Victims of betrayal and emotional abuse are put through a sickening cycle wherein the abuser almost always promises to make changes, to get better, to stop.
How can a victim know when her abuser is truly changing?
How can women can know if their husband is truly in recovery from his abusive behaviors?
1.True Action & Attitude Change (Not Benchmarks) May Show Real Recovery
Words mean nothing at this point. This has already been proven based on the past. An unhealthy and unsafe situation has been created because of words and so action is everything —action that is not a performance, along with an attitude change.
Women suffering from the effects of betrayal trauma and emotional abuse know all too well that words are meaningless. Victims can begin to believe that their husband is beginning to change when they see healthy actions and attitudes replace abusive actions and attitudes.
What Do “Healthy Actions and Attitudes” Mean?
For an abusive man to change, he can’t simply go from “abusive” to “typical”. To truly recover from abusiveness, he must live amends. This means that his life must be fully dedicated to repairing the grievous damage that he has caused to others, but especially his partner and children. Lundy Bancroft specifies what “living amends” means in his book Why Does He Do That? The 13 Signs of Change are helpful in knowing what it looks when a man truly is living amends.
2. Humility May Be a Sign of Real Recovery for An Emotionally Abusive Man
Humility, a willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process (of living amends), and willing to acknowledge the trauma they have caused and get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything.
When abusive men show a willingness and even further, gratitude for the opportunity to live amends and begin attempting to repair the damage and chaos they have created, victims may be seeing real signs of recovery.
Humility is, unfortunately, very easy for abusive men to fake. Victims can spot grooming by seeing if his actions line up with his words, if he sticks with it without reverting back to his abusive self, and by trusting their instincts.
If you feel that something is “off” or that he isn’t being honest with you, you are probably right. Trust yourself.
3. Respect for All Women is a Promising Sign of True Recovery
Pornography use exploits women. When men completely stop using pornography for a substantial period of time, without any slips, out of true respect for women, it is indicative that his attitudes and behaviors are becoming healthy.
A man in real recovery believes this: My wife is a woman of infinite worth. Because of this, she deserves my best efforts. She deserves a husband who only has eyes for her. She deserves a husband who respects her and all women. He takes active steps to protect her and their family, not just passively going with the flow. She deserves a husband who reminds her that she is not to blame for his past or present choices. She deserves a husband who actively opposes visual and mental abuse in all forms, viewing it as the enemy of true intimacy.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Emotional Abuse
At BTR, we believe that no matter what a husband’s choices are, a woman deserves safety in every aspect of her life. Observing his behaviors from a distances may be the safest decision for women. Boundaries are the surest way for a women to find physical, emotional, sexual, and mental safety.
Remember, you are not alone.
Signs A “Porn Addict” in Recovery
The biggest attitude change is humility…willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process, and willing to acknowledge the trauma they have caused and get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything. There are different attitude changes such as learning to be patient with their partner. Unless there are visible signs, there is no foundation to know that a change is happening.
Signs Of NOT Being In Recovery From “Porn Addiction”
The prideful attitude, the defensiveness. Also, a lot of “pornography addicts” initially think that if they are sober they are recovering. But if they are continuing to dismiss their wife, lie, manipulate, gaslight, they are abusive – and she needs to set boundaries.
BTR Aims To Help Women Establish Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal & Emotional Abuse
At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our number one goal is to help women establish safety from the abuse, from the lying, infidelity, porn use, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and some of the narcissistic behaviors that constitute abuse. Some of the signs I saw in my own situation were related to setting a “no contact” boundary after realizing I was being emotionally abused. I was waiting for him to show some signs of change, and instead saw things like him shutting down my bank account, him berating me about the clothes he wanted me to pack for the kids when he would have them, or diapers…I wondered at his “inability” to go to the store to get diapers!
There were so many things he could have taken responsibility for to show that he was stepping up to the plate. Those ACTIONS are the things that are important. Part of what was so difficult during that time was that I was hearing from others that he was saying he wanted his marriage to work but that he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him. He DARVO’d everyone, making himself the victim. His solution was to file for divorce.
Know The Signs Of Emotional Abuse
But I think that knowing what the signs of emotional abuse are–this is why we have a book section on our website and I highly recommend that women read all of the books so they can have an understanding, even if they don’t suspect that porn is happening anymore or that infidelity is continuing–that they know what to look for to be aware of the emotionally abusive behaviors.
From the wife’s perspective and from Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s perspective, we do not believe that the reasons matter…it could be a personality disorder…it could be an addiction…it could be trauma…it could be a myriad of different reasons why the behaviors persist, but to the wife it doesn’t matter. The more she tries to focus on the behaviors, the more she is sucked into the vortex of abuse rather than taking a step out and recognizing that he is the one responsible for figuring himself out. In the meantime, I need to stand at a safe distance and set boundaries so I’m not continually abused through this process.
Women often struggle with boundaries because of a lack of self-worth due to the abuse. You deserve to be emotionally safe in your own home.
Watch For Actions to Show True Recovery From Porn Addiction, Not Words
One of the things that happened to me because of my ex’s extreme case is that he went to therapy for years, I made him read things like this, I took him to conferences, etc…, and he really learned how to talk the language of recovery without actually doing the recovery work. Watching his behaviors is critical…how is he actually treating you? Does he listen? Is he patient? If you ask a question, does he answer it without getting defensive? Is he willing to listen to your opinion? Is he willing to be, in John Gottmans’ words, influenced? Is he willing to be influenced by his wife or is he wondering why she is “bothering” him? When will the behaviors speak for themselves, is one thing wives always need to be looking for.
People Can Absolutely Change
It’s very interesting from my perspective because I speak with women all over the world about their experiences with their emotionally abusive spouse. I absolutely know that people can change. If they make the decision to change and they work at it, they involve God in the process, and they are genuinely humble, accountable, honest and willing to submit to God’s will, anything can happen. Even right now, I, myself am in the process of changing and asking God to help me with certain character defects I have and things I am dealing with in my everyday life that I really want to improve. I’m not completely healed or changed yet, but I have faith that as I continue to do these things, I can change. I believe this about everyone.
That being said, just because people can change does not mean they will. Sitting back and observing if they really are genuine and what they are doing to show that is what betrayal trauma recovery is all about. How do we establish safe boundaries while we observe from a distance to see if the change is real, deep and lasting…and is it sincere rather than just another way to keep me in the abuse cycle?
That is why our only focus, as wives / ex-wives of historically emotionally abusive men, is to set boundaries and stay safe. One way we learn to set boundaries and get to safety is by joining a live, daily support group for wives of emotionally abusive men.