My abusive partner promises they’ll change. Will they?

“I promise I’ll change.”

These are four words most people in a relationship with an abusive partner have probably heard. Longed-for yet dreaded, the words can offer both hope and disappointment. Hope that things really will get better this time, and disappointment when, inevitably, the abusive behavior—whether emotional, physical, or verbal—begins all over again.

We’ve all heard that a leopard can’t change its spots. But what about an abusive partner?

Are Abusive Partners Capable of Real Change?

Many experts say it is possible for abusive partners to change. Yet false promises to change are often a way to keep victims in abusive relationships. So how do you know when a pledge to change is real—and when it’s just an empty promise?

The truth is, there’s no magical formula to make an abusive person change. And as much as you may care about your partner and wish things were different, no one can “make” anyone else change at all—they have to do that for themselves. But there are signs we can look for to tell a false promise from a real effort. Ultimately, real accountability begins when the abusive partner acknowledges their abuse, genuinely commits to changing, and prioritizes the feelings, experiences, and desires of their victims over themselves.

While change is possible, it’s hard to do and it takes a lot of time. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, remember: You deserve safety, respect, and love. You can’t make anybody else change. But you can care for yourself. You can decide what you need to lead a happy, healthy, and free life, including whether, when, and how to leave the relationship. And you can love yourself with all the patience, passion, and ferocity with which you love others. You deserve it.

 

Read the full piece at Talkspace.

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