Help for Abusive Partners
Change starts with a commitment to do so.
Everyone has the capacity to change, but doing so requires meaningful commitment to all aspects of change. Unfortunately, most people with abusive behaviors are unwilling to. Many of the factors behind abusive behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement, which can be difficult to unlearn. Everyone deserves a healthy relationship free from abuse, including someone that may have abusive behaviors.
Reaching out for help is a great first step but ultimately it’s just that: a first step.
Actually changing your abusive behavior is what’s important.
Learn more about opportunities for people with abusive behaviors to get help changing their behaviors. Our advocates are available 24/7 to discuss your situation, answer any questions, and help you identify intervention programs near you.
Identifying your own abusive behavior
Abusive behaviors can be difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them.
- Most people don’t like to acknowledge that they’re harming others, but admitting that you may be hurting your partner is a prerequisite to changing your ways.
Ask yourself if you:
- Get angry, insecure, or possessive about your partner’s relationships with others, including friends, family, or coworkers.
- Frequently call or text your partner to check up on them (or make them or expect them to check in with you), or monitor their movements or behaviors.
- Feel like your partner needs your permission to go out, get a job, go to school, or spend time with others.
- Get upset when your partner won’t act the way you want them to or do the things you want.
- Blame your anger or actions on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s own actions.
- Express your anger by threatening to harm (or actually harming) your partner.
- Express your anger by raising your voice, name calling, or insults.
- Prevent your partner from spending money, control your partner’s spending, require that they have an allowance and/or monitor their spending.
- Force (or try to force) your partner to be intimate with you, or get angry or upset if they do not want to.
- Get angry over small incidents or “mistakes” you blame your partner for.
- Other signs that your behavior is abusive may be observed in your partner’s reactions to you.
Ask yourself if they:
- Seem nervous around you.
- Seem afraid of you.
- Flinch, cringe, or retreat when you’re emotional.
- Cry because of something you prevented them from doing, or from something you made them do.
- Seem scared, or unable to contradict you or speak up around you.
- Restrict their own interactions with friends, family, coworkers, or others in order to avoid upsetting you.
If you recognize these behaviors in yourself or how your partner reacts, it could be a sign that you’re hurting them. This can be a difficult realization to come to but it’s vital that you do so if you want to change and stop harming your partner. By acknowledging that your actions are harmful and taking responsibility for them, you can continue to progress on the path toward correcting them.
Signs of progress
Ultimately, the decision as to whether your actions are harmful to others isn’t yours to make, and you can’t meaningfully change while harboring expectations of forgiveness.
- Progress in changing abusive behavior requires an ongoing commitment to sustained change and a willingness to accept responsibility for your actions.
These signs could indicate progress in your recovery:
- Listening to the issues and concerns your partner has without becoming defensive or minimizing/denying their concerns or shifting the blame to them
- Admitting fully to what you’ve done
- Stopping excuses and blaming
- Making amends with those you’ve harmed
- Recognizing that abuse is a choice and accepting responsibility for that choice
- Identifying patterns of your own controlling behavior
- Identifying the attitudes or trauma driving your behavior (work to address those areas)
- Accepting that change is a life-long commitment process and not declaring yourself “cured”
- Not expecting or demanding credit for progress in your behavior (not keeping a tally)
- Not treating improvements to your overall behavior as an excuse for occasional acts of abuse
- Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
- Carrying your share of responsibility and sharing power
- Changing how you respond to a partner’s anger or grievances
- Changing your responses in heated conflicts
- Accepting the consequences of your actions, including not feeling sorry for yourself about those consequences or blaming others for them
- Accepting if your partner chooses to discontinue the relationship or is needing space from the relationship
Remember: change is possible but it won’t come easily. Acknowledging that your behaviors are unhealthy or abusive is a great first step. It’s never too late to seek help.
Getting help to change your behavior
Some people who contact us identify as having abusive behaviors or are concerned about behaviors that might be unhealthy.
- At The Hotline, we treat all contacts with dignity and respect, and are committed to supporting anyone who wants to take responsibility for their actions.
Every call from someone who’s becoming more aware of their unhealthy behavior is an opportunity to work toward their change, for their sake and the sake of the people they harm.
Here’s what to expect when contacting The Hotline for help changing your abusive behavior:
- No matter the situation, our advocates will remain empathetic and supportive of your desire to change.
- Depending on your circumstances, our advocates will discuss different courses of action. If you begin to identify unhealthy behaviors in your relationship, they’ll discuss these warning signs and brainstorm healthy alternatives for the behavior. While you can’t always change the way you feel, you can always change how you express those feelings to your partner.
- Advocates will guide you through strategies for calming down and de-escalating situations, emphasizing the ways in which your actions affect yourself and those around you.
- We may be able to help you identify Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPP). We receive many contacts to The Hotline about BIPPs, but not all contacts are the same: some are looking for a referral because of a court order while others seek out the information on their own accord. Our advocates are available to discuss your situation in either case.
All contacts made to The Hotline are always free, confidential, and free of judgement. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your situation, our advocates can help you begin to address what’s going on in your relationship.