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Can an abusive partner change?

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Domestic abuse is an intentional pattern of behaviors used to maintain control in an intimate partner relationship. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, emotional abuse and other forms abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence and abuse can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.

The Power and Control Wheel was developed to visually illustrate the most commonly documented abusive behaviors or tactic used to exert control in an intimate relationship.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) the Power and Control Wheel helps us understand the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors.  Beyond these abusive behaviors, there may be times of relative calm in the relationship, followed by a build up of tension and intensified abuse by the person doing the harm.  This pattern often repeats with the abuse becoming more intense as time goes on.  Each relationship is different and not every relationship follows an exact pattern.  Some abusers may move through this sequence rapidly, others over longer stretches of time.  Regardless, abusers purposely use numerous tactics of abuse to instill fear in the person being harmed and to maintain control over them.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, those who harm others in this way do have the capacity to change, but they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so — and even then, it is a lot easier said than done. Learn more here.

Truly overcoming abusive behaviors can be an ongoing, often lifelong process. Though we may hope individuals who harm others will change, it’s not always realistic to expect that they can and will.

Focus on changes you can control to improve your own life. Keep in mind that no one deserves to be hurt and the abuse is not your fault.

Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan provides compassionate, confidential 24/7 help and information:
(231) 347-0082 or (800) 275-1995.


National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Love is Respect

Native American Wheel