Can an Abuser Really Change?

Updated on October 04, 2019
A.B. asks from Anchorage, AK
17 answers

Can a man change? Or it is once an abuser always an abuser? If change is possible what would trigger it?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Portland on

No, an abuser can never change. They can act as if they've changed. It's an act. Once they think you're hooked, they go back to abusing.

I know this from my work as a police officer.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It is slightly possible. But the trigger would be him wanting to change and be willing to go to counseling and do some major work on himself. He's got to be willing to do it and not give up. My moms husband is a jerk and going to counseling and anger mgt. It was not his idea but says he's doing the work. I am not around him enough to see if it's working. I know she wants things to work but when he's around me I don't see much change in his behavior. My mom is very religious and feels like she should not just give up. I am hoping that she sees the light. He has never really seen where he is wrong in many ways. But while he is doing this she is not living with him thank goodness. If it was me I would have been out of the marriage a long time ago.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Washington DC on


IF you're wondering your husband will change? I don't know. I know people DO change because they WANT to or realize they NEED to.

Not sure what boat you're in. I would say that he would need to prove himself worthy before I went back. That would mean over a year of better behavior and proving that he has changed.

I wouldn't go back until I saw the impulses gone. And that means intense therapy for him AND the desire to change and be a better person.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Sure - people can change. Some abusers have addiction issues that once addressed, they are no longer abusive. Others, once having received counseling, perhaps are able to make life changes that positively impact those around them. People also get hit by lightening and have brain tumors that make them sleep with their students. See? Anything is possible.

I think there are truly two issues:

1. Does the person absolutely accept what they are doing is wrong and wish to do whatever it takes in order to learn new and better behaviors?

2. Does the person they have harmed (often for many years) have the ability to truly forgive that person for everything and able to move past it and forward to support this person changing their life for the better?

The answer to those two questions is usually no. In which case, it doesn't really matter whether the person CAN change, it only matters if they WANT to change.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I was with a jerk (not a physical abuser, but a manipulative narcissist) for years in my early twenties. We broke up and when he said he had 'changed' we'd get back together - usually when I had just about moved on. He couldn't handle to see me happy and strong, without him.

So he'd say all the right things, and be on his 'best behavior' for a period of time. Then his toxic behavior would start up, but by then, I'd be sucked in. I'd let my guard down again, and of course, I thought I loved him ... so I was hopeless. The thing is, I didn't really love myself for some weird reason - and I needed to be on my own, to figure out that part.

Stop focussing on him. You need to figure out why you feel you don't deserve better.

So - no, personally, I don't think they really change. My husband's mother can be abusive - she was abused and never got help, so she doesn't even realize that she is being abusive. To suggest she needs help and to enforce boundaries with her, just makes her angry. I think there is that component there also with some people.

That's just my experience.

Do you really want to wait around for someone to do that? Or would you rather work on yourself to figure out why you felt you didn't deserve more in the first place?

Good luck :)

ETA - Diane B - really like your advice.
I was going to say - some people lash out because they are hurting, and don't know how to deal with their anger and it may be deep routed, and have nothing to do with you. It may be 'learned'. They may have observed it in their own households growing up.
For some, they may have a personality disorder or psychiatric condition. Sometimes medication and treatment may help. It really depends.
The thing is, if it's manipulative and really has to do with controlling you in some fashion, it likely has an element that is more abusive than just psychiatric on it's own (I think). It's just better to remove yourself from the the toxic environment - for yourself and your children, then to sit around and wait to see if he changes. My feeling is from what you've written, is he won't. You'll be disappointed (and harmed) over and over again.
Diane sums it up really well.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I went back and read your previous post about your awful husband. Please stop dreaming of a better version of your husband. He will NOT become a better man. He will NOT stop abusing you or anyone else. Keep away from him.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

of course change is always possible. we've all read and heard stories about people who have transformed themselves and their lives.

what's not okay is hearing these and hoping one's abuser is one of them and proceeding as if this were the case.

no one can change an abuser. and no one can make an abuser want to or decide to change.

the only change the victim of an abuser can actually make is to leave and cut the abuser out of their life.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I really think the only way a person like this changes is if they admit they did wrong and seek help. I don't think a person like your husband all of a sudden wakes up and says "oh wow, I need to change".

Unless they are seeking treatment and admitting their mistakes then no.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

No, I don’t believe so. Why do you want to be with an abuser and believe he has changed? I think he will say he’s changed and act better just until you get sucked in again. Then the real him will come out. Value yourself and move on. You can never trust that person again and you deserve a loving trusting relationship.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

There are counseling services aimed at men who are abusive, both in the form of individual and group counseling with other abusers. I don't think this counseling is usually effective unless the man has taken full responsibility for his controlling and violent behavior, and is completely committed to wanting to change themselves.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

The very broad and non-specific answer to your question is "it depends."

You don't give any information here, so I had to go back to your first post from last month.

The man you describe in that post, just a few short weeks ago, is not ready for change. Not in the least.

Think about it, when people decide to make changes in their lives (e.g., losing weight, quitting smoking, developing an exercise routine), it's really tough, even when people are highly motivated. Not impossible, but difficult.

Now, think about your husband. He has shown no sincere motivation to change based on what you've written. And no, begging for your forgiveness, pleading for you to take him back, swearing he will change---if that's even what he's saying now---those are NOT signs of change. Those are words of desperation and future broken promises.

Sincere motivation for change must come from him and would include him seeking out intensive therapy to change his abusive behaviors on his own. I'd be wary if he's seeking treatment to avoid legal consequences (e.g., attending anger management classes at the judge's ruling to avoid a criminal charge for violating an order of protection).

Bottom line is HE has to want to do it. I don't know what would "trigger" him to all of a sudden want to change when just weeks ago, he was running around with another woman, being abusive to you, and negligent to his children. Suspicious, jealous types of individuals do not easily change.

Get some legal advice now to protect you and the children. Get some serious counseling to figure out why you would ever consider giving this guy another chance to hurt you and the children.

Some guys are good marriage material. Others are not. Consider where your husband falls into these categories and make plans accordingly.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

My first instinct wants me to say no. I think this is something that’s in the way a brain works that allows them to excuse their actions or words. And either stressful or unfamiliar or familiar situation can trigger it.. also it may not be genetical but it may be what abusers as children what environment they grew up in- role models and close living relatives/caregivers.

If you are speaking of a spouse- out of no where- why would they change? Especially if they are not going through therapy BUT even before they need to admit to themselves that there is a problem. If they do not admit and realize- there will be no change - why would there be change??????

But I myself as a woman and a mother need to stop and think- why do I need any relationship where there is an abuser and my children in the same household. Think what kind of example it’s setting for your children. Children are innocent and need protection.. they need to be a priority!

If my husband leaves me or god forbid something happens yes I will be upset- but you eventually move on. Eventually start dating and maybe marry - I would not stop living. And yet I would give up my life for my kids. People get divorced all the time: good reasons or bad reasons, or just grow apart- but to stay with someone who is abusive.. never!
If this is about your husband- and him being abusive if he is not in therapy or thinks he doesn’t have a problem-GET OUT OF THE RELATIONSHIP! Your kids are very likely to be in an abusive relationship as well. There are millions of men out there who are not abusers. Who will love you and treat you well. And believe it or not you will love someone else-give yourself a chance at steady life and happiness!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Maybe they can, but for me, it's a deal-breaker, no matter what.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

His behavior is similar to that of an addict, so is change possible, sure, but he will have to decide and facilitate the change all by himself. He will have to be incredibly committed and willing to sacrifice everything in order to make it happen. If you are in an abusive relationship and have been, then you need to get help for yourself and stop hoping he will change. You need to make healthy changes for yourself. Take care of yourself. If you leave him and he later decides to change you can deal with that then.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

No, and I would not want to take a chance to see. Many women have ended up dead for giving the guy a second chance, even when he claimed to be repentant.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Simple as that - a person who doesn't see the problem with his behavior will never change. You need to leave him and take the children with you.
I read the other post about your son, the son is mirroring the step-father's behavior. It works for the step-dad so he thinks it will work for him also. You and your son need counseling this will take a lot of time and energy on both of your parts.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,
I am sorry to hear that. An abuser could change once they learn. My daughter used to damage stuff when she was young, now she is 13 and doesn't do it.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us