Why Has My Husband Became Emotionally Abusive

Why has my husband became emotionally abusive

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I can only answer this half-way—as in, I think so, but time will tell.

My husband was, for years, intermittently abusive, mostly emotionally but with physical intimidation thrown in a few times (only to me, never the children). He has been slowly improving over the course of several years and has not behaved badly for several months now.

What made the difference?

  1. I read Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft and came to understand that it really wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t okay. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s in an emotionally abusive relationship.
  2. With that understanding, even though I was mightily scared to do it, I started to set limits. I let him know that certain behaviors were not ok and that if he continued them I was willing to leave. Setting boundaries and being willing to back them up has been the *only* thing that works.
  3. My husband has always had a “good” side that was loving, respectful, and supportive. He has not gotten therapy, but has done a lot of serious self-reflection and has decided that he does not want to continue the bad behaviors that he learned from his abusive upbringing—in part because he does not want to be like his parents and in part because he values the family we’ve created. I cannot tell if the attitudes that produced the abuse are truly fading or only going undercover. He’s doing well enough, though, that I’m willing to wait and see. Lundy Bancroft, who has tons of experience in this area, says in the book mentioned above that very few abusers actually change and those who do must undergo years of hard work and therapy—not for their “issues,” but to unlearn the thought processes that made it seem ok for them to act that way. I try to keep that in mind and not get too hopeful, but looking at the trend in my husband’s behavior over the past several years would seem to indicate that he is on track to become a really good husband.

Edit—2 months later: My husband is no longer living with us. He turned his rage on my teenaged daughter and I told him to leave until he got help. It’s been 7 weeks and he’s made no move to get therapy or join an abusers’ program. Instead, he’s moved in with his mother (he’s 45!), who was the primary abuser in his childhood. My optimism was misguided and my daughter paid the price. To her credit, she told him he was out of line and called her brother to come get her rather than staying to listen to his rage. Bottom line: I was wrong in a big way. He’s not changed at all. I should have listened to Lundy Bancroft.

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