Can He Change?

Love does not do harm

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Reader Clairese commented after reading my article "These 4 Questions Will Help You Decide If It's Time To Leave a Relationship":

I've been with an addict the past four years who I've never heard even raise his voice. But he put his hands on me, choking me. He got eight months in jail. He hasn't been clean in 15+ years, so I'm giving him clean slate provided he/we attends NA regularly along with his own counseling & couples counseling. I've been seeing a counselor for 16 months. He gets out 6/20. I'm scared but excited because he's truly a wonderful person who I love dearly. He's shown me great things, so I know he wants to change. I'll share this article with him. Thank you for an excellent post. I've subscribed.

Hi Clairese,

Thank you for sharing, I hear your sorrow.

What I learned from watching my parents’ dysfunctional relationships is that what they thought was love is not love. Love does not lash out at those you love, and it does not seek to control the other person through violence. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” ― 1 Corinthians 13 1

Having seen the devastation abuse wrought, I personally would not stay with anyone who assaulted me. In particular, strangulation is a felony assault in 45 states, and the mere presence of strangulation in a situation of domestic abuse increases the chances of homicide sevenfold

The damage of abuse is especially severe for children. Children have no say in the matter and are entirely at the mercy of adults (read "It's Not All About You" for our story). If you have children, I urge you to use their welfare as your Northstar in deciding what to do next.

“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.” ― Unknown

"When a man slaps a woman," said Ellen Pence, a social activist that co-founded the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, "it doesn't happen in a vacuum: It's a historical act." The roots of domestic violence are deep. Often, abusers were abuse victims too. 

It is not surprising that domestic violence offenders have high rates of recidivism. Three-fifths of individuals convicted of domestic violence are rearrested within two years—and 67% of this group are rearrested for another domestic violence offense. Your partner could be one of the fortunate exceptions, but the risk of recidivism is real.

If you do decide to stay, to have any chance of success, as you astutely mentioned, professional help is necessary. I am glad that you are in counseling already, and you are right to only consider reconciliation if he commits to individual counseling and couple's counseling. 

Your partner needs counseling to learn how to regulate his own emotions, so he can choose a response vs. being controlled by emotions. It is not enough that he agrees to these terms only to get you back. He has to genuinely understand that he needs help and do the work to heal himself.

Someone controlled by their emotions is not free. They are like a robot - Press button A and you get action A, press button B and you get action B. This is no way to live as a human.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” ― Buddha

I know you left a comment, not a question, but I hope you find the context I provide helpful. No matter what you decide, I wish you the best on your journey ahead. You deserve all the love and happiness in the world.

P.S. For more discussions, join us on Facebook at “Life Is Love School.”