Change is Possible
I’ve been abusive. How can I change?
If you’re being abusive toward your partner, the first and hardest part of changing is admitting your behavior is wrong. It’s very important to take responsibility for the problem and get help to end it. If you’ve already taken this step, you’re on the right track.
What Do I need to Know?
Changing abusive behavior is a long and challenging process that you cannot do alone. You may rely on some of your beliefs to justify your abusive behavior. But with help, you can change and learn how to treat your partner with true respect. It’s extremely important that you get professional help through this process. Chat with a peer advocate to find services in your local area.
We believe change is possible. Regardless of your past, you can have healthy, rewarding relationships in which everyone is treated with respect. We’re here to help you get there and support you every step of the way.
What can I do?
- Remember, violence is always a choice. There are no excuses and no one else to blame for being abusive.
- Focus on how your abuse affects your partner, family and/or children. Fully accept how seriously you have hurt the people you care about.
- Accept the consequences of your actions. Your partner has the right to get help from police or the courts. You may face legal consequences for being abusive, either with jail time or a restraining order.
- Remember you are not alone. Your friends and family can support you through the difficult process of changing.
- Get help from a program that focuses on abusive relationships. A good program will help you stop being abusive and create a better relationship for you and your partner.
- Respect your partner’s right to be safe and healthy as you work toward change, even if it means you can’t be together.
- Because change is hard, there may be times when you may justify your actions or feel like giving up. Remember your original commitment to change and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
8 Steps for changing your abusive behaviors, as given to us by Carrie Askin, LCSW, is the Co-Director of Menergy, LLC, one of the oldest treatment programs for abusive partners in the country.
Hurt People Hurt People
Please consider calling or visiting us at our main office. Our crisis line is (719) 633-3819. Traditional “corded” phones are more private than cell phones or cordless phones.
You need to sit with your guilt and stop focusing your blame on others
Guilt includes the knowledge that we’ve behaved badly – while it is uncomfortable, it is also powerful. We can change behavior and we can try to make amends.
You have to expand your understanding of what is abusive
It’s not just physical abuse. The work here requires us to care about and be accountable for the ways our words and actions hurt others.
You have to learn to tolerate emotional injury
Learning how stay in relationship with others while feeling hurt is an important skill. Most people who abuse their partners don’t do this well. We think that if someone hurts us, we have to strike back. For many people, this is about early training at home or on the streets which teaches us not to allow someone else to make us look small. But in a partnership it is inevitable that our significant other is going to sometimes hurt our feelings. When that happens we have to find a way to hold on to ourselves and not retaliate.
You need to identify and share your feelings
Generally when abusers come to see us there is one emotion they can comfortably express: anger. Anger is almost always a secondary emotion, meaning that there is also a more primary feeling beneath it like fear, hurt, sadness or shame. This is a critical distinction because what we tell ourselves about how we feel informs behavior. If I tell myself that I’m pissed, than I’m going to act pissed. Anger feels better than hurt or embarrassment but it also sets us up to punish the other person
You need to practice humility
You are a regular person with strengths and flaws. If you can hold on to that when someone offers advice or criticism than you can receive it in a better way and respond in a kinder way.
You have to develop deeper empathy
The abuser sees things one way, while their family and friends see it from another. They must see their partner in another way and have empathy and respond accordingly.
You need to be accountable for real change
We see evidence every day that our kind of work is made more effective when family systems, faith communities, courts and workplaces take seriously the job of holding people accountable for change. We also know that the reverse is true. Abusive partners should also have access to a program with the expertise and structure needed to help guide them to lasting change.
You need to be patient and accept uncertainty
This problem didn’t get created overnight and it won’t be solved overnight.