The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.
The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed—see our tag for 'male survivors' (tags tab in the top menu).
Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion
Can Abusers Change?
To say that abusers cannot change removes responsibility for sin. They can change, but the vast majority choose not to, which is what the experts state. When God punishes them, their punishment is just. Abusers have options for treatment and are accountable.
Once the marriage covenant is broken through abuse, the abused partner does not need to stay in the marriage waiting for the abuser to change. The abuser's recovery is a separate issue and his change is his own responsibility, not his wife's. This is the mistake most churches make. These churches have over-sentimentalized marriage and are legalists.
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Triggers Are Not a Sign of Unforgiveness
Triggering has to do with those emotions hidden away, along with memories, all stuffed by trauma in various secret compartments of the brain. Unforgiveness on the other hand is not so much emotion as it is the seeking of vengeance upon someone, rather than leaving it to God. The two are really quite different. You can have forgiven someone, but still get triggered.