Don’t Try to Diagnose Your Abuser

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Today I would like to ask those of you in abusive relationships a question:

Do you try to diagnose your abusive partners? 

I have worked with many people in abusive relationships who spend a lot of time wondering if their partners have some kind of psychological problem that needs diagnosing. For example, is he* bi-polar, narcissistic or co-dependent? Does he have a problem with pornography? Is he an alcoholic? Is that why he behaves this way? I hear things like:

  • “Well, he has this diagnosis, and he can’t help his abusive behaviors”, or,
  • “If only he would get treated for this condition, everything would improve,” or
  • “I can’t decide if he is really narcissistic,” or
  • “If I could just ______________ (fill in the blank), this abuse would go away.”

In my experience, his diagnosis is not the problem. His abusive behaviors are the problem. Tweet This

Along with his abusive behaviors he has an underlying feeling of entitlement. He feels he is entitled to:

  • Always have everything go the way he wants it,
  • You caring about his feelings and “needs”, while he cares nothing about yours,
  • Control your life, (where you go, who you see, what you do, how much money you can spend) because he “knows better.”

It is this feeling of entitlement that is the real problem. If there was a humble person who was bi-polar or co-dependent, even one that was an alcoholic, that person would be willing to look at his faults, and make the necessary changes so that YOU could feel happy and fulfilled in the relationship. (Of course, no narcissist will be able to be humble – that’s a different story).

But an abuser’s sense of entitlement keeps him from ever looking at his problems. Everything wrong in his life is YOUR fault. After all, weren’t you placed on earth to be his servant? (NOT!) Isn’t it your life’s goal to set aside every one of your needs and desires to fulfill all of his? (Blah! Makes me want to vomit!)

Lundy Bancroft has written a brilliant book called Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.[i] In this book, he talks about the abuser’s feeling of entitlement being the underlying cause of his abuse. I invite you to check out my blog “Do Abusers Know What They Are Doing?” where I summarize this book.

My friends, stop trying to diagnose your partner and make excuses for his behavior. Get to the root of the problem – his attitude of entitlement. Nothing will improve until he is willing to look at that.

Is there anything you can do to help him realize he is NOT entitled (to only receive and to never give) in your relationship? In general, nothing will make a person change unless they want to change. Is there anything you can do that might make him WANT to change? Maybe. But it will require you to be assertive and take some risks. Please check out my blog series on Holding Your Abuser Accountable. In part 3 of this series, I list some ways you can tell if your abuser wants to change, and is actually willing to do it. He will:

  • Realize, remember, and admit to what he has done in the past.
  • Recognize and have empathy for what you have endured.
  • Understand what is causing him to behave this way, and make a serious commitment to ending those behaviors.

In addition, you should notice him seeking help on his own to correct his abuse. He might be:

  • Reading books about domestic violence, and
  • Seeking accountability partners, and
  • Meeting weekly with a counselor who is trained to deal with abusers, and

If He Really Has Changed, He Should Willingly Enroll in a Group Treatment Program for DV Offenders Tweet This

What if he isn’t interested in changing? If that is the case, (and it probably is for the majority of you), you will have to decide what your next steps should be. Be aware that any type of abuse, (including emotional abuse) will most likely get worse as time goes on, not better. Hoping he will change won’t do you any good. My recommendation is to educate yourself, and then ACT. Keep in mind your need for safety, (as I describe in my Holding Your Abuser Accountable series). Making any type of change with a confirmed abuser may put you in danger. But, doing nothing won’t help either. If you would like some personal help, please contact me via my contact form, or message me on Facebook.

Question: Have you tried to explain or excuse your abuser’s behavior by diagnosing him? Has this helped you in the past?

Proverbs 22:3 says:

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

God loves you with an infinite love. He will be there for you as you try to discern what to do next.

Many blessings to you all,


*In this blog, the I use “he” for the abuser. The same principles apply if the female is the abuser and the male the victim, or if the abuser and victim are the same gender.

[i] Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (New York, NY: Berkley Books, 2002).


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. RO says:

    This is a great post and so true. Abuse and domestic violence, like cheating, in my opinion is 100% the fault of the abuser or cheater. Because women are nurturers, we often fall into the trap of wanting to take the blame or needing to be better. We think we can make an abuser change. Abuse is all about control and manipulation. I love, love, love Lundy’s brilliance and the work he’s done to help put things in perspective. Great post! So glad I found your blog and wishing you an awesome week! Hugs…RO

    • Yes. I work with so many women who just keep trying to fix their abusers, and themselves (I was once one of them). Nothing works because most abusers have no interest in changing.

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