This is a question I struggle with myself on a regular basis. Can abusers really ever change or is it just theater to try to pull you back in so they can mistreat you again? Should you ever let a prior abuser back into your life if they seem to have changed for the good?
None of these are easy questions and there are certainly many contributing factors that should be considered as well. Perhaps abusers who once had drug or alcohol addictions and have now gotten clean for a significant period of time will have changed enough to give them a second chance.
What about those who lived for years with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and finally get the help they need? How much of the abuse was who they truly were and how much was the influence of the untreated mental illness? This scenario is one I personally have experienced to some extent with my own family. How much responsibility should they hold for the abuse, especially any times they may have actually dipped into psychosis?
I know many abusers find religion at some point in their lives and claim to have been completely changed. I must admit I am suspicious of this claim. Perhaps religion truly does change the hearts of some, but much of my personal experience has taught me that if someone is a bad person before they find religion, they will likely be a bad person after they find it. Superficialities may change, but does their behavior/attitude/actions?
Unfortunately, I have no real answers to the question of whether abusers can ever change, but I hope that they can. I would warn everyone to be cautious in extending an olive branch to anyone who has deliberately hurt you again and again, but I do understand the desire to believe in the power of change.
- I don’t owe you anything!
- I’m nothing like you.
- You don’t own me and you never did.
- You deserve what you got.
- Sometimes I feel nothing for you.
- You are at fault for so much.
- You have no one to blame but yourself.
- You are lucky to have anyone who still cares.
- I’m a saint for forgiving you.
- Without me, you’d have nothing!
- I hate you sometimes.
- You’ll never break me.
- I’ll never crack.
- I am a much better person than you’ll ever be.
- I’m smarter than you.
- You fuel my creativity with anger, disgust, frustration, and grief.
- I’ve made something good out of your mess.
- I am superior – by actions and attitude.
- Your religion doesn’t hide the truth.
- I found love and success in spite of you.
- I’m the person you always wanted to be, but couldn’t.
- Toys have always been better company than you.
- You helped me find and lose faith in God.
- I will heal.
- I’m STRONGER than you.
*By the way, BetterHelp has a great article on emotional abuse, I would recommend it!
Unfortunately, I’ve faced a great deal of abuse in my somewhat short lifespan. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Most of this abuse happened when I was growing up and happened at the hands of people I should have been able to trust and look to for protection.
There is a part of me that desperately wants to be open about all the things that happened and purge my heart and soul of them publicly. I want to speak the truth out loud and shed light on things that have always lived alone in the darkest part of my psyche. However, I find myself so scared to share the truth and feeling immense guilt at the thought of outing those who were responsible. I feel protective towards my abusers because I still love them through it all and feel guilty at the thought of tarnishing their reputations, both the living and the dead.
Why, oh why do I still feel such loyalty and duty to those who hurt me the most deeply and betrayed me the most selfishly and cruelly? Why am I swamped in guilt for just wanting to be open and honest about my own experiences? Why must this battle between my need for expression and my sense of loyalty tear me apart? How do I ever find healing?
* Art by Maranda Russell
What do you have to teach me? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Once I thought you did – you seemed so sophisticated and knowledgeable, but those were simply projections of the person you wished you could be. Inside you resides only a quivering emptiness. Every attempt to reach outside of yourself slowly sinks into the abyss, becoming forever lost within the caverns of what could have once been.
Now it is obvious it was never meant to be, and the time has come to move on. If only I could throw this endless, undying desire to be loved back in your face as you vacantly stare through me, always searching for your own reflection. I wish just once you could see only me. But even now, as I walk away, the only reflection mirrored in your eyes is yourself.