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do abusive men ever change? (VERY long)

(37 Posts)
Caththerese1973 Fri 18-Mar-05 06:42:54

it's hard to go into this in too much depth but I am at the moment temporarily separated from my husband and seriously thinking about making it permanent. My two year old daughter and I are currently staying at my mother's place. Hardly ideal, I feel we have no home right now. The last straw was when my husband followed me around the house on the morning of my daughter's second birthday, screaming abuse, poking me in the face and calling me every offensive name you can think of. All of this, mind you, in front of our daughter. I was going to have a party for her but when he began threatening to abuse my family members when they showed up, I rang everyone up and cancelled, I was too upset to put on a brave face. I then got a few thingsin a bag and caught a taxi with my daughter to my mother's. Ugh. One of the worst days of my life.
Admitttedly the aggression was not all on my side: we had been quarrelling night before and I had opted to sleep in spare bed, which always REALLY pisses him off. Like so many women in this situation I am torn because while he is verbally abusive, VERY controlling and has been known to strike me on occasion, he is also (does this sound crazy?) a good hearted man. He loves o9ur daughter but how is she to know at her age that all this aggro is not her fault? I
should add that he had an atrocious childhood himself: his mother died of liver cancer when he was only ten and even before she died, his father was having an affair with a woman whom he married IMMEDIATELY after the death of my husband's mother. This womna even came to his mother's funeral. Bizarre. Anyway, his stepmother was abusive towards him, gave neither affection nor even money for the things he needed for school (he had to work crap jobs from the age of about 11). His father too, it seems, was abusive and critical and possibly had sexual pathologies (eg would insist on walking around the house naked all the time and would not put on pants even if his children wanted to have friends over.). Josh (my husband) and his older sister were more or less left to fend for themselves from the age of 11 and 13 respectively. Do their own cooking ,washing, get themselves to school etc.
I think one reason I fell in love with my husband was because he needed love so much. Now I find I cannot handle his behaviour. He is just so damaged. Although he has been a total asshole the prosepct of leaving him makes me feel terribly guilty. I hate to think of him alone and desolate, and taking someone's child off them is of course the cruellest thing yiou can do. But then again one must think of the child too.
Sorry this is so long but I have so much on my mind and no-one who will discuss it with me properly. I guess the big question is: is there ANY chance he could learn to control his rage and be a reasonable person, if he wanted to, had therapy and so forth? Does this ever happen? So often one hears that guys like this never change and the situation can only get worse.
Please respond!

Carla Fri 18-Mar-05 06:59:17

CT, I'm so, so sorry to hear this. I don't have much time this morning, but I suppose the big question is, do you think he would want to change? Does he acknowledge the way he is, and do you think he would want to change it? Do you feel able to ask him? My DH uses various controlling tactics but sadly I'm certain he's completely unaware of it - it's just normal behaviour to him. If I were to mention it I'd get a string of abuse telling me I was the one who had the problem.

Thinking of you.

WideWebWitch Fri 18-Mar-05 07:01:02

I doubt he'll change, you did the right thing leaving. It's NOT cruel to take your daughter away from an abusive man, it's entirely right and proper and sensible. Well done. Women's aid are here

happymerryberries Fri 18-Mar-05 07:02:23

Don't feel guilty. This is not your fault. However awful his childhood his is an adult now and he has to take responsibility for his actions. Your responsibility is to the safety of your children and yourself. You cannot change him. Nothing you can do will make him behave in a resasonable person.

In my limited experience of this (one cousin and a workmate) these men seldom change. Anything in life is possible and if he wqants to change then I suppose that he might. however in the two cases I saw, both men continued to abuse, and went on to other abusive relationships.

happymerryberries Fri 18-Mar-05 07:04:23

Agree with www re your dd. The best thing you could do was to take her away from him. My cousin left when her children were of an age to recognise the abuse. She did it for their benefit and so did you. Stay strong.

Carla Fri 18-Mar-05 07:08:52

I was listening to a programme on Radio Five this week and there's an organisation called Temper especially for men who want to do something about it. If you do a google search you might find out more about them.

How old is your daughter, btw? One thing really brought it home for me this week. DH got home from the pub and started on me - I'd left some flowers I'd bought the day before outside in the garden instead of bringing them in and arranging them. And I'd left the dog mixer in the boot of the car instead of bringing it in.

DD1 (6) came over and said "Don't worry, Mummy, just don't listen. Ignore it." It just made me think that however much I can put up with it, they shouldn't have to. It made me question whether I was being selfish in tolerating it.

Do your family members know anything about his behaviour? Would he have been likely to carry out his threat? Sometimes I wish DH would be his normal self in front of my family. OK, it would result in a meltdown, but at least then others could see what he's really like.

MeerkatsUnite Fri 18-Mar-05 07:10:58

Unless he finds it within himself to change he will not. You (and infact no-one else) can change his patterns of behaviour much as you'd like to.

My friend is still putting up with verbal abuse and the like and he has not changed an iota.

Would also think his elder sister has also been emotionally damaged by the family's behaviour.

You did the right thing by leaving. Do not go back, no second chance should be given to him. Look at it this way too. Your dd learns from her parents; if she saw this violence over the coming years (and children are all too aware at a young age what's really going on) she would grow up thinking that this was normal behavior and perhaps in her adult life meet someone exactly the same as her Dad.

Another thing for you to remember also - you cannot act as someone's rescuer or saviour and you cannot save someone who does not want to be saved.

I wish you both well. Women's Aid are an excellent organisation.

TiredBunny Fri 18-Mar-05 07:33:23

Oh lovey this is such a hard situation.... you just need to protect your daughter. I left my ex when dd was 13 months and thankfully she doesnt appear to remember the shouting and fighting. It is really sad that he had such a hard time but he cant be allowed to damage your life by taking it out on you and your little one. Has he ever had counselling??n i am seeing a man who has lost his father recently and his mum died when h is young and it is all about to come to a head because he treats me so badly. Respect yoursefland dont put up with it but if you really really love him try and get him some help?? Take Care x

MeerkatsUnite Fri 18-Mar-05 07:48:27

Seeking help yourself for such men to have may not work, it certainly did not for my friend. She got him a list of counsellors - he's turned around to her and said that he does not need counselling. In the meantime the crap still continues..

You cannot act as a rescuer or saviour to such men - it does not work. Their behaviour patterns learnt from childhood are all too ingrained in their pysche. Save yourself instead!!!.

tigermoth Fri 18-Mar-05 07:56:29

It could make you feel better, as well as your dh, if you can try and persuade him to get counselling, either alone or as a couple. At least you will feel you have done everything possible, and can continue to support from a safe distance. You felt you had to leave, you did it. Time might blurr memories and the intensity of that day, but keep remembering it was so bad you had to get out.

MY advice would be don't look to the future. Don't hope therapy will change your dh, but don't withdraw all support and contact either - unless he becomes increasingly abusive and controlling.

FWIW I personally do think people can change for the better over time - I have been with my dh for nearly 20 years and in some ways he is a different person to the 30 year old I went out with. His basic personality is the same, though.

kama Fri 18-Mar-05 08:10:19

Message withdrawn

lucy5 Fri 18-Mar-05 08:11:13

NO !

expatinscotland Fri 18-Mar-05 08:11:15

Short answer (from someone who's been there): NO.

Take a look at your daughter. I'll bet you love her SO much and would do a/thing for her.

Now imagine some man treating her the way your partner does you. B/c if this is what she sees growing up, it's very likely she'll involve herself in an abusive relationship herself.

Cath, YOU are s/one's daughter.

Violence and force are NEVER a means to solve a domestic quarrel. EVER. There is NO excuse for it.

He won't change. But you can.

YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS! If he has anger management issues, they're that: HIS issues.

You did the right thing, now keep doing it, one day, one hour, one moment at a time.

Expectantmum Fri 18-Mar-05 08:24:11

CT, this is such a horrible situation. I stayed with my ex DH for seven years, although we had no children. He was both physically and mentally abusive towards me and very often in front of his son from a previous relationship. Quite often I would find myself being held up against a wall with his hand around my throat just purely for having said something wrong, or refusing to adhere to one of his "rules". I stayed with him because I thought my love for him would get us through and he would change. Unfortunately, he did not and in the end I felt nothing but hate towards him, but also myself for becoming so weak. I was a very strong and independent woman when we first met and my relationship with him changed me completely and also created a massive rift between me and my family. I think moving to your mums is completely the right choice. If you feel there could be a chance to work through this, then I would stay at your mothers but offer to seek counselling with him or to help him through whilst he goes for counselling alone. If he truly loves you and knows there is a problem, then he will. Unfortunately, if he is indifferent towards you or refuses, then I would cut my losses and call the end to the relationship. At the end of the day, your child and yourself are more important. Be strong and do what you feel is right for yourself and your child. Big hugs x

munnzieb Fri 18-Mar-05 08:49:36

I agree with every one else I'm afraid, think of ur DD, do u want her growing up in this environment? In my experience these sorts of ppl only get worse not better.

unltimatly the choice is yours, but in my view, (and I mena no disrespect to anyone who stays with and abusive partners) it takes a stronger person to walk away than one to stay, althou they are also strong in a different way if that make sence.

don't think about you're DH and what effect this will have on him, or what will happen if u stay away, think deeply within, two things a) what's best for DD - two parents happy apart or one abusing the other in front of her she will grow up to think this is normal, and b) are you willing to allow you're self to continue being treated like this, obviously I don't expect an answer but have a long think about it, at the very least I would suggest you keep some clothes toys etc.. in a safe house so to speak ie a family member so if heven forbid he does go a bit 'mad' on occasion all you have to do is grab DD your keys and go.

Good luck and I hope all works out for you.

Jaysmum Fri 18-Mar-05 08:49:48

Protect your self and your dear daughter at all cost.
I am fortunate enough to be in a healthy relationship and have the love of a good man, so I cant respond from personal experience.

My closest friend was in a violent relationship and I watched her leave and return on several occasions.

The promises of going to counselling and changing his ways were all false promises and each beating was worse than the last.

When they did go for counselling he would sit and lie to the counsellor about what had been happening....this tore my friend apart, confused her enough to beleive she was the one with the problem and resulted in her losing all of her self respect.

She was so confident, go lucky and happy before she hooked up with her hubby....within months of them marrying he treated her so badly. She beleived that she was the cause of all their problems. Over the years I watched her wilt and become a nervouse wreck. She couldnt even buy a pair of shoes without asking for advice and opinions and then when she did make her purchase she would have to hide them when she got home. This man controlled her in everyway.

After every beating her hubby would be all sweetness and light. Flowers, meals out and the never ending false promises. This man wore a all that diddnt know he was the perfect partner.....but his mask kept slipping and the real monster would emerge.

The last resort was when she was late getting his evening meal ready because their dd had been ill and she had spent time caring for her. The monster came home and because hs meal was late he beat her so badly that she was hospitalised.

Please think about yourself. I know it is hard for you because you fell in love with this man enough to marry him and have a chid with him. Your husband sounds like he has some serious issues relating to his do not have a band aid big enough to fix his problems.He sounds like he would benefit from some good counselling sessions and in the meantime you could do with some TLC from those that really care.

Good Luck....stay strong.

Caththerese1973 Fri 18-Mar-05 14:26:20

thanks so much for all the prompt responses. it has cheered me somehwat. i think i did the right thing to leave but unhappily my mother's place is no idyll either. everyone is lovely to hannah (my dear daughter) but my father is a raving alcoholic, my mother extraordinarily co-dependent and my brother, the sweetest guy you'd ever meet, has never moved out of home or had a job (even though he is 28) and is dependent on tranquillisers. I just don't know what the hell has happened to my family. i doubt my dd is old enough to discern this but my original family home is like a sink of despair, depression and stupid crap. my mother....i am angry at her too. she is 'supportive' but you have to pay and pay and pay out of your ass for everything she gives you. eg listen to hard it is for her, how embarrassed she is and even tolerate her apparent allegiance to my impossible husband (whom she is constantly saying she feels sorry for).
I would be moving into a flat right away if it weren't for the fact that i am meant to....(you will not beleive this!) hand in my PhD dissertation in about six weeks and have unbleivable amounts of work to do. Mum says she will look after Hannah while I finalise my work. But in reality not much is happening....i am just doing what writing i can while she naps in the daytime. I MUST finish my PhD. I have been working on it for seven years and am basically unemployable unless I finish it, having had no work experience except some university teaching (which I won't get any more of without my completed PhD.)and a brief stint with a law firm as the office dogsbody. (Plus there is the minor factor of my 'dream' of being a successful scholar and not just the office dogsbody!).
I so want my dd to grow up in a sane household without all this crap. I so want her to be aware of the things that count in life...
I am no angel, I have had drinking issues myself in the past (guiltily I am even having a nightcap as I write this!). However I have no fear that I will ever go back to serious drinking. My daughter has 'saved' me in that respect (what a thing to put onto one's baby....still it is true.) My husband is forever reminding me of what an addictive personality I am and is sure, I think, that I would screw everything up if I was on my own. But I know that's not true.
I guess the best thing I can do is to hang in here at Mum's, hurriedly finish off my dissertation and then get the hell out of here!
Anyway, off to bed. Thanks so much everyone. This seems like a lovely site and I am so glad I found it.

kemp124 Fri 18-Mar-05 15:19:43

you hang on in there, you are stronger than you think, youve done the hard thing leaving. I was in a very abusive marriage and thank god and freinds for support, i got out and have never looked back. You get your self respect and sence of humour back also look at life diff. You will have good and bad days but you are doing it, thats the real buzz. Keep intouch iam am sure iam not alone when i say i would love to know how you are doing. best of luck hang on in there. My fav saying is never let the bas*** grin you down xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

anorak Fri 18-Mar-05 15:27:37

Hi Cath, I haven't had time to read the whole thread but will do later, I have to go out in a minute. I just wanted to say that there are lots of people who have suffered abusive childhoods and need lots of love, and when they receive that love some of them do all they can to mend themselves and love their family back in a way they never experienced, whereas others just take from you and pass the abuse on.

Unfortunately your dh sounds like one of the latter. You can love him all you like, he doesn't plan to change. He is a manipulative bully and will go on draining you forever and a day. If you go back to him it will just be a matter of time.

The other important factor is your dd, who will end up damaged herself if you continue to expose her to this.

I will be back later to chat with you - I'm on mumsnet every day and have experienced a relationship like yours myself, so I know how soul-destroying it is. I'll be right here for you xxx

hub2dee Fri 18-Mar-05 16:34:09

Hope you're able to really knuckle down for the last 6 weeks, C. Your posts are so eloquent I have no doubt that if you focus on pulling your work together and getting it out the door on time, you're PhD will be well received !

Of course, as you've said, this'll hopefully lead to an interesting job, which will hopefully lead to a reasonable wage (yeah, right - academia ? !!!) and soon you and precious dd will be in your own little place, creating your own space for the sane, normal and joyous life you deserve.

My advice: Make a backup of your data, hun. Stick it somewhere online too incase your disks get scrubbed / nicked.

V. best of luck.

anorak Fri 18-Mar-05 17:32:53

Hello again Cath, now I've had time to read the whole thread. Your situation is so similar to my own, I also had an alcoholic parent who needed mothering and dominated the family - which trained me to believe that my role in life was to take care of everyone else's emotional needs and ignore my own. No wonder we chose immensely needy and abusive partners - it's virtually inevitable, don't you think?

I had two children with my ex, and the relationship ended when they were 1 and 4. I was left with huge debts which I'd accrued by lending him money, nowhere to live and no job (I used to work for him and live in his house) We weren't married so I had no legal claims.

I had to go and live with my dad for a few months. My alcoholic mother had died 2 weeks prior to our split, so dad was glad to have me there and was a great help to me with babysitting so that I could do 2 jobs and get out of debt.

It was extremely tough and very hard work but 3 years later I had created a good business and was able to buy a large house. I also got to the point where I almost had a nervous breakdown due to the after-effects of a lifetime of abuse. I went into therapy and it was the best thing I ever did. I finally understood why I was always finding myself in abusive relationships; I was choosing the kind of people I had been conditioned to choose. I changed my habits and after a short time I met my dh, who is kind and loving and stuck with me throughout my depression until finally it lifted - for good I hope. He is the love I never realised I could dare to hope for.

We have now been married for 5 years and have added a little son to our family.

I'm afraid I wasn't able to protect my daughters fully from their father. As years went by he was bullying and unkind to them on their contact visits, and eventually we discovered that he was running a pornography business which he had allowed my eldest dd to 'find out' about when she was only 11. A long contact battle followed, draining us of all our savings, and resulting in contact being stopped altogether. By then a lot of damage had been done to my eldest who has suffered from some serious depression and a suicide attempt. But she is very much better now and I think we are over the worst. She is getting used to being in a stable home, learning to trust her stepfather and turning into a lovely girl of whom we can be very proud.

The damage these types of men can inflict spreads farther and wider than one can imagine. They always go a little farther than we with our loving attitudes expect them to go.

I want you to know that it is tough but there is nothing a determined woman cannot do. Finish your dissertation - I know you will because you sound like me and I would have done it if it meant staying up all night every night for those 6 weeks. You are on the road to a better life for you and your precious daughter.

And never, never accept this behaviour from anyone again.

CAT me if you ever want to talk to me. Take care. I'll watch this thread in case you want to talk more in the future. xxx

WideWebWitch Fri 18-Mar-05 17:46:51

anorak, what a lovely and moving post. sorry you had to go through it.

WideWebWitch Fri 18-Mar-05 17:46:55

anorak, what a lovely and moving post. sorry you had to go through it.

californiagirl Fri 18-Mar-05 19:31:25

DH is always upset by these kinds of posts. His father was abusive, certainly to his mother and to a lesser extent to DH and his sister, for years. Finally he had a nervous breakdown and went on to anti-depressants, after which he was quite an acceptable parent who DH is fond of (in a complicated way made much easier by living on the far side of the planet). He didn't change completely, he's still a difficult person, but DH is glad his mother didn't leave his father (admittedly, partly because he thinks his mother is basically a ditz, who knows what really would have happened).

LGJ Fri 18-Mar-05 19:34:59


Your post made me cry, you have my admiration.

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