Is it abuse, and can abusers change?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-12-2010
Is it abuse, and can abusers change?
Thu, 01-06-2011 - 12:54pm

Hi everyone!

I was on this board a long time ago under a different account when I was with my first H who was a TERRIBLE emotional and verbal abuser. Very happy to say I am now D from him and have been for a while, and NC for four years! Yay! Best decision of my life.


I have a new question. I am with someone new (not that new, nearly two years). Background: he was abused/neglected by his father, which left him seriously scarred. Couple that with being cheated on by nearly every woman he'd ever been with, including the one right before me, which was a year long R.

We moved in together back in March and that's when I noticed some very off behavior. He was seemingly VERY angry for no reason. He'd resort to the occassional name-calling but when not that, mostly just yelling or walking out.

This eventually petered off, but there were other things that remained: displays of one-upmanship (his needs seemed to take precedence), he made insecurity-causing comments about exes/friends (stupid things that were so weird that at one point I asked him if I made him feel insecure), taking friends word over mine - ridiculous things.

And then in November, he finally told me some truths: he met a woman at a conference, and though nothing happened, he thought about sleeping with her, and continued to (ahem) please himself to her photos while with me (and also remained friends with her). Eventually that stopped, but he had sexual thoughts about friends/exes/students (college professor) - just this HUGE general freak out. And of course, protected this information for a long time, but eventually came clean.

When all this came out, I told him I'd only stay if he a)started therapy immediately, b) figured himself out and his issues, and c) removed damaging people from our lives and never acted on those things again, period.

At this point, he's done some real, valid work on himself, and has done all the above as well. He now realizes that he thought I was the best thing in the world and was absolutely terrified of getting hurt, so he pulled all the BS as a way of sabotaging - i.e. -I'll hurt her before she hurts me; I'll project my own insecurities on her. Even in the case of the mental "other women" they were what he deemed "less than" himself so that he could feel more worthy, because he did not feel worthy of me. This came from his father's abuse and the previous relationship things (but mostly parental, as it always is - in my case too).

He is also incredibly remorseful of these things and truly cannot believe he did them - they make him physically ill.

So - do you think this is abusive behavior, or am I just incredibly sensitive due to my own past R with an abuser? And do you think someone can heal the self-esteem problems that casue these things to happen in the first place? Anyone successful with it?

Thank you!

Community Leader
Registered: 10-22-2001
Thu, 01-06-2011 - 2:52pm

Honestly I feel he is.

Just too many "Red flags"...

One I noticed is blaming others...

His insecurity is not your problem or your fault.

My ex always blamed others in his Life and he seemed angry to.

So much so I broke off our engagement.

It can be "Emotional" his yelling, raising his voice, walking out/leaving...

Their needs/wants are not more important than ours...

Not taking ownership of what he's done, his behaviour...

"He is also incredibly remorseful of these things and truly cannot believe he did them - they make him physically ill."

This really concerned me.

Avatar for winter2007
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2006
Thu, 01-06-2011 - 3:08pm
Take it very very slow..only time will tell if he really changed. Yes, you may seem more on your toes to catch the behavior but if you know he has done some work on himself, you just have to take it slow and see where things are in 2-3 months. Just keep being yourself and do all the things that you know might have 'set him off' in the past. And see how he reacts. Also spend more time with friends and family and doing things separately and see if he is willing to give you the time and space to be yourself. He did have red flags but if he says he has overcome them, only time will tell.
Avatar for cajunharmony
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-28-2001
Thu, 01-06-2011 - 7:44pm

Hi Rise, and welcome to the board.

Mama Harmony

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Thu, 01-06-2011 - 10:13pm
He plays the victim by saying every woman has cheated on him and he's been abused his whole life. It doesn't give him the right to abuse.

There's just no excuse for it. He's a grown man, he makes his own choices.

As far as him saying he is so sorry that he gets physically ill, I think that's just manipulation. He sounds like he's a good manipulator. A wolf in sheep's clothing.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-12-2010
Sat, 01-08-2011 - 12:30am

Hi everyone,