the time about it. I know he told others I gave him a hard time about it, and that made me feel like I was being portrayed as a monster. But what was ever happening which could be considered therapeutic? Nothing ever changed, everything just got worse. It couldn’t even start out in right direction. For instance, I was uncomfortable with his therapy because of the way things went with his first therapist. Wouldn’t a loving partner go in the first day and ask, “How can I help my partner at home feel more comfortable with the fact that I’m here?” This never happened, even though I asked him to ask her that. Since my partner has left, he has admitted his second counselor has been just like the first, and only asks him every week what he is doing to take care of himself. You see, no one asks him what he is doing to address his abusiveness and heal the damage it has caused. It’s not hard to see why the question is always, “But what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Because he goes in there and reports that he’s a victim. “Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period […] unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.” And that is why I finally agreed to go to couple’s counseling, and I told him this: I needed someone to know the truth. He spent two sessions talking about whether he wants to stay in the relationship or not (as if the counselor can help him figure that out? And then why do I need to be there?) In both sessions, but more directly in the second, he was called on his aggression. Before it was over, he decided he wanted to instead use counseling for “closure”. Clearly this guy wasn’t interested in facing what he has done and was going to bolt. I told him there was no need to come to a third. So now he will stay with his individual counselor and she’ll keep sympathising with his pain and the abuse gets swept under the rug.

He criticises you for being distrustful of his ability to stay non-abusive for good.
Again, he’s not taking responsibility for all the things he’s done to earn your distrust. If you told him a dozen times a month that you’d “never do something again” and then did it a dozen times that next month, do you think he would trust you? He believes he’s entitled to your forgiveness as a reward for going to therapy or a stretch of good days, not because he’s actually changed. This type of criticism is like asking, “When exactly can I abuse you again? I’ve earned it.”

— I got this a lot. I had to defend over and over why I asked something or said something, kept bringing something up, supposed or wondered if he was doing or was going to do something again. He would say he can’t recover or heal or change or progress if I didn’t trust him (sounds like “he needs my help to change”, above), and I’d argue that he abused my trust and it’s not something I can just “put back”– especially not without any real apology or display on his part that he’ll never do that thing again! And allow me to add here that distrust of his ability to stay non-abusive for good includes not only abuse inflicted on me, but his abuse of others too.

He says something like, “You know I’d never do such a thing” when theres undisputed proof he’s done “such a thing” in the past. This is denial and crazymaking, and clearly abusive. Why exactly does he feel entitled to act “above reproach” in the face of his very own history? Well sometimes, in his mind, abuse is necessary to “getting along” . This comment shows he feels entitled to break any and all promises if he has “a good reason”.

— He always had “good reasons” for breaking promises. He was being idealistic, I was asking too much, he misunderstood, he forgot (even if it was written down, he forgot to check), etc etc. I’m not quite sure what the “getting along” part is supposed to mean, but sometimes I did wonder if he argued so much because that was the only way for him to interact with me. I have a vague recollection of him saying something in his blog or on facebook about negativity(?) being the only way he can connect(?) with people? I did not know that would someday mean the only way to feel connected to me was to argue with me for six hours at a time. 😦 He did often say “You know I’d never do such a thing” or if I suspected him of “doing such a thing” he’d get extremely very angry and blame me for “making him feel guilty”. I admit I was sometimes provoking, but I guess I needed two things: first I needed to know he was not doing that thing; and second I needed to know he did not see himself as “above reproach”, especially when the rest of the time he walked around acting like he’d never done anything wrong in his life and I needed to just get over everything. I’d always say, “But you did do this thing, and I can’t just sweep it under the rug”. I was faulted and criticised and blamed for staying on his case, or trying to hold him accountable for something he did to me, or testing the waters to see if his attitude had ever changed, as if my distrusts were the “real” problem and not any of the things which created them. I felt the crazymaking then, and could only say over and over, “But I didn’t do anything to you?” I couldn’t understand how I came to be the guilty party. I was just supposed to take him at his word– no matter how much he lied to me or how many broken promises there were– “You know I’d never do such a thing!” “Do I? No, I don’t know that, actually. Why would I know that?”

He reminds you, “You know that’s one of my triggers, but see how calm I’m acting? I’ve learned to control myself now.”
This amounts to a subtle threat. He’s reminding you that he still has the power to abuse you, but he’s lobbing softballs “cause he’s such a good guy now.” A good guy that has changed does not want you to remember the monster he was. This is why prisoners don’t get parole with this “good behaviour” argument; only accepting responsibility works. Again, you don’t get rewarded for not committing a crime; unless you feel entitled to commit crime and see yourself as nobly choosing not to. (I could have murdered her, but I chose not to. Sounds pretty foolish eh?)

— Toward the end, he did this often. I did not know what it was I felt uncomfortable with when he did this, until I read it here. I wish I had read this before, because I thought he was just being more communicative or more “mindful” of his feelings/behaviours in some way that still seemed kind of eerie to me. I blamed myself for thinking there was something wrong about it. If he pointed out how he feels like hitting but he’s not doing it, he still communicated his desire to hit. I asked him about this once, he said he was just letting me know where he’s at. That sounded… fair? People should be able to say how they feel? I wasn’t sure, but something rubbed me the wrong way, because I still felt like I was being threatened: “I want to hit something, so be very careful what you say next!” He also started doing this a lot whenever I brought something up or was trying to express how I feel. He told me how normally he’d get into a big argument with me, but this time he’s going to stay calm and just “absorb it.” I guess it did “work” because I got to say what I wanted to and get it out of my system, but certainly I never felt heard or like anything I said was taken to heart or would be addressed. He was just controlling his desire to argue with me, he wasn’t actively listening. I see now that the arguing had become so traumatic that I was just grateful to be promised a lack of argument, even if he wasn’t going to do anything more than absorb the sound of my voice. It was an exercise in meditation, not in being a compassionate person.

He says “I’m changing a lot, I swear” but he’s done any of the things above.
Run far, run fast.

— Yeah, I heard that a lot too. He has all sorts of epiphanies and ideas in his car while at work, but I never see any evidence of all his alleged change.

The majority of men do not become nonabusive men even in the highest quality abuser programs.
The guys that do change and become capable of a truly loving relationship all have the following things in common:
1. His social circle recognises he is abusive and tells him he needs to deal with it. They sympathise with the abused woman, and don’t back up his justifications for abuse or validate his overblown sense of entitlement.
2. He’s not irretrievably self-centered. He has some empathy and awareness of the pain he’s caused, regardless if he tends to run away from it.
3. He joins a high-quality abuser program and stays with it: two years is minimum.
4. His partner gets wholehearted, unrelenting support from the community. The more she gets the message that it’s not her fault, the less he can shirk responsibility.

— My ex is a total fail on #1. I guess I would have needed to witness him admit his problem to his family and a few certain friends as described in the “Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse” in order to feel like #1 had been accomplished. #2 is tricky for me, because if I give him the benefit of the doubt here, I’m not sure if it’s because he truly is aware, or if I’m just being a typical victim and wanting to believe the best about him. I am inclined to say he is not irretrievably self-centered, but I think that hangs on a couple things: first, the word “irretrievably”– yes, he is the most self-centered individual I have ever encountered, but no I don’t think he is irretrievably so. I think he has the capacity to empathise, though it is not strong or automatic for him. Second, I have noticed a pattern: he gets most aggressive/wanting to hit something when I speak some truth about how much something hurt me; this to me hints at the possibility that he DID just hear how much something hurt, he IS aware how much something hurt (his reaction is totally wrong, but he is aware) and his guilt is so strong it comes out as violent. On the other end of the spectrum, the only times I have seen him burst out in tears, he says always, “I loved you so much” and some variation of “and I completely fucked it up” or “I never meant to hurt you.” I think he is aware of the pain he’s caused, yes. Sometimes I even think all this abusiveness and everything he describes as his torment in this relationship might just be a defence mechanism to prevent him from seeing how much he’s hurt me; swept up in his own hurt, he doesn’t have to face me, right? I think he hurts and feels chaos because he hurt me, he’s just not seeing how hurting me kept him hurting himself the same way. I don’t know if that made any sense. Not treating me well equates to treating himself badly too. Something like that. Anyways, I think he satisfies #2. #3, I guess I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I suppose we could have figured it out if he would have ever admitted to his abusiveness. #4, I also don’t know how supportive his friends and family would have been or what their attitude would have been until #1 occurred, so I guess it’s irrelevant. I agree with it though and I like the idea. All told, I guess if he had ever wanted to accept responsibility, I think things could have worked with us.

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