My name is . . . and I have been abusive to my family
Occasionally we receive comments from abusers who claim they are trying to change. We usually respond privately to these types of comments, but decided that we would post this comment and make our response public.
(Since this person knowingly made his comment on a public blog it is not a breach of privacy to reply publicly. However, we have eliminated the commenter’s name, but have not altered his comment in any way. His comment is below and our response follows.)
My name is …. and I have been Abusive to my family. I was Diagnosed with ADHD as a child ( not that it’s an excuse) but stopped treatment when I left school.
I met my wife through a mutual friend and we have two beautiful young children. After years of abuse she finally left me, I’ve been devastated since.
I am committed to change and take full responsibility for my behaviour.
I’ve redirected my life to Christ
I’m taking medication and go see a therapist at least once a month.
I want to break the cycle of abuse but it’s not easy. I want so desperately to reconcile with my wife but she doesn’t even want to talk to me and unfortunately I have to respect that.
I want to know how do I prove my love for her and our children as well earn her trust back.
How do I show her that I am sincer and not being manipulative.
I intended on being consistent and I’m working on my patience.
I have a burning desire to fix what I broke, my heart is broken when I think of the things I’ve done to her..
My biggest fear is that I end up alone as miserable bitter lonely old man.
This is a life long struggle for me and I want to be able to insure my wife as well as my children safety.
Please don’t judge me to harshly I am only human after all?
A female perspective will be in lightning as I’m trying to empathize with my wife. Please don’t give up on all of us because some of us really do want to do what’s right
You may or may not find this response harsh. Our goal isn’t to coddle your feelings, but to speak the truth and the truth doesn’t always feel good.
You are correct that breaking “the cycle of abuse…is not easy.” But you will not change if your motivation is to reconcile with your wife. It won’t be until you can look in the mirror and can honestly say “I don’t like the person I am. I don’t want to continue to be that person” that change may occur. Good intentions won’t cause change. Desperately wanting to reconcile with your family won’t cause change. Burning desires won’t cause change. Wanting to change because you recognize your behavior is wrong is where you need to start from.
The steps you have taken so far will not cause change. You are correct that ADHD has NOTHING to do with your abusive behavior. In fact, mentioning your ADHD shows that you are still making excuses – otherwise why mention it at all? We don’t know what type of medication you are taking, but that won’t directly improve a person’s abusive behavior and it will do nothing to change the underlying mindset of entitlement that you have.
Seeing a therapist “at least once a month” won’t help you change. Abusers do not need ‘therapy’ if therapy is conceived as helping the person deal with their emotions. The abuser’s problem is in his thinking and his behavior much more than his feelings. At a minimum, seeing a counsellor who focuses on your behavior as well as your thinking patterns, who has experience with abusers and who understands their mentality and tactics — seeing this type of counsellor at least weekly is a start. But bear in mind that some counsellors say they ‘get it’ about abusers but they don’t necessarily get it. And when an abusers sees a counsellor one-on-one, it’s pretty easy for the abuser to do a snow job on the therapist.
Also, if there is a Men’s Behavior Change program you can attend, that would help as well. If a Men’s Behavior Change (group) program is run by people who are well trained in that specific field it can help an abusive man to change IF he really wants to change. And the other participants in the group are abusers themselves and they can recognize and call out the evasive tactics of their fellow participants. Note that such programs may be called different names, for example, Domestic Violence Intervention Program, or Batterers Program.
You need to respect your wife by moving your focus from your relationship with her to your abusive behavior and your underlying beliefs that you are entitled to mistreat her and be superior to her.
There is nothing ‘unfortunate’ about having to respect your wife’s wish that you not talk to her. Your desire should be to respect her even when, and especially when, you don’t like the boundaries she has set.
We are not sure what you mean when you say “I’ve redirected my life to Christ.” Christ isn’t interested in redirected lives — He is someone we surrender to. He is a God who demands no less than perfection, which in our sinful natures we are unable to do. Surrendering ourselves to Christ involves recognizing that anything we do will fall short of a holy, righteous, God. It is recognizing that abusive behavior is SIN — a sin that is reprehensible before a holy and righteous God. The unregenerate man has no island of goodness in himself from which he could make the effort to ‘redirect’ himself to God. The unregenerate man can only come to God in true repentance and contrition.
Your abusive behavior may have been a ‘life long struggle’, but true change happens in the here and now. And from your comment there is no evidence that change has started. In your comment you talk only of your “intentions to change”, that you’re “committed to change”, that you’re “heart is broken”. These are mere words. Action, not words, is evidence of change.
If you look at yourself in the mirror and decide this is not who you want to be; focus on changing your behavior and your mindset of entitlement, and get down to the hard work of changing with a competent counsellor and/or through a men’s behavior change program — that may be a start.
At Barbara Roberts’ solo site Not Under Bondage, there is a list of links Especially for Men. Some of the items in that list may help you.
Also, the book Unclenching Our Fists may help you. By recommending this book, we are not necessarily saying that we think every man who wrote his story in that book has sufficiently changed to be safe as an intimate partner. But the stories may show you something about the path to becoming a non-abusive man.
Also, the book How Did We End Up Here? may help you. It is mostly aimed at those who have suffered at the hands of character disordered people, rather than the people who HAVE character disorders (which is you). But you may find some parts of it useful.