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Can someone be abusive in one relationship but not in another?

(85 Posts)
43percentburnt Sun 21-Dec-14 07:41:03

My ex was an abusive arse. Typical textbook, he started being violent when I was 18, I can't remember if he was emotionally abusive previously. Told me his ex was psychotic, violent etc - me thinks, with hindsight, he wasn't telling the truth. He was quite a bit older, again I think this is typical.

When I involved the police he told me that they said they would arrest me.

When I tried to leave several years later the nice and nasty cycle would occur. He would shout abuse, stalk me at work, send abusive messages, be threatening.

I fortunately got away and am now having a wonderful life. I logged many incidents with the police over the years. I got the police to log it on the records of the county he lives in and two that he visits because I want his girlfriend to be believed if she ever needs to speak to the police.

But my question is, will he be abusive to her? I know she was previously with an abuser. Ironically my ex told me how he has threatened her ex as he wouldn't stop calling her and he had previously been violent. She is a nice person ( have only met her 4 or 5 times in 10 years but she seems genuine).

Can abusers stop being abusive with no outside help?

ihatethecold Sun 21-Dec-14 07:49:21

God knows. I have often wondered that regarding my ex.
We split up 20 years ago after a horrible abusive time.
He got married about 10 years ago and is still with her.
I don't see him at all but I do wonder if he is still an abusive wanker.

tippytap Sun 21-Dec-14 07:54:14

I wondered this about my ex. I saw them happy together and thought the problem was me.

After about 2 years, the cracks started to show in their relationship and I realised that he treated her exactly as he treated me. The same with subsequent girlfriends, too.

Purpleflamingos Sun 21-Dec-14 07:59:37

I don't think so. One of my dsis was wife number 3 to an older man. Met at 18, married at 20, divorced 10 years later. She's good friends with the girlfriend that came after her who was strong enough to throw him out (whom she supported 100% afterwards) and he's in late forties now I think with a 19 year old.

JontyDoggle37 Sun 21-Dec-14 08:05:11

I think it would depend on if they 'met their match' or misjudge slightly the woman they were starting a relationship with. Bear with me, this is a theory - if abusers seek out women who react in a certain way initially, who they can see they might be able to exert control over (even if they do this subconsciously) then I would think the only way they wouldn't end up abusing again would be if the woman turned out to be more able to withstand their comments than they thought, and gave it back equally. I have no direct experience of full on abuse (so may be talking utter rubbish), but have been in a relationship with someone who started to display some controlling qualities. When we entered the relationship I was very vulnerable and quite a different person to who I am normally. Some comments started about what I wore, weight, etc, but as he wasn't perfect himself, I reflected them back at him - well are you going to lose weight too? Are you going to wear sexier/nicer clothes? Etc until it became clear I would dress how I liked and any weight loss would be because I wanted to not because he said so. It worked after that and there would be the odd comment which I would immediately knock back again, but I wonder if I had continued to be vulnerable where it would have ended up.
Please don't take this as some smug commentary on how I stopped someone when someone else couldn't, that totally isn't intended, I just think each of us is built with a certain type of personality, and some personalities override others, whereas some personalities balance each other out...oh I hope it's clear what I mean, but feel free to tell me to shut up!!!! blush

Cirsium Sun 21-Dec-14 08:24:13

I think unless the abuser has an epiphany, sees that they are wrong for themselves and puts in the work to change their negative behaviours that nothing will change in later relationships.

I was wife number three to an abusive man. Early twenties and low self esteem when we met and he was was much older. I believed his stories about his previous divorces all being his exes faults. All was fine while I was in awe of him and did what he said, as soon as I started being more confident and assertive he changed completely and got angry when he realised he couldn't control me or make me believe his lies anymore. I left him after three years together and when I met up with him to sign divorce papers two years later he still couldn't see where he had gone wrong, for the first time ever told me he loved me and asked for another try. Oddly enough I said no and was immediately a bitch who had ruined his life.

Rebecca2014 Sun 21-Dec-14 08:36:49

I wonder this about my ex...he was verbally abusive but it did turn physical (throwing things, pushing) when I didn't shut up basically. Because we have a young daughter together, I would rather he wasn't abusive to his next g/f as I would not want our daughter to see any of that type behaviour from him, but I think after he has been in a relationship for a while, his mask will slip and he will start getting annoyed and angry at the woman for not doing things his way...

Abusive men need help but because they are so deluded it never happens so the cycle usually carries on with the next person.

CogitOIOIO Sun 21-Dec-14 08:49:07

I think people can potentially change but that, if they have a cruel or selfish personality, it'll always be there. As they get older they might stop hitting partners to get their own way and 'mellow' to psychological cruelty or some other form of bullying instead. 'Meeting their match' as someone suggested above won't stop the bullying, but they might get ditched early or not have such a devastating effect on a more resilient person.

FredZeppelin Sun 21-Dec-14 09:21:43

I wonder this too.
Ex was very emotionally abusive to me, throughout my pregnancy too. He was shagging OW throughout as well fhmm
She's 10 years his junior (he always likes them to be at least 10 years younger - I was 2 years older than him), English is not her first language, and she moved out of her marital home with her young DD to live with him.
She strikes me as needy and vulnerable, so he's back in his comfort zone. Whether he's abusive to her I don't know, but he's a class one selfish piece of shit so that will definitely never change!

NotYouNaanBread Sun 21-Dec-14 10:59:03

I was in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship and I think that somebody his own age with a but more backbone than I had then (I was only 19 when we met) would be able to sit firmly on any of those attitudes if they came up. I don't blame myself or exonerate him in the least, but perhaps it is fair to say that we weren't on an equal footing and I think that someone a bit tougher would have been quite happy with him.

Quitelikely Sun 21-Dec-14 11:07:30

I don't think so. We are who we are and eventually settle into the new relationship. Familiar patterns and themes emerge although the responses are different from the new partner.

I think a total personality transplant for vile abusers is just too much to ask. Yes if he was violent once in twenty years then his fists might not reappear again but for more regular abusers I'm not convinced.

And it's interesting all you here wondering about it, no doubt because you were told they were only like this with you, you bring out the worst in them etc you get the drift and you're all wondering if she doesn't bring out the worst. Well that was just a big massive lie to justify the abuse.

If your abusive, your abusive. And it will re emerge regardless of who you are with.

You see their new relationships and think they look happy together, it's all a front though isn't it and of course they are going to pain the best picture if they think an ex is looking but you know the truth and thank god (or whoever) you were lucky enough to get away!

NeedsAsockamnesty Sun 21-Dec-14 11:21:52

Based on several decades working in DV services including perp program's and a long time running one the simple answer to that question. Is no they don't change.

The more complicated one is they can if they put the effort in and want to but masses of them don't because its never there fault or problem

PlantsAndFlowers Sun 21-Dec-14 11:22:28

Regarding 'meeting their match'. My ex liked me partly because he thought he'd met his match, and that I wouldn't put up with any bullying from him and put a stop to the pattern. It didn't work, just made him up the ante.

NeedsAsockamnesty Sun 21-Dec-14 11:26:34

Oh and more people should be raising "witnessing DA" as a child contact concern when a abuser gets into a new relationship because it is a cp concern but rarely gets raised as one unless you have children's services involvement before you split and the SW is on the ball

CogitOIOIO Sun 21-Dec-14 11:56:46

That's a really good point PP

Meerka Sun 21-Dec-14 12:16:48

I think abusive people vary.

I think a very few can change, given enough reason to. But it's very hard for them (and more kudos to those who do).

I do think some people are just bad for each other and end up on a downwards slope. The person may be a potential abuser, but it never becomes actual because the other person somehow manages to withstand it and refuses to be put down, like jonty. They can be shitty to one person and rather better to the next, just because of different dynamics.

Other people will be abusive no matter what. If they are with someone like jonty they'll dump them and move on to someone they can victimize.

Twinklebells Sun 21-Dec-14 12:18:28

I hope for the OW & her children that my ex doesn't abuse her too - but I suspect he will do at some point. When I tried to warn her what he was like she told me I was a liar and he hadn't shown her that side of him. I secretly wish he would show her just to prove I am right - but that is horrid of me, I wouldn't wish his nastiness on anyone tbh. My late Mum always said people don't change - I think she was right.

Paddlingduck Sun 21-Dec-14 12:19:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

queenoftheknight Sun 21-Dec-14 12:36:54

My first husband lost wife #3 last year for exactly the same behaviour his first two marriages failed. I was number 2.

He took no responsibility whatsoever for any of his issues.

Abusers seem to have attachment issues.....see Bowlby for that. They are very needy. I can see that with every single relationship I have ever been in, from first teenage crush onward. So I have looked at my part in the dynamic. Not victim blaming.....just seeking out the truth for myself.

I also have attachment issues, no coincidence there. I have learned to STOP mothering these men, stop feeling sorry for them and allow them the space to take responsibility for themselves...if they choose to. None has. Till now.

Having worked through this in therapy, I can see how my neediness, and my persistent role as "parent", which has been a feature of every single relationship I have ever had with anyone, ever, yes including my parents, has actually been my part to play in it all.

It is hard to change "role". I see that I have to change mine.

Who knows where this will take me? Hopefully to a healthy set of relationships.

trackrBird Sun 21-Dec-14 12:59:56

No. IMO. The huge need for control, poor level of empathy, and distorted sense of the partner's role in the abuser's life, are deeply ingrained in the personality. Therapy might help some (a very few).

BrowersBlues Sun 21-Dec-14 13:23:17

Not in my experience. I think the only way someone would amend their behaviour is if they met someone completely submissive who agreed with every single thing they did or said. Even then I would wonder.

My exh was violent and I left. He met this woman I vaguely knew and used to bang on about how happy they were together. They stayed together for 3 years because he was really plausible and kept up a good act.

I stuggled with not telling her about the violence because it was at a very serious level. I thought that she would just think I was bitter. I also thought that maybe he had grown out of it as he was in his 50's at that stage. She was closer in age to him than I was and they seemed perfectly happy.

They split up very suddenly. My DC told me that he was at a BBQ with her family and when one of her teenage children started being really cheeky to her my EXH flipped the lid with her son. He really is a thug so I daresay it was pretty awful to witness. Game over.

Needs - very good point about raising witnessing abuse as a child contact concern.

iloverunning36 Sun 21-Dec-14 13:32:54

I wonder this wrt whether they have kids. I know my abuser was abusive to the mother of his other child (and she is totally different to me- strong and confident whereas I have always lacked confidence) but at least of his 2 previous girlfriends still have a soft spot for him (although his relationships only last 2 years and his exes have said he was controlling ) I think perhaps having a child with him brought out his abusiveness and it was quite low level with his other partners.

sleeplessbunny Sun 21-Dec-14 13:36:05

My dad was EA towards my mum for 20 + years until they separated. He recently came to stay at ours with his now wife and exhibited exactly the same controlling and verbally abusive behaviours towards her sad. I found it incredibly upsetting, it must have triggered some painful childhood memories and I got extremely angry and told him (and effectively her) to leave. I am pondering what to do next now regarding contact, his wife is lovely and I feel very bad for her.
But to answer your question, no I don't think abusers change their behaviour sad

JaceyBee Sun 21-Dec-14 13:42:17

I've posted this before when this exact same question came up a few months back but I know of two abusive relationships where the abuser has gone on to have non abusive relationships after. The first was my friends mum and stepdad, the stepdad was horrendously violent to both the mum and my friend and her sister, a real nasty sadistic bully. He is now with another woman who is very no nonsense and has never been aggressive with her at all. I think one factor is that she refuses to live with him and is very independent, so doesn't need him as such.

The other is my friend and his ex, she was very emotionally abusive, manipulative and controlling. She destroyed his self-esteem and was a jealous and borderline nightmare. She is now with my exh, has been for 4 years or so and is meek as a kitten! Again, I think it's because she is more invested in their relationship than he is and knows there's no way he would put up with any of that shit, he'd just dump her. So she 'behaves' herself.

So based on my experience I would say yes but not very often.

JaceyBee Sun 21-Dec-14 13:44:20

Borderline psychotic I meant to say!

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