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How Do I Know If My Abusive Husband's Changing?
How Do I Know If My Abusive Husband is Changing?

Your husband says he wants to change and you believe him. Learn how to safely observe if he's truly changing or if it's just more grooming and gaslighting.

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How Do I Know If My Abusive Husband's Changing?

You didn’t get married, believing that your husband would betray you with pornography.

You didn’t give your heart to him, believing that he would emotionally and psychologically abuse you.

Now that you have the words for his behavior and what’s he’s been doing to you for so long, perhaps you still hope for a reconciliation – perhaps you, like Claire – this week’s guest on the podcast – hope that he can change.

Read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR.ORG Podcast to explore this week’s topic: How Do I Know if My Abusive Husband is Changing?

IMPORTANT: Showing your husband this article or asking him to read it is NOT a safe decision and will likely lead to a sudden change in his behavior that seems positive – but will most likely be grooming, rather than sincere change.

Please keep this article for “your eyes only”.

He’ll Treat You Like An Equal (& Reject Misogyny)

“How long has it been since you’ve thought a misogynistic thought? How long has it been since you thought, Oh why doesn’t my wife wipe off the table? What’s her problem? Instead of being like, oh the table needs to be wiped off, I’m going to get a rag and wipe it off because I’m an adult and I live here.”

Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG

A man who is changing from an abuser to a healthy person, will, for a long period of time, consistently reject misogyny.

This means that he will:

  • Not expect or ask others to cook, clean, or “take care” of him.
  • Not expect, ask for, or coerce you or others for sex.
  • Clean up after himself and others, taking on household and yard tasks without being prodded, asked, or encouraged.
  • Avoid organizations and situations where misogyny and patriarchy are systemically significant.
  • Reject patriarchal leadership roles.
  • Forfeit financial control and take proactive steps to learn how to have a mutual financial partnership

He Will NEVER Go Back to Pornography Use

Healthy men don’t use pornography. Period. 

Healthy men understand that pornography is exploitative and abusive to the victims of the industry, as well as destructive to their wives and themselves. It’s NOT a “temptation” to a healthy man. 

It’s a no-brainer. 

If your husband is truly changing, then he has done the work to understand the exploitative nature of the pornography industry and the effects that his pornography use has had on you and your family – and he will never go back to it. Not even once. 

He’ll Respect Your Autonomy

A healthy man respects your right to make decisions – large and small. He understands that he has zero right to make demands on your time, body, and energy. He gives you space. 

So How Do I Know If He’s Actually Changing? 

But you’re not a mind-reader and abusers are VERY good at mimicking these healthy behaviors.

At BTR.ORG, we know that it can be dangerous to live in close proximity to an abuser who claims to be changing. 

If you’re invested in staying married to the abuser, believing that he is willing and capable of change, we highly suggest taking The BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop, and maintaining a safe distance from the abuser so that you can observe, from that distance, for a good period of time, if he is maintaining these changes. 

Read Why Does He Do That? for even more information on what it looks like for an abuser to make amends for abuse. 

And remember, our daily Group Sessions are available to support you. 

Full Transcript: 

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. Claire, who is a member of our community is back with us on today’s episode. If you didn’t listen to last week, listen to that first so you know what’s going on and then join us here. We’re going to just jump right back in. So you attended your church’s addiction recovery program, which is a program for wives of porn addicts or wives of sex addicts. Talk about your experience with that.

Claire (03:21):
So initially he was the only one going, and this is back when it was very first even starting. And so they actually didn’t have the women’s group when we first started. I loved going to the meetings because, probably because I was a hermit cause I didn’t have any friends cause I wasn’t taking care of myself. So this is like the only time where I was talking to women, but the, of course the main thing I am upset about is that they’re, they didn’t teach about that lying is abuse. That’s the main thing that made me upset. So I actually, when I, when they said women whose husbands use pornography that they have PTSD symptoms, I felt like seen in that, but at the same time and I felt like, oh, like I feel super stressed out, but that’s normal. So it did like take a weight off of me, but at the same time it was like, oh, but it’s because I feel like he’s cheating on me when he is looking at porn, but he isn’t. So it’s just like this illogical emotional response.I don’t know if they taught that or that’s what I got out of it, was that it was, you feel like he’s cheating on you because he’s looking at these pictures and that’s why you have this PTSD response.

This is How The “Sex Addiction Model” Blames Victims

Anne (04:26):
Or the, the, the reason you’re still having trouble is because now you’ve got a problem and it’s PTSD and so now whenever you react to him or whenever you’re having a hard time, it’s cause you have PTSD. But nothing’s necessarily wrong with him now cause he’s being honest. Suddenly after 25 years of not being honest Yeah, suddenly he’s getting gold stars. Good for him. When it’s like number one PTSD symptoms. Yes, we all have them. Could we, could we get diagnosed with PTSD? Yes. And I also want to say that’s completely normal. Like you’re completely normal. You don’t have some disease, there’s nothing wrong with you. The reason why you’re reacting like this is because you are being usually currently continually being abused. You’re being lied to, coerced, and manipulated. If you were completely safe and you felt completely safe, you wouldn’t be reacting. You know, like you wouldn’t have the anxiety you’re feeling when you’re around him.

Claire (05:25):
Yeah. I don’t know if that’s what they taught or if that’s, that’s just what I got out of it is you’re, you’re having a PTSD response when you find out your husband’s looking at porn. But it’s like, it’s not because I’m like, oh, I, I emotionally feel like he’s cheating. It’s like, he is lying. You’re, you’re in a relationship with someone who’s being compulsive sexually and is lying to you. So like that is not safe. So you don’t feel safe and you have these PTSD symptoms because you’re actually not safe. So like, so your feelings are legitimate and yeah, that was a huge piece that was missing was like, why don’t you teach that lying is abuse and, and you’re not, you’re actually not safe.

Abuse is Causing The Trauma – So Why Do Sex Addiction Models Blame the Victim?

Anne (06:01):
Also, what is the PTSD from? If you’re gonna say that from, it’s from abuse, porn is abuse, right? Because they have to lie and there’s all that stuff going on around it. So it is from abuse, that’s what it’s from. It’s not from quote unquote just porn or whatever. It’s from the whole system of coercive control. That’s what the PTSD s is from. And they, they’re not seeing that. They’re saying, oh, you have PTSD s symptoms and it’s from abuse cause you’re being abused. Right. Or at least that’s not what you got out of it.

Claire (06:36):
It’s so interesting. I I really love the the Omar Minwalla Model because it, how it kind of breaks it down. You’ve got the compulsion and then you have the entitlement and then you have the abuse. Right? And so even if you just had the compulsion, if you had someone who was using porn but they weren’t lying about it at all, that you would still feel scared because they’re being compulsive and they’re doing something that’s demeaning to women. But till still, to me it would seem like I feel at least 80% safer because if you’re telling me right away, at least I know what’s happening. And that’s the piece that I didn’t see until it was like, until you guys kind of split that out for me. That it’s like the lying is part of the abuse.

Even if He Says He’s Stopped, Does He Still Treat You The Same Way As Before? 

Anne (07:16):
Yeah. I, I see this a lot with victims and I, I wanna say like beware of this. They’ll be like, yeah, he was using porn and then he says he stopped and he didn’t use for a while. Right? And I’m like, who said he wasn’t using for a while? And how do you know that? We never know. We never ever can know if they want to use porn. There is literally no way for us to know that they’re not using except for their behavior. So when women say to me they stopped using porn but they were still angry and, and I’m like, you don’t know that they didn’t stop porn. Right. You have no idea. There’s some men in my life that I genuinely don’t believe use porn at all and never have because their behaviors have been consistent over time. But if a porn user says to me, I’ve stopped, but their behavior is relatively still the same, there’s literally no reason to believe them that they’ve stopped. And even if they have, who cares?

Claire (08:16):
Well, Kim Day says that even if they do stop and, and my husband actually he would have like six months and they use it again in six months and use it again. It’s still the whole, they’ve been watching porn. Like they may, they probably already have an entitlement attitude that they’re struggling with. Like, I’m entitled to women and women should show up like this sexually. And then you’re watching porn, which a lot of times, you know, has abuse in it and besides being demeaning to women in general and she said then they stop using the porn but they still have abusive behaviors that they learned from the porn. The whole attitude of being entitled towards women is like the source of abuse. So even if you end up with someone who isn’t using porn and you’re likely still gonna have the abusive behaviors after the fact if they stopped in the first place, what you’re using. 

“If You Learn About Abuse First…”

Anne (09:06):
My goal in life is that whenever any woman finds out that her husband’s using porn and it is a surprise to her, right? Or finds out that he’s been lying or an affair or something, that the first thing they learn about before they even think about pornography addiction recovery, before they even think about love languages or men’s sexual needs, <laugh>, anything like that, that they learn about abuse. Because once you learn about abuse, all that other stuff is you realize it’s ridiculous. Like if you learn about abuse first and then you learn about pornography addiction recovery, it’s like this is ridiculous. If you learn about abuse first and then you learn about men’s sexual needs, quote unquote, you’re like, that is ridiculous. So the abuse education helps you dismiss all the misogynistic societal slash religious exploitative privilege that men have because that is systemic and it’s everywhere. If you really have a good handle on abuse, it’s easier to dismiss it from all of the different places that it is coming from.

Claire (10:12):
Well, and you’re gonna be able to see it. Whereas you probably wouldn’t if you just were thinking about the porn, then you wouldn’t be able to see the other patterns. Because it’s pervasive. It’s not, it’s not just porn. 

Have You Read Why Does He Do That? 

Anne (10:25):
I think we both want desperately for women to be more educated about abuse. Yeah. And when I first found, Why Does He Do That? I wanted to literally like load up an airplane and put little, little like parachutes on Why Does He Do That? And throw them out and just be like, everyone needs to read this book.

Claire (10:44):
I actually felt angry when I read it cause I, I just felt like this is so awful. I don’t know cause it like physically made me sick whenever I go to therapy appointment that’s like actually useful. They’re usually challenging, you know, it was like my whole perspective, my whole world was kind of like dumped upside down.  I think it’s cause he’s, he shocks you back into mapping their intentions and it’s a rough.

Anne (11:07):
It is rough. I think the other thing is I’m not that way, right? I mean, like, I’m putting that in quotes. Like, you think of a, a domestic abuse victim in a certain way, right? And you’re like, I have a college education or I would never stand for abuse. Like we have this view of maybe ourselves and who we are. And so to accept that we are an actual victim of abuse is very heart-wrenching. It’s like embarrassing. It’s hard to like wrap your head around. It’s something that you sort of wanna push off. Also, the consequences of it are so intense. I remember being like, okay, he’s abusive but I don’t want my family to fall apart. So what am I supposed to do? Yeah. Like, okay, I, I’ll just live in abuse I guess cause I don’t wanna have to get divorced. I remember I went through, you know, I know a month or two of that in my head realizing he was abusive and then thinking like, but I, I don’t like the consequences of this, so can I call it something else?

BTR Is Here For You

(12:01):
Can I do something about, you know? So I think that’s why it’s just so heart-wrenching to find out you’re a victim and realize that like your life is going to have to change and not due to anything that you did. You have to face this awful terrible thing and, and also no one is coming to help you. BTR is here and we’ve got awesome online BTR Group Sessions every day and we have podcasts and workshops and things to help women. But like I I always think about the, the Israelites, God parted the Red Sea. I see that as education about abuse. So when you finally are educated about abuse, that’s like God parting the Red Sea for you. But you have to walk through. You have to start walking and no one else is gonna start walking it for you.

(12:44):

No one else can set boundaries for you. No one else can do that. And that is hard too because it feels like, who’s gonna help me? Like I’m the victim here, and you are. And I was, and I remember like even court situations where I felt like, no one is helping me. Clergy won’t help me, therapists won’t help me. Like no one will help me. And then I, like now I look back and think, oh I’ve learned so many skills now. Especially strategic thought and communication tactics, which is a workshop that we have here that is like totally changed everything for me. And I, I am like, wow, this interacting with my abuser in this way has like changed everything. And I could do that myself. Like I didn’t have to have the court do that or a therapist do that or something else.

Learning About Abuse & Choosing to Deliver Yourself From Abuse

(13:27):
Like that was something that was totally within my power. And so I think those two things, right? The learning about abuse is parting the sea. You have to walk through and, and no one is gonna save you. You are gonna be your own hero; like from my faith perspective through the atonement of our Savior, like he can make this horrible situation like good for you. When I say good for you, I mean like you can learn and grow and receive so many blessings as you rely on Christ. From my faith perspective I see it that way and I’m grateful for the experience but it is harrowing. So can God help? Yes. Can our Savior help? Yes. I don’t mean to say like you’re all alone, but I just mean you have to, you have to walk through.

Claire (14:14):
Yeah. I do feel like the community, like the BTR Group Sessions, are so validating. Just having someone listen to you and understand is incredible. I feel like that’s essential because you already kind of feel like it’s very shocking and disorienting. So I mean they can’t take the actions for you. But that emotional support for me has been really vital because I’m like, am I seeing this clearly? Like this is, I feel, you know, I feel like I am but that’s been super, super helpful for me. And I was like, holy crap my whole life, where was this information 24 years ago? 

Anne (14:49):
Yeah. Well and that’s why I started it. Cause we’re the same age and I, there was nothing and there wasn’t anything.

Claire (14:54):
They were just barely becoming aware of pornography, you know?

Anne (14:59):
Yeah. I started BTR because even at the time when I started it, when I started podcasting, there was nothing and I knew there was nothing cause I’d worked in the “pornography addiction recovery industrial complex” for years. And so I knew that there, there wasn’t anything and the ways that people were talking about it, they were not including abuse, they weren’t making abuse the central issue. It was like yeah, “Oh and then he might be abusive” sort of on the side. But it was not the central issue. And I think it is the central issue.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart after you have purchased the book. Please remember to circle back around Amazon and write a verified purchase review along with a five star rating that helps isolated women find us. It bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast which is free to everyone.

“It’s The Emotional Abuse… That’s Been Really Destructive to Me” 

Claire (16:28):
Yeah. And for me, that wasn’t, I almost feel like don’t get mad at me, but I’m like, I actually don’t really care about porn anymore, but like I’m just, I don’t even care. I don’t even care. Like can you please stop trying to control me? Like, let me make my own choices. Don’t gaslight me, don’t blame-shift me. It’s been the, the emotional abuse, especially since it’s been so covert that’s been really destructive to me. And I feel like yeah, guys can you please expose that so that women can move on with their lives. Because when you’re focusing on the porn addiction, it’s like all the focus is on the porn end and that he’s like this victim and he’s struggling and the focus isn’t on the wife getting boundaries and safety for her. 

Anne (17:07):
It’s also not on him not being abusive either.

Claire (17:10):
Yeah. Not being honest and, and then it’s like, oh how long has it been since you’ve been, you know, oh okay, wow. It’s been like six months. That’s amazing. But it’s like, well you know, he got really angry at me yesterday cause I wouldn’t watch a movie with him and you know, like <laugh>, like all this other crazy stuff.

Anne (17:28):
How long has it been since you’ve thought a misogynistic thought? How long has it been since you thought, oh why doesn’t my wife wipe off the table? What’s her problem? Instead of being like, oh the table needs to be wiped off, I am going to get a rag and wipe it off because I’m an adult and I live here. 

“When You Just Try to Preserve the Marriage At The Expense of a Healthy Marriage, You’re Not Helping the Men Either” 

Claire (17:48):
Just please empower me. That’s what I wanted. I want information like, I want the 20 year old me, I’m sure there’s, you know, thousands and thousands of women just to have that piece of information. This is abuse, and then she can go and figure things out herself and she can learn and she can put boundaries down. And cause he didn’t change at all, even with all the information we were having all these discussions and he is, I love you so badly and I, I wanna do all these things until I was like, I’m done. Like we’re, and so that’s actually would’ve been in his benefit, not just my benefit if we had learned this stuff earlier because it’s been decades of him having a great time getting sex where he wants and me taking care of everything, but not having a strong relationship. Like, that’s in his best interest too. That’s what he actually does want and was going about it a really, really, really unhealthy way. You’re not helping the men either. When you just try to preserve the marriage at the expense of a healthy marriage,

Anne (18:42):
You’re not helping anyone submitting to evil.

Claire (18:46):
Yeah.

Anne (18:47):
If you’re complying with wickedness, I’ll just, that’s the word I kind of like to use because you’re being coerced to do so. And because you don’t understand it’s wickedness. So this is not to put any blame on us cause we didn’t know, we didn’t understand. Yeah.

Empowering YOURSELF to Learn About Abuse

Claire (19:02):
No. If you can’t see it, how are you? You don’t have the words for it. How are you supposed to stop it? In the way that I would’ve seen it. I’ve been to a therapist that couldn’t see it, so there’s no way me as a young wife, there’s no way I’m gonna understand.

Anne (19:14):
No. And in saying that the end result, even though it’s not your fault and even though it has nothing to do with you of basically complying with wickedness thinking, oh, if I have more sex then he’ll be nice. Is not good.

Claire (19:29):
It’s enabling evil.

Anne (19:31):
Yeah, it is. It’s enabling evil and it’s not enabling it because you’re not meaning to and you don’t know what it is and you’re not doing it on purpose or anything, but

Claire (19:40):
Trying to be a good, nice wife.

Anne (19:42):
Yeah. <laugh>, it’s not good for you and it’s also not good for your marriage and it’s not good for him.

Claire (19:48):
Yeah. Not good for him either to stay in this stasis of immaturity. So, but he sure wouldn’t have chosen to grow up unless it was like, hey this is, I’m done with this. So sometimes that has to happen. Well that should happen all the time.

Anne (20:04):
<Laugh> abusive men are goal oriented.

What Does Abusive Grooming Look Like? 

Claire (20:08):
His goal is to get back together.

Anne (20:09):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So the grooming right now is super, super goal-oriented. If he’s saying these things to get back with you once that goal is accomplished – 

Claire (20:20):
He’ll slide back. Yeah.

Anne (20:22):
Well I don’t know if he will or not, but like if, if it’s goal-oriented, that’s what would happen. If it’s sincere, then it wouldn’t. So trying to figure out is this genuine sincere change or is this grooming with a, with a particular goal. And time, like a lot of time and a lot of observation is the only thing that will help you know that.

This is What Gaslighting Looks Like 

Claire (20:46):
Yeah, a hundred percent. And I, I don’t feel even competent to do that at this time. So I’m glad that she’s helping me. Yeah, he’s definitely goal oriented. The first month we were separated he was very angry and, and victimy so, and not able to hear anything about himself. So at least now he is like listening, accepting it. So that’s huge. And I think he’s sincere in that he still really struggles to see where he’s lying to himself. And, but he did a week and a half ago was trying to push me to set a reconciliation date and I said, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. And so, and he lied and said he wanted talk about something else and then pushed me to set a reconciliation date again. And I accused him of being pushy. And this is where like all the gaslighting, this is the part that people can’t see comes out.

(21:30):
He’s like, you’re you’re being a horrible communicator. You’re not supposed to label my intentions, you know, you’re not supposed to do that. And like he just kind of flipped out and did the whole like blame shifting gaslighting thing. And so, and then I was like, and my problem is I’ll sit and freeze and just listen to it. And so that’s been really awful for me. And which was crazy cause I already knew I should get up and leave. So anyway, that’s something I need to work on. I am working on <laugh> and my therapist is amazing. Cause I was like, I don’t wanna say you are gaslighting. I just wanna be like, it seems to me like you’re gaslighting. She’s like, no, you are like, you are gaslighting. I’m done talking to you. When you can tell me what you did that was gaslighting, then we’ll talk. And so I feel super happy about that cause then it’s just all on him to figure it out instead. I’ve tried to be like logic minding him and I’m like, no, well you actually were pushy cause I said no, and then you asked me again. And then that just gets ’em angrier.

Our Strategy Workshop Can Help You

Anne (22:20):
Right? The strategic stuff that we recommend in the Strategy Workshop is actually not confronting them at all about their abuse. That would be like toward reconciliation. Right? Like that’s how a relationship works. You point out with someone, hey, you’re doing this thing and then they listen to you and then they alter their behavior. Right. With abuse, my perspective now is to not mention it all and just slowly move away and see if they change their behavior from a distance.

Claire (22:51):
Yeah.

Anne (22:51):
Like observe, observe it. And when they do it be like, huh, I gotta, I gotta be somewhere and back away and then see what happens. Because they enjoy that. They, they like the confrontation. 

Claire (23:04):
But I, I like the tool that she just gave me though, because it’s like, I am exiting this conversation. This is what I see and the responsibility on you is to look at yourself and figure it out. And I’m leaving now and then just continue to have that space until he, until he looks at himself. So I, I feel optimistic about it, but it is his, it is his choice and it is really hard, but I feel safe because I have good help and all that information. I really feel like most women would not do this to themselves if they have, you just have to have the words for it.

Anne (23:32):
We’re going to pause here and Claire and I are going to continue talking next week, so stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.

 

recovering from betrayal trauma
Have you been lied to? Manipulated?

Discovered porn or inappropriate texts on your husband's phone?
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