Many betrayal victims hope that their offending partner can change. Sometimes, abusive, unfaithful men (including pornography users) make attempts at recovery and restitution.
However, it may be difficult for victims to discern whether or not their partner’s “recovery” is real, or just another phase in the cycle of abuse.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, shares her experience of receiving a letter of restitution from her abusive ex-husband. Using her experiences and vast knowledge of emotional abuse, Anne helps listeners learn how to detect sincere recovery from manipulation. Tune in to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Is He Still Acting out?
If your partner is experiencing “relapse” into pornography use, affairs, compulsive video gaming/internet use, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, gaslighting, and sexual coercion, then he is not in recovery.
Most abusive men will have periods of sobriety from whatever their acting-out behaviors entail. These periods may be hours, days, weeks, months, or even years long. But if they return to those behaviors even once, they are still abusive. Relapse is not part of recovery.
Is He Asking Or Demanding Your Forgiveness?
One powerful diagnostic tool of discerning real recovery from manipulation, is how your abusive partner treats you in regard to forgiveness. Is he asking or demanding your forgiveness and trust? Or has he let go of his entitlement to your forgiveness?
When a man in true recovery interacts with his partner, it is without:
If your partner is yelling at you, lying to you, trying to make decisions for you, expecting or demanding forgiveness and trust, rolling his eyes when you talk, or interrupting you, he is probably not in real recovery.
Accountability Is An Indicator Of Sincere Recovery
Often, pornography users and other abusive men offer excuses for their harmful behaviors instead of being accountable. Some common excuses include:
- “My shame made me do it”
- “I learned this behavior from my family”
- “I was abused as a kid”
- “My sexual needs aren’t being met”
- “You are too ____/You are not ___ enough”
- “I forgot”
- “I didn’t think about how it would hurt you”
As Anne iterates, accountability is essential in the process of recovery. She tells a story of a young drunk driver who was forgiven by the parents of his victims – after he took personal responsibility for his actions and was held accountable by the law:
The law held that drunk driver accountable. His parents and the victim’s parents held him accountable. That’s not happening with abusers and porn users. They’re not being held accountable.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Is Real Recovery From Porn Use and Emotional Abusiveness Even Possible?
My 15 years of working day in and day out with abusive men have left me certain of one thing. There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out. Change is difficult, uncomfortable work. My job, as a counselor, is to dive into the elaborate tangle that makes up an abuser’s thinking and assists the man to untie the knots. The project is not hopeless—if the man is willing to work hard—but it is complex and painstakingLundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That?
Yes, recovery is possible. But it takes a very long time and incredible hard work and determination. Your partner’s behaviors must completely change, and his thinking must be completely rewired. This process is painstaking, uphill, and there are no days off.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Emotional Abuse
At BTR we know what that small flicker of hope feels like: hoping that he’ll change. Hoping that he’ll stop. Hoping that he will stop crushing your dreams.
Whether women stay in the relationship or leave, safety is the number one priority.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone and offers victims a community of loving, validating, and supportive women who get it. Join today and experience the belonging that you deserve as you begin your journey to healing.
Receiving A Restitution Letter
Anne: I received a restitution letter from my ex-husband in the mail last week. I’ve been pondering and thinking about this. In the meantime, my church had their semi-annual conference. I was praying to know God’s will for me and to hear his voice and to know how I should talk about this.
In conference, they talked about a drunk driver who had killed a wife and a husband. In that story of forgiveness, they were at the courthouse and saw the mother and father of the drunk driver and they all broke down in tears and gave each other hugs. It was a beautiful moment of forgiveness.
That is a beautiful story, and I really loved that story. Also, that doesn’t happen very often in this situation because the offense is not very clear to people. It’s clear to us. It’s clear to me. I’m sure it’s clear to you, but, to our in-laws, it’s not very clear. They can’t see the abuse for what it is, and they can’t see the infidelity for what it is. It’s not very clear to clergy. It’s not clear to therapists.
What Does It Mean To Forgive? What Does It Mean To Make Restitution?
The idea of forgiveness is difficult in a situation of abuse because the offense cannot be agreed upon much of the time. The person is denying it or acting like it’s our fault. That story would be very different if the parents of the drunk driver claimed that, “No. Your son and your daughter, the ones that were killed, they were drunk. It’s their fault that now our son is in jail. It’s their fault that our son was drinking. It’s their fault that this accident happened.” That would be a very difficult situation.
I’m not saying that forgiveness is not also the answer for that situation, but that the law held the drunk driver accountable. Society and his own parents held him accountable. That’s not happening with abusers and porn users. No one is holding them accountable.
We, as women, our job, I feel like, is to muster the strength from God to hold them accountable in the way that we can. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I study sometimes from the Bible and sometimes from the Book of Mormon.
Forgiveness Can Exist With Boundaries – People Who Will Not Make True Restitution Are Not Safe
In the Book of Mormon, there is an ancient prophet named is Nephi. He and his family build a boat. They come from Jerusalem to the American continent around 600 B.C. Nephi has two brothers, Laman and Lemuel, who I would call addicts and abusers. They frequently abuse Nephi. They tie him up. They scream and yell at him. They beat him.
They are frequently called to repentance, and they frequently “repent.” They say, “Okay. We’ve changed. We’re sorry. We’ll do the right thing.” And then they don’t. They never really change. Nephi forgives them over and over and over and over. If we stopped here, we might think, “Okay. This is what God wants us to do. He wants us to be like this strong prophet and forgive over and over and over.”
Boundaries Help You Find Safety
Yet, once they make it here to the Americas, as Nephi’s praying about it, he gets the clear answer that he needs to get away from them. He gathers up his family and he actually separates from Laman and Lemuel. That’s when the two groups form, the Nephites and the Lamanites.
The Nephites are people of God who obey the commandments and Lamanites are not. Lamanites are angry, they’re always wanting to fight. After this separation, a man comes to the Nephite place and starts preaching against Christ. Jacob, one of the prophets, contends with that man and confounds him in all his words.
Is Resititution Required For Forgiveness?
Then, God sets a boundary and says, “This man is going to be struck down.” After the man who is preaching against Christ is stopped, then Jacob says this, in Jacob 7:23-24:“And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures and, hearkened no more to words of this wicked man. And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth.”
Meaning the Nephites loved the Lamanites. They wanted their brothers and sisters to obey the commandments, so they could all live together in peace, in one family. Jacob goes on, “But it all was vain, for they delighted in wars and bloodshed, and they had an eternal hatred against us, their brethren. And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually.”
The Nephites continue with their boundary in verse 25, “Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation, wherefore, they became as yet, conquerors of their enemies.”
I don’t want you to think of yourself as an enemy to your husband or your ex-husband, but I do want us to become an enemy to Satan.
How Can We Forgive Something So Hurtful? Especially When There Is No Restitution?
One woman who works in the anti-abuse sphere she said, “I don’t believe in evil,” on her Instagram. I could not disagree more. I do believe in evil. I’ve seen it in my ex-husband’s eyes and in his face. He really, genuinely, looked possessed. His eyes were glazed over, it was like he wasn’t even there when he would assault me verbally, or when he would punch walls, or he would scream and yell. It was so scary.
It was like those Nazi films, where Jews knowing they’re going to be killed, plead for mercy. They’re desperately begging, “Please! Stop hurting us! Don’t kill us.” And the Nazis, without remorse or stopping to think, force them into the shower, where they are killed with toxic gas. There was no way to reason with the Nazis. There was no way to say, “Help. Please stop.” They would not stop. No matter how much the Jews pleaded for mercy or kindness, they refused. That is pure evil.
There are several different types of abusers, and several different types of porn users, so not all of them act like this. But in essence, many women we are begging and pleading for peace in our homes and their refuse to stop doing things that harm us is, in essence, what happens. Later in the scriptures, it talks about a group of Lamanites who do repent. They bury their weapons of war and they refuse to take them up again, even when people are attacking them. They show humility, a willingness to submit to God’s will, honesty, and accountability. In repenting for the things that they’ve done, and for a history of violence, and a history of wickedness.
How Can We Know If Restitution Is Real?
Today, I want to talk about how we can know if this person has really changed.
The restitution letter I received validates my no-contact boundary in that I can clearly see absolutely no change. I am not exactly sure why he sent this. Either, number one, someone broke up with him, or he’s had a really bad day, or he felt super bad that we were thinking about going on a trip and he couldn’t come with us. There’s that.
If he wrote it of his own volition and didn’t tell anyone about it, and is not using it as a, “Look. I wrote this restitution letter and she still won’t talk to me,” kind of a thing. If he really, genuinely wrote it, and hasn’t used it to brag to other people as part of his story of being a victim, then I can see that, perhaps, there’s some part of him that understands or can see the harm that he’s caused.
Just a tiny, tiny part.
Real Recovery Is Ongoing
I’m hoping that’s the case and that this will continue. If, on the other hand, this was instigated by clergy, or a therapist or someone that said, “Well, she doesn’t talk to you, maybe you need to write a restitution letter,” so it was instigated by someone else. Now he can say, “Well, I’ve written a restitution letter and she still won’t talk to me,” then I don’t really feel like this is any sign of him recognizing what he’s done wrong.
There’s one other possibility. My son wanted a new bike that cost about $375. Perhaps he wanted to give me some money toward that bike, but didn’t want to simply give it out of the goodness of his heart. He wanted “credit” for it. So he wrote this disingenuous restitution letter instead to get credit, rather than simply stating, “I heard you needed some money for our son’s bike. Here you go.”
Those are my three theories, and none of them is impressive.
I want to give two analogies before I read this letter and talk to you about it. The first analogy is the analogy of a tree, which is in Lundy Bancroft’s book. In the back it says, “How do I know if he’s changing?” It gives you a list of that. I’m going to go over some of that right now.
Is Forgiveness Really Necessary After Betrayal?
If you can imagine that your life is a beautiful oak tree, and it’s very large and you have spent years and years and years planting it and digging around it and nourishing it, and it’s grown and it’s beautiful.
Then you get married, and your husband just starts hacking off random branches all the time, and you’re asking him to stop. You’re saying, “Please, please, please don’t do that. I love this tree. It really means a lot to me, please don’t do that,” and he just keeps doing it. He’ll hack off a branch and then he’ll say, “I’m so sorry I did that. I love you. I really care about you,” and the next thing you know there’s another branch out in the driveway that’s just sitting there. You’re like, “What is going on? I thought we already talked about this.”
“He Ripped The Entire Tree Out”
Then, one day, in my case, he came, and he ripped the entire tree out. All that was left was this gaping hole. That’s the first analogy I want to use.
The second one is as if a murderer broke into my home at night, killed my family with a machine gun, left my house in complete and total disarray. The walls have bullet holes all over. There’s blood all over the place, and he walked out, and did not acknowledge what had happened, was not arrested, was not held accountable in any way, and then told people, “Yeah, I just went to this home and then I got attacked, and there was all this crazy stuff that happened, and I had nothing to do with it. I am the victim in this situation.” Okay, so those are the two analogies that I want to bring up.
What Is Involved In Restitution?
Now, I want to tell you a little bit about the reality of what happened on this day, that he’s trying to make restitution for. In 2015, we spoke at UCAP. Before that, and after, he just was escalating. I cancelled all of our speaking engagements.
A few weeks before UCAP, he put holes in a bunch of our walls. He broke his door. He was extremely violent and scary. At that time, I thought, “Well, this is just part of the recovery process.” We spoke at UCAP right after I said, “You’ve got to shut down your website. I can’t do this with you anymore. This is a sham.” And he got more and more and more angry.
Restitution Includes Acknowledging Psychological Damage To Partner & Children
That summer, we went to Legoland. On the way there, I was driving. He grabbed my head in the car very violently, and screamed at me to shut up, in front of my children. I was so terrified. I jumped out of the car with my kids. I ran into the Legoland hotel. I just sat there and cried for a while and then handed my kids to my parents.
I thought, “Well, I guess I can’t leave them in the car.” As I was walking back to the car to get him, I was praying out loud like, “Please. I need a miracle. I need a miracle. I cannot do this anymore.” Got him out of the car.
The rest of the day, at Legoland, he screamed at me in public in front of my parents and a bunch of other people. On the way home, I was sobbing uncontrollably, still driving.
Why Restitution Is So Important To Consider Carefully
Just to try and get him to calm down and stop, I said, “I want you to know that no matter how abusive and terrible you are to me, I will always be respectful to you. I’m sorry if I was not respectful today in confronting you about your abuse,” more or less. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something like that.
He looked at me with the most evil look in his eyes and said, “Good, how do I know you’ll never act like that again?” There was no remorse, there was no anything. There was no acknowledgement of me crying. I was so taken aback by his response, I was horrified.
The rest of the trip, I tried to avoid him as much as possible. I had him sleep on a different bed. He was wondering why he couldn’t be close to me after that. That being said, just a quick recap. Before we got married, he lied to me, he was abusive.
Real Recovery Requires Fully Admitting Abusiveness
I told him he needed to go to therapy, he said he would, continued to lie to me. About once a month, a serious verbal assault, screaming, yelling in my face two inches from my face, continues to do this, lies to me about his pornography use. I believe, now, manipulated me and lied to me about his pornography use our whole marriage.
Then, after UCAP, still using pornography, still lying about it. Not only to me, but to large groups of people, as he’s doing public speaking. Then, being arrested for domestic violence, then doing nothing to acknowledge what has happened at all, and not trying to get back in the home, not trying to repent, not trying to take accountability, not being honest, not being humble in any way. Then he files for divorce claiming that it’s because I’m not forgiving him, or something like that.
An Example Of Someone NOT In Real Recovery:
This is the letter I received:
Our son informed me that you may be going to Legoland during your trip to California over Spring Break. I’m glad to hear that you are taking the children to California, and possibly Legoland. I hope it is a safe and enjoyable vacation for all.
I am writing to apologize for my negative and hurtful behavior during that trip to California and Legoland in 2015. I acted in an irritable manner and said and did hurtful things during that vacation that made it difficult for you and the rest of the family to enjoy that vacation. I am sorry. It’s hard to have the memories of that vacation overshadowed by the difficulties I caused. I hope you can forgive me and enjoy the upcoming trip.
I have enclosed a check for $300 as a token of my apology as an effort to make some restitution for the difficulties I caused during that trip to California and Legoland.
His name is not John. I’ve changed it to protect his anonymity and to protect my anonymity.
Restitution Does Not Minimize Abuse
Let me talk about the $300 check first. He refused to give me $100,000 back in pre-marital assets. I used money from before our marriage, and money that my parents gave me and that my grandma gave me and money that I had from a condo that I owned, partially to pay off his law school loans.
That’s money that I earned before we got married. He refused to give it back. Which confused me so much because our whole marriage was a lie, and he lied to me before we got married. I expected him to, at least, be accountable for that, and say, “Yeah. I will give you back the $100,000 that you had before we got married.” But he refused.
This $300, I cashed the check, but it means nothing to me without the full restitution for that $100,000 in pre-marital assets, including all of the financial difficulties that I have had, as a result of his choices.
With the two analogies I gave, this is as if there’s still this gaping hole in the ground and the tree is still gone and he’s sending me a letter with a tiny stick in it saying, “Remember that time that I knocked off a tiny little branch on the north side of the tree. It was the branch that was three branches up? I’m so sorry about that little branch, here is a branch to make restitution for that little branch.” He’s literally not acknowledging the giant tree that was destroyed, or the gaping hole that was left.
Forgiveness Comes From Full Acknowledgment Of The Sin
Similarly, with the analogy of the murderer, he’s saying something like, “You know that one time I came into your home? I am so sorry that I forgot to wipe off my feet and this is to make restitution for the dirt I left on your carpet. I am so sorry for the dirt I left on your carpet that night in 2015.” This is not what a restitution letter looks like. I don’t know what this is, but it totally validates my no-contact boundary. I will continue to hold it until I see full restitution.
Lundy Bancroft in his book, Why Does He do That, which I recommend to everyone, he says: “My 15 years of working day in and day out with abusive men have left me certain of one thing. There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out. Change is difficult, uncomfortable work. My job, as a counselor, is to dive into the elaborate tangle that makes up an abuser’s thinking and assists the man to untie the knots. The project is not hopeless—if the man is willing to work hard—but it is complex and painstaking.
“For him, remaining abusive is, in many ways, easier than stepping out of his pattern. Yet, there are some men who decide to dig down inside themselves, root out the values that drive their abusive behavior, and develop a truly new way of interacting with a female partner. The challenge, for an abused woman, is to learn how to tell whether her partner is serious about overcoming his abusiveness.”
Is Change Possible After Someone Has Been Abusive?
Abusiveness, at BTR, includes lying, manipulating, porn use, infidelity of any kind. We’re throwing all of these serious behaviors into the category of abuse, which is the only way that we can look at it.
Lundy Bancroft goes on to say: “The first challenge with an abusive man is to motivate him to work on himself. Because he becomes attached to the many rewards that his intimidating behaviors bring him, he is highly reluctant to make significant changes in his way of operating in a relationship. This reluctance cannot be overcome through gentle persuasion, pleading or cajoling by the woman.
“The Majority Of Abusive Men Do Not Make Deep & Lasting Changes”
“I am sorry to say that I have never once seen such approaches succeed. The men who make significant progress are the ones who know that their partners will definitely leave them unless they change, who demands that they really confront their abusiveness. In other words, the initial impetus to change is always extrinsic, rather than self-motivated. Even when a man does feel genuinely sorry for the ways his behavior has hurt his partner, I have never seen his remorse alone, suffice to get him to become serious about changing his behavior.”
Lundy Bancroft says, “The majority of abusive men do not make deep and lasting changes. For an abusive man to make genuine progress, he needs to go through a complex and critical set of steps.”
Will Restitution Explain The Behavior?
I’m going to read some of these steps to you, so that you can know how he’s changing. You’ll see through this, that this letter that I received is not anywhere near any of these steps. This letter doesn’t even make restitution for Legoland.
It doesn’t talk about abuse. It doesn’t talk about him grabbing my head. It doesn’t talk about him lying to me during that time. I’m pretty sure he was using porn during that time. It doesn’t say anything about the lies or the manipulation. It doesn’t even make restitution just for that one moment, let alone the whole tree. Right, it doesn’t even make restitution for the one branch.
Restitution & Recovery Look Like This
Here are the things that Lundy Bancroft says we need to look for:
“1. [He] admits fully his history of psychological, sexual, and physical abusiveness toward any current or past partners he has abused. Denial and minimizing need to stop, including discrediting your memory of what happened. He can’t change if he is continuing to cover up to others, or himself, the important parts of what he’s done, including the lying.”
How Do I Know He Has Made Restitution?
There has been no indication with my ex that he has lied to anyone about his porn use over this time. For example, that he was online dating and going to a singles congregation long before our divorce was final. Whereas, I stayed true to my marriage vows the entire time, until the very day that the divorce was final.
“2. [He needs to] acknowledge that the abuse was wrong, unconditionally. He needs to identify the justifications he has tended to use, including the various ways that he may have blamed you, and to talk in detail about why his behaviors were unacceptable without slipping back into defending them.
“His Behavior Was A Choice, Not A Loss Of Control”
- [He needs to] acknowledge that his behavior was a choice, not a loss of control. For example, he needs to recognize that there is a moment during each incident at which he gives himself permission to become abusive and that he chooses how far he will let himself go.
One of the key things that Lundy Bancroft says over and over again is that abuse is not losing control, it’s when they start to try to assert control on the situation. They may think, “Man, if she found out the truth, I would be toast. In order to control the situation, I’m going to lie.” That is abuse right there.
What Does Full Restitution Require?
Lundy Bancroft goes on:
“4. [He needs to] recognize the effect his abuse has had on you and your children and show empathy for those. He needs to talk in detail about the short- and long-term impact his abuse has had, including fear, loss of trust, anger … And he needs to do this without reverting to feeling sorry for himself or talking about how hard the experience has been for him.”
Again, he is not the victim here. The tree did not just randomly fall on him as he would like others to believe. He ripped it out on purpose. This acting like the victim thing, it goes really far with people who don’t know the truth, and that’s why they do it and they can justify their actions, but it’s not true. It clearly shows that they have not changed.
Real Recovery Is Deep Work
“5. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviors and entitled attitudes. He needs to speak in detail about the day-to-day tactics of his abuse. Equally important, he must be able to identify his underlying beliefs and values that have driven those behaviors, such as considering himself entitled to constant attention, looking down on you as inferior, or believing that men aren’t responsible for their actions if ‘provoked.’”
Or in thinking that men are better than women, or they are more important than women, for some reason or another.
“6. Develop respectful behaviors and attitudes to replace his abusive ones. You can look for examples such as improving how well he listens to you during conflicts and other times … He has to demonstrate that he has come to accept the fact that you have rights and they are equal to his.
Why Is Remorse So Difficult For An Abuser?
“7. [He needs to] re-evaluate his distorted image of you, replacing it with a more positive and empathetic view. He has to recognize that he has had mental habits of focusing on and exaggerating his grievances against you and his perceptions of your weaknesses to begin, instead, to compliment you and pay attention to your strengths and abilities.”
He needs to do that with other people too. The lies that he’s told his parents and family members and friends and people that he meets and new clergy, they need to know that he has lied and that he exaggerated the weaknesses and that the weaknesses are just regular weaknesses that people might have like, “She didn’t clean up the dishes,” or something, whatever they have chosen to focus on and give reasons behind, “Because she’s disrespectful,” or whatever, and realize because she’s human, not because she’s a bad person.
Real Recovery Is Living Amends
“8. [He needs to] make amends for the damage he has done. He has to develop a sense that he has a debt to you and to your children as a result of his abusiveness [and the choices he has made]. He can start to make up somewhat for his actions by being consistently kind and supportive, putting his own needs on the back burner for a couple of years, talking with people who he has mislead in regard to the abuse and admitting to them that he lied, paying for objects that he has damaged, and many other steps related to cleaning up the emotional and literal messes that his behaviors have caused.”
One reason I know this restitution letter is not a sign of true repentance is that just a few weeks ago, I sent through my dad, information about how we could make the children’s schedules more consistent to really help them in their emotional stability. He wrote back and said, “My personal and professional life is more important, so no.” He was absolutely not willing to put the needs of me or his children ahead of his own needs. That’s another sign to me that he is absolutely not repentant. Lundy Bancroft goes on:
Why Abuse Thrives Without Restitution
“9. Accept the consequences of his actions. He should stop whining about or blaming you for his problems that are the result of his abuse, such as your loss of desire to be sexual with him, the children’s tendency to prefer you, or the fact that he [has lost his family or] is on probation.”
Or is out of the house, or any other consequence that he has received as a result of his actions. He needs to accept that rather than trying to blame you for it somehow.
“This Means Saying Goodbye To Double Standards”
“10. Commit to not repeating his abusive behaviors and honor that commitment. He should not place any conditions on his improvement, such as saying that he won’t … [swear] as long as you don’t raise your voice [for example]. If he does backslide, he cannot justify his abusive behaviors by saying, ‘But I’ve done so great for six months, you can’t expect me to be perfect.’”
No, if he’s still thinking that a good period earns him chips to spend on occasional abuse, or occasional porn use or occasional infidelity, he has not changed. He is not changing.
“11. [He needs to] accept the need to give up his privileges and do so. This means saying goodbye to double standards, to flirting with other women, to taking off … while you take care of the children, or that he’s allowed to express anger, while you are not [allowed to express anger].
Real Recovery Is A Life-Long Process
“12. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a lifelong process. He, at no time, can claim that his work is done by saying, ‘I’ve changed but you haven’t,’ or complain that he is sick of hearing about his abuse … and that ‘it’s time to get past all that.’ He needs to come to terms with the fact that he will probably need to be working on his issues for good and that you may feel the effects of what he has done for years.”
They don’t just go away after a month of him trying to be better.
“13. Be willing to be accountable for his actions both past and future. His attitude that he is above reproach has to be replaced with a willingness to accept feedback and criticism, to be honest about any backsliding and to be answerable for what he does and how it affects you and your children.”
Apologizing Doesn’t Mean Real Recovery
Bancroft asserts that, “Abusive men don’t make lasting changes if they skip any of the above steps and some are easier than others.”
He says, “Most of my clients find it fairly easy to apologize, for example. In fact, an abuser may weave apologies into his pattern of abuse, so that when he says ‘I’m sorry’ it becomes another weapon in his hand. His unspoken rule may be that once he has apologized, no matter how cursory, or devoid of sincerity, his partner must be satisfied; she is not to make any further efforts to show her feelings about his mistreatment, nor may she demand that she fix anything. If she tries to say anything more about the incident, he jumps right back into abuse mode, saying such things as, ‘I already told you I was sorry, now shut up about it.’
How Abusers Justify Their Actions Without Making Restitution
“But even a genuine and sincere apology is only a starting point. Many of my clients make it through the first three steps. They admit to a substantial portion of their abuse, they agree that their actions resulted from a choice rather than a loss of control, and they apologize. Then they dig in their heels, at that point. An abuser’s sense of entitlement is like a rude, arrogant voice screaming inside their head. It yells at him, ‘You’ve given up too much already, don’t budge another inch. They already talked you into saying your abuse is all your fault when you know she’s at least half to blame because of [what she does]. She should be grateful to you for apologizing, that wasn’t easy to do. She’s lucky you’ve gone this far. A lot of guys [wouldn’t even do that].’ That voice drags him back into the mud of abuse.
He Must Accept your Right To Be Angry To Be In Real Recovery
Step number four, for example, demands that the abusive man accept his partner’s right to be angry. He actually has to take seriously the furious things that she says and think about them rather than using her emotional pitch as an excuse to stuff her opinions back down her throat. When I explain this step, clients look at me as though I had an eye in the middle of my forehead. ‘I should do what?? When she is yelling at me, I am supposed to just sit there and take it??’ To which I reply, ‘More than that, actually. You should reflect on the points she is making and respond to them in a thoughtful way.’”
Abusers often think, “I don’t mind changing some of what I do, as long as I don’t have to give up the attitudes and behaviors that are most precious to me.” Porn use is one of those things.
When Does Forgiveness Become A Possibility?
Bancroft says: “At some point during the first few months that a man is in my program, I actually stumble upon the core of his privilege like a rear bunker on his terrain. He may abandon a few of his forward positions, but this fortification is where he surrounds himself with sandbags and settles in for a protracted war. A client may agree to [answer his wife’s questions in a calm voice], for example, but when I tell him he needs to [stay engaged in a conversation even if it’s uncomfortable], he draws the line. If being a respectful partner requires [him to stop stomping out of the house when his wife is trying to talk to him], he’d rather be abusive.
Entitlement Shows He Is Not In Real Recovery
“An abuser who does not relinquish his core entitlements will not remain non-abusive. This may be the single most overlooked point regarding abusers and change. The progress that such a man appears to be making is an illusion. If he reserves the right to bully his partner to protect even one specific privilege, [to protect his job, or his church standing, or his reputation] he is keeping the abuse option open. If he keeps it open, he will gradually revert to using it more and more until his prior range of [intimidating] behaviors has been restored to its full glory.” Including lying and porn use.
Bancroft says: “Abusers attach themselves tightly to their privileges and come to find the prospect of having equal rights and responsibilities, living on the same plane as their [wives], almost unbearable. They resent women who require them to change and persuade themselves that they are victims of unfair treatment because they are losing their lopsided luxuries. They can’t change unless they are willing to relinquish that special status.”
Signs That He Is Not In Real Recovery
Here are some signs that he is not changing.
- He says that he can only change if you change too.
- He says that he can change only if you help him change, by giving him emotional support, reassurance, forgiveness or spending a lot of time with him.
- He criticizes you for not realizing how much he has changed.
- He criticizes you for not trusting that his change will last. He criticizes you for considering him capable of behaving abusively, even though he has, in fact, done so in the past and you should know that he “would never do something like that,” even though he has. Something like, “Well, I would never lie to you,” when he is lying to you.
- He reminds you about the bad things he would’ve done in the past, but isn’t doing anymore, which amounts to a subtle threat.
- He tells you that you’re taking too long to make up your mind and that he can’t “wait forever.” as a way to pressure you to not take the time you need to collect yourself and to assess how much he’s really willing to change.
- He blames his behavior, the situations, or his choices on you.
- He says, “I’m changing, I’m changing,” but you don’t feel it.
Read “Why Does He Do That”?
This is really good information that you can find in the book Why Does He Do That?
I’m so grateful for the scriptures and for prayer and for books like Why Does He Do That? that help me know what true repentance looks like, what I am looking for. I will not accept anything less than that, in terms of abuse and infidelity.
True Repentence Involves Restitution
Abuse and infidelity are so damaging to relationships and to homes. The chaos that they cause is so severe that the Spirit cannot be in my home with that chaos going on. To protect myself and my children, I choose to hold a no-contact boundary.
Now, in my ex-husband’s case, if he were to fully repent, it would look something like, “I’m going to start working on repaying the $100,000 of pre-marital assets that you would never have given me had I not lied to you from the very beginning. I am going to work on rooting out my abusive thought processes and focus on your feelings and putting you and the kids first. I am going to work toward having a good relationship with you.
What Does Real Recovery Look Like?
“I’m going to help you feel safe and these are the ways I’m going to do it. I’m going to let you know all of the lies that I told you over the 10 years that you were involved with me. I will be going to this therapist, who is an expert, and invite that therapist to call you for feedback about what happened and how I can be more safe. I feel fine about the no-contact boundary that you hold, but I would really like you to talk to my therapist about these things.” Something like this.
Basically, he needs to come replant that tree, refill in the dirt with beautiful topsoil that is full of nourishing vitamins for that tree. He needs to water it and fertilize it and take care of it and grow it and protect that tree as that tree grows and grows and grows until it is the size that it once was, which would, literally, take 30 years.
Forgiveness Can Happen With Hope
That is what restitution looks like. That is his only way to peace. Unless he acknowledges what he does, what happened and what the truth is, to himself and all the people around him, he’s just going to be running and hiding from his behaviors and from himself. There’s no way to get away from yourself.
Women, God believes in boundaries. There are so many examples of boundaries in the scriptures. I’ve found them throughout the Bible, where Christ sets boundaries. I know some of you are not Christian, you are welcome here. I don’t know many other religious texts, so I’m sorry, I cannot speak to those. In my personal religious texts, he loves boundaries. There are so many times where he says if someone is evil or this is happening, then cast it out.
I also read the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5, which says over and over again that those wicked branches need to be cut off and burned. If he is using porn, if he is unfaithful, if he is abusive, those are the types of branches that need to be cut off, or you cannot find peace in your homes.
Establish Safety In Your Home
I don’t know why my specific church leaders have not decided to talk about boundaries yet. As I have prayed about this every conference, pray, “Please, please bless that someone talks about boundaries,” it has not yet happened. I’m not sure why that is.
In the meantime, I am talking about boundaries. God has asked me to do this and here I am. Please establish safety in your homes so you can feel the peace and know the beautiful life that God wants you to have. He loves you and he hates abuse and he hates pornography use. He hates infidelity and adultery. The reason why he hates it is because he knows it hurts you, and because he loves you.
Boundaries Are Necessary With Forgiveness
You do not have to expose yourself to these types of behaviors in the name of forgiveness. You can have a peaceful happy home. When you’re safe, forgiveness is easy. Well, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s much easier.
Because I hold a no-contact boundary, when I received this letter, I had such a peace in my heart that I knew I was doing the right thing. I don’t know what this letter is or what it means, but I forgive my ex for being possessed, really the only thing that I can describe it as, and living in an alternate reality, because he, apparently, can’t do any better.
“Boundaries Enable Me To Find Peace & Forgiveness”
I forgive him for being ineffective, or being unable, whatever is holding him back from an absolute refusal to be honest. I don’t know, I don’t know what it is, but I forgive him for that. I hope that he will repent, because I’m still dealing with his abusive actions and him putting his own needs above my needs and the children’s needs. I probably will be dealing with that for a very long time.
Boundaries enable me to find peace and forgiveness, which is what I really need to have a peaceful life. I need to thank everyone again—I’ve been doing this every week—for your patience as we are developing this website. We’ve had problems with the logins. We’ve had problems with all kinds of things and I am working so hard to try and fix them. This website is a lot more complex than the old website, because it enables us to do a lot of things that we weren’t able to do before, but that means fixing the problems is a lot harder. Things are getting much better and I appreciate your patience.
When Can Restitution Happen?
When you’re trying to determine if you’re safe, it’s important to have support. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is here for you. Join today.
I’m praying that I’m saying the right things. I want to only teach what God wants me to teach and that is my intent. I don’t know if that’s what I always do, but I really want to be this voice. The voice of boundaries and the voice of safety. I hope that in the process, can save you years of confusion and pain.
That checklist is really helpful to take you step-by-step through all the information that you need.
Until next week, stay safe out there.