This is a question many clients ask themselves. How many times should I believe the promises that everything will get better before I leave the relationship? How many times should I believe that they will change?
If you are in an abusive / controlling relationship promises to change are all part of the constant cycle of abuse. They give you hope that things will get better, they apologise, they are extra nice to you, even buy you things to show you just how sorry they are.
They are not horrible all the time
If they were, it would be much easier to leave, right? It takes an average of 8 times before someone leaves an abusive relationship for good. It took me 3 times, but 10 years in total. There are many reasons to stay and when your partner offers you hope that things will change for the better you want to believe them. You remember the ‘nice’ parts about them – the way they care, the way they used to make you laugh and smile, the good times you had in the beginning and you hope that you can get back to that. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten that you want to leave the relationship.
Calm before the Storm
Of course this is the ‘calm before the storm’. I hate to break it you but these are false promises. They are totally pre-meditated and calculated to get the abusive person what they want – which is to keep you with them, prevent you from getting help or telling others what just happened and ultimately to help things return to the way they used to be (which means them getting their own way again). So round and round this cycle goes – ‘honeymoon period’ – tension building – boom, incident – apologies – back to ‘honeymoon period’ and so it goes on.
He used to cry and plead with me not to leave. He would treat me like a queen for a few weeks afterwards and be on his best behaviour. It was lovely, but I knew it wouldn’t stay like that. Before long he couldn’t keep up the pretence any more and the sulking would start again when he didn’t get his own way. He would make me feel guilty if I tried to stop him spending money we didn’t have on something he wanted, like a new computer game. He would start putting me down again and then it would happen again. It was exhausting and I used to give in just to keep the peace.Karen – Slough
All the time this cycle continues nothing gets better – in fact it gets worse over time. The abusive partner keeps getting away with this behaviour, which to them makes it acceptable. There are no consequences to their actions – you don’t leave, they promise things and don’t follow them through, but still you don’t leave, so why would anything change? They don’t need to change – why would they? They are getting everything they want – they get their own way all the time, they don’t really need to consider your needs or feelings because when they emotionally trample all over you, you still stay.
The longer this goes on, the harder it is to leave the relationship. It is emotionally exhausting and they know it, which makes them want to do it all the more.
How can I make things better?
The simple answer is you can’t. In the vast majority of cases there is one person who exerts power and control over the other. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t make things better. There will always be some reason, some excuse the abusive partner will use to justify their behaviour – but of course nothing can justify violence.
Going to marriage counselling won’t work – by offering to attend these sessions they are assuming that you are to blame for the problems in the relationship too. Most marriage counsellors are trained to spot the signs of controlling relationships so will quickly filter out anyone who tries to use these sessions to continue the control. They will see you individually rather than together to ensure you are free and able to speak up about the things that are troubling you.
What an abusive person needs is help to change their behaviour, to dig down deeper into their attitudes and beliefs and to help them take responsibility for the consequences of their behaviour whilst teaching them new non-abusive ways to behave. This is difficult, especially when someone has been behaving like this for some time or maybe grown up around abuse and led to believe that this is normal behaviour.
Find help to leave the relationship?
For more information on local programmes contact your local Council website or Respect http://respect.uk.net/
It would be more useful to you to gain a deeper understanding of the tactics your abusive partner uses through something like The Freedom Programme. You can access this online or there may be a local group near you. https://freedomprogramme.co.uk/
It is perfectly normal to keep trying and giving your partner chance after chance – after all, you didn’t go into the relationship hoping you would break up, but how many chances are you prepared to give them…
To get confidential help and Freedom Programme support contact Caron Kipping – Specialist in Domestic Abuse Recovery– she’s in The Hug Directory, a Divorce Coach specialising in controlling relationships.