Change can be difficult
While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so.
A lot of the causal factors behind abusive behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege, which can be hard to change. But change is possible — and reaching out for help is a great first step.
One part of changing may involve an abusive partner willingly attending a certified batterer intervention program that focuses on behavior, reflection and accountability. At The Hotline we don’t recommend couples counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs or mental health treatments for abusers to learn about and deal with their abusive patterns (although oftentimes these can helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program).
Are You Hurting Your Partner?
Have you ever thought that you may be behaving in a way that could be physically or mentally harmful to your partner? These behaviors are often difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them — but acknowledging that you may be hurting your partner is the first step in moving toward a healthier relationship.
Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?
- Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
- Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
- Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
- Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
- Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
- Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
- Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
- Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
- Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
- Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
- Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
- Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?
How does your partner react?
- Seem nervous around you?
- Seem afraid of you?
- Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
- Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
- Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
- Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?
If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to.
By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them.
How To Get Help
Here at The Hotline we frequently speak with people who identify as abusive, or who are concerned about behaviors that may be unhealthy.
We treat all callers with dignity and respect, and talk to people with these concerns because we support anyone who wants to take responsibility for his or her actions. Every call from someone who is becoming more aware of their unhealthy behavior is an opportunity to plant a seed for change.
No matter what the situation, our advocates are supportive and remain empathetic.
- Depending on what you’re calling about, our advocates will talk to you about different courses of action. If throughout the call you and the advocate are beginning to identify unhealthy behaviors in your relationship, they’ll discuss these red flags with you and then brainstorm healthy alternatives for the behavior.
- EX: “You can’t change your feelings of jealousy all the time, but you can change how you are confronting your partner about these feelings.”
- They’ll talk about strategies for calming down and deescalating if you feel yourself getting angry, and discuss how your actions can negatively affect yourself and those around you.
- Callers may want to know about Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs — but not all callers asking about BIPPs are the same. While some are looking for a referral because the court has ordered them to, others are seeking out this information on their own accord. In 2010, hotline advocates made between 950-1,000 referrals to these programs.
If you’re looking for someone to lend a confidential, impartial ear, our advocates at The Hotline are a great option. They’ll listen, withhold judgment and help you begin to address what’s going on in your relationship.
If you’re questioning your own behavior at all, or if someone else has brought it to your attention, acknowledging it is a step in the right direction. Give us a call today at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online with us to start the conversation.
Is Change Possible?
According to author Lundy Bancroft, the following are some changes that could indicate you’re making progress in your recovery:
- Admitting fully to what you have done
- Stopping excuses and blaming
- Making amends
- Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
- Identifying patterns of controlling behavior used
- Identifying the attitudes that drive abuse
- Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a decades-long process and not declaring yourself “cured”
- Not demanding credit for improvements you’ve made
- Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal)
- Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
- Carrying your weight and sharing power
- Changing how you respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
- Changing how you act in heated conflicts
- Accepting the consequences of actions (including not feeling sorry for yourself about the consequences, and not blaming your partner or children for them)
As Bancroft notes, truly overcoming abusiveness can be an ongoing, often lifelong process — but change is possible. Acknowledging that your behaviors might be unhealthy or abusive is a great first step in beginning to change. It’s never too late to seek help.