My Abusive Ex-Husband Has Changed

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I left my verbally abusive husband a year and a half ago. Through that time I had given him chances to make changes and get some help. He had made slight changes in regards to the time he wanted to spend with the family but that’s about it. I guess you can say we both gave up a few months ago and I moved on. I recently started dating someone and that is when things changed. My ex checked himself into a psychiatric hospital and has since gone on his much needed medicine. He is like a new person and finally saying everything I’ve ever wanted to hear. He doesn’t blame me for the issues any more and actually admits to the manipulation and abuse. It’s clear that this time is different and he has had some realizations about his behavior in the past and how important our son and I are too him, my questions is can I change now? Can I learn to trust him and not think everything is a manipulation. Can I not worry that saying the wrong thing will make him snap? It’s just so hard, I want to believe he has changed and I know this time is very different but is this a last effort to control the situation. He is not pressuring me to jump back into a relationship, he just wants to show me he has changed and in order to show me I have to break up with the new guy because it wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved. It’s also really hard to end it with the new guy because he is nice and things are so relaxed, the opposite of what I just came from. I just don’t want to make the wrong decision. I don’t know how it got so bad the first time around, I felt like I just woke up in this deep pit and I’m afraid of that happening again and if it did I know I would not have the support from family or friends the second time around. I guess my real question is can he really change for good? Can I change and truly be myself? And are there any programs or something I can suggest he/I be involved in to help our success? I like this new guy he makes me feel good about myself but I also really want to have a happy family and not share time with my son. It’s truly hard to think about letting either one of them go. I really think I’m leaning towards the ex but can’t even imagine what that would look like when all my friends and family hate him. All I ever wanted him to do was make theses changes and see things differently, how can I now walk away?

A: Go slow. It is wonderful to hear of all the changes that your husband has made. But let’s review the process. You have been separated for a year and a half and it came about because there weren’t significant sustainable changes. Now that you have started dating, your husband has been highly motivated. The question really is whether he is motivated for you or for him? Only time can answer this question. It is for too early to think about reconciliation, although a couple months is a very very good start. But that’s all it is.

It doesn’t sound like you have any big decision that needs to be forced. I would be sure to tell your new boyfriend about the struggle and don’t try to hide anything from your ex. In other words, get on with your life and see what evolves. If you see sustainable changes after a year or so with your husband, it may be something to reconsider. But before that amount of time has gone by I wouldn’t use a couple of months as the best indicator that the change will be long-lasting and something he’s doing for himself.

As you sort through this I would highly recommend individual therapy. The find help tab at the top of the page should help you find a local therapist in your area. You’ve taken a long time to make the decision to leave. Give yourself the opportunity to view this process with your husband from a distance. You don’t want to jump back in too soon.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Aug 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). My Abusive Ex-Husband Has Changed. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/08/20/my-abusive-ex-husband-has-changed/

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