Recently, an abusive man* contacted me via my website’s contact page. He told me he realized several months ago he had been abusing his wife for over a decade, and had stopped. Even though he was no longer abusive (his words), his wife wanted a divorce. He asked me if I thought there was any hope for him, their kids and their marriage.
This was a first for me!
I’ve never been asked this question by an abuser before, though I’ve been cursed out by a few! This man seemed sincere, so I answered him as sincerely as I could. I realized my answer might help other abusers who sincerely believe they have changed, and want their partners back.
Yes, I can hear many of you gagging and screaming at your screen right now. Almost every abuser SAYS he has changed. I know this! Yet, for that one in a million who actually, REALLY wants to change, this blog is for you. This is what I would say to you:
Thank you for contacting me. I am very sorry you and your wife and children are experiencing this pain. I have been through this myself, and it was horribly painful for all of us. You ask me if there is any hope for your marriage. Where there is God there is always hope (Luke 1:37). At the same time, many years of abuse cannot be erased easily, if ever. Your wife has a lot of healing to do, and it may not be possible for her to do this now with you in her home. Perhaps she could do this in the future, but that is for her to decide.
Where does that leave you? If you are a Christian, now is the time for you to lean on Jesus. If you aren’t a Christian, draw on whatever resources you can muster. Try not to focus on getting back together with your wife as your goal. You should instead try to be the best man you can be, not for her, but for you, your children, (and for God).
You should be willing to complete a group treatment program for abusers. This will be at least a nine month weekly commitment with a domestic violence treatment provider. You should be meeting weekly with male accountability partners (in your church if you have one), and seeking individual counseling as well.
Most importantly, stop thinking about yourself, and begin thinking about her and what is best for her. If she says the best thing for her right now is to divorce, accept that gracefully. Be the kindest ex-husband on the planet. Make sure she has the financial support she needs. Don’t drag her into custody court. Be the best single dad there ever was. Don’t do it to compete with her; support her as a single mom. If she begins dating, be kind to her boyfriend(s). You never know, it is possible that you might be able to remarry her sometime in the future. It has been known to happen. How you behave now will make all the difference.
Even if that doesn’t happen, your kids will benefit from parents that don’t use them as pawns, and who work well together. And perhaps you will marry someone else one day. If so, these years of behaving well will set you up to have a happy second marriage.
This advice may not be what you want to hear. I am sorry. Sometimes we don’t get a do-over. Our actions have consequences. As Galatians 6:7 says,
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
You have sown bad seed toward your partner. You cannot expect a good crop, (forgiveness and a happy marriage). (Tweet This.)
However, if she is exceedingly gracious, and you are VERY blessed, your good behavior over a long period of time might change her mind.
*In this instance, the abuser who contacted me was an abusive husband. The same principles would apply if the abuser was an abusive wife, or if the partners were unmarried, or of the same sex.