Marriage Counseling Self-help

Can Emotional Abusers Change? Take the QUIZ by a Top Professional Who Knows What He is Talking About

abe kass

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

abe kassProfessional Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

Do emotional abusers change?

Lisa’s husband is an abuser Lisa doesn’t want to live in a marriage with emotional abuse. She feels humiliated, put down, and disrespected.

Lisa wants her children to grow up seeing a respectful relationship between their parents so they will also grow up to treat their partners with respect.

However, what they see is their father being angry, insulting, and controlling their mother and a mother who often cries and seldom smiles.

Lisa wants to know, as do many others, “do emotional abusers change?”

Lisa is unsure of her future!

Before I answer this question, Can emotional abusers change, I what to explain the difference between a difficult relationship and an emotionally abusive relationship.

Recognize the Signs of Emotional Abuse in Marriage

recognize the signs of emotional abuse in relationsips

The information in the Emotional Abuse Poster was adapted and slightly “modified” by Abe Kass from: THE INTIMATE JUSTICE SCALE: AN INSTRUMENT TO SCREEN FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND PHYSICAL VIOLENCE IN CLINICAL PRACTICE, By Brian Jory, Ph.D. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, January 2004, Volume 30, Number 1, 29 – 44. You can read this article here: Wiley Online Library, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

A difficult relationship

In a difficult marriage or a difficult committed relationship, fighting is typically about a particular issue.

For example, one partner wants to save money and the other partner wants to buy furniture for the house or one partner wants to spend more time together as a family and the other partner wants to watch sporting events on TV.

In a difficult relationship, the trigger for arguments is differing opinions regarding what to do or what not to do.

Not over WHO is entitled to decide the outcome of a particular issue.

An emotionally abusive relationship

In an emotionally abusive relationship, the trigger for fighting is that one individual is not complying with the other partner’s wishes.

An abusive relationship is characterized by one individual who wants to CONTROL his or her partner, and this includes making all the decisions.

Aggressive anger is typically used to bully and intimidate the target of abuse.

An abuser’s effort to control is true for every type of abuse — emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse.

Sometimes the emotional abuser can become violent by hitting, pushing, or throwing things to break all resistance in their partner. This is called domestic violence.

If violence occurs in your relationship, you should call the police.

Safety must come first.

If there is violence and you do not respond decisively, you may become seriously injured.

Sadly, many good people have died at the hands of their own partners.

Only when you are safe from being hurt, can you then ask, “Do abusers change?”

You do not have a genuine relationship if you are being assaulted.

If your partner assaults you, you need to get away from him or her.

Wondering, ‘can an emotional abuser change’ when your life is at risk is misplaced. Sadly many victims of abuse make this mistake; don’t be one of them.

Now that you know the difference between a ‘difficult relationship’ and an ’emotionally abusive relationship’, I can answer the question, “Can emotional abusers change?”

The short answer is if you suffer from emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse, it is possible for the offender to stop with the right education and therapy.

An abuser can only be educated or benefit from therapy to stop abuse when he or she has the following 5 character traits:

Without the following 5 character traits, the abuser is showing that he or she is not prepared to replace their abusive behavior of harshness and cruelty with the non-abusive behavior of respect, sensitivity, and kindness.

The 5 character traits needed for an abuser to change

1. Objectivity

If an abuser is to change, he or she must be able to recognize his or her abusive behavior.

To do so, the abuser must be able to step away from his or her patterns of behavior and feelings and see clearly what he or she is doing to his or her partner and how wrong it is.

Being objective is a mental skill that can be developed if it does not come naturally.

Being objective means recognizing the abuse. Without this, an abuser cannot change.

2. Responsibility

The abuser must accept responsibility for his or her behavior.

In other words, an abuser MUST NOT blame his or her partner for the abuse.

Respect is a human right. It does not need to be earned. The victim of abuse is never at fault!

Having abused his or her partner, the abuser must take 100% responsibility for what he or she has done.

Taking responsibility includes having REMORSE for past behavior and a willingness to find ways to prevent the abuse from happening again in the future.

Once responsibility is accepted, then a plan can be made to eliminate patterns of bad behavior and to correct unhealthy relationship beliefs. The first step is being able to identify the signs of emotional abuse.

If there is no acceptance of responsibility, then there will only be blame, avoidance, and no positive change will be possible.

3. Humility

Humility is an essential ingredient if an abuser is to change.

Humility gives the abuser the courage to say,” I am wrong, and I am sorry.”

Humility gives the abuser the opportunity to learn and understand what the abuse has done to his or her partner.

The opposite of humility is arrogance and stubborn defiance. If the abuser has those bad character traits, he or she will never change.

4. Self-discipline

If the abuser commits to make positive changes in his or her behavior, he or she needs the self-discipline to succeed.

Self-discipline ensures that the plan to become a non-abuser stays on course.

On-and-off abuse still equals abuse. This means that the abuse must stop 100%.

Consistent application of the plan is absolutely necessary for the victim of abuse to feel safe and for the relationship to recover. And this can only be achieved when the abuser disciplines himself or herself.

5. Motivation

Your abusive partner may have all of the above positive character traits. However, this is not enough if they are not motivated to change.

Your partner also needs to be sufficiently motivated to want to do whatever it takes to stop the abuse.

For example, the emotionally abusive husband or the emotionally abusive wife or the emotionally abusive partner must want a healthy and happy marriage or committed relationship.

Your partner must be prepared to sacrifice his or her wants to achieve these relationship goals.

A willingness to sacrifice to achieve the goal of becoming a non-abuser may include self-study, individual therapy, relationship therapy, group therapy, or any other concrete plan to change some deep-rooted beliefs and patterns of behavior.

Successful personal change requires commitment. Commitment requires motivation!

The abuser needs to understand the benefits for himself or herself and all the family members when the abuse has been eliminated.

Without this powerful motivation to be better, the ‘abuser will remain an abuser.’

An emotionally abusive wife, an emotionally abusive husband, or an emotionally abusive partner CAN change

All types of abuse — emotional abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse — should not be accepted.

You should not allow yourself to be abused.

The best solution is for your partner who abuses you to transform himself or herself into a respectful, cooperative, and considerate person.

If this cannot be done, you should consider ending your relationship with your abuser. However, doing so is not so simple.

Separating from or divorcing your partner has many risks. Especially if you have children. The details regarding all this are beyond scope of this guide.

Leaving your abusive partner should not be your first choice.

Separation or divorce should be considered only if the abuse is unrelenting and the relationship is beyond repair.

Talk sincerely to your husband, wife, or partner. Try to get him or her to see how his or her abusive ways are wrong and that they need to be replaced with respect, fairness, and kindness.

If your efforts are rejected or lead to continued abuse, get outside help with your partner or alone.

Get help from a qualified relationship specialist or an organization that supports families.

You can find a caring relationship specialist here:

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Know, when there is abuse in your home, and the abuser has committed himself or herself to stop abusing, positive change can take time.

Victims of emotional abuse need to be patient and understand this.

Slow and steady progress towards a more respectful and harmonious life together as a husband and wife or committed couple is definitely worth the effort and time needed.

Yes, you CAN eliminate emotional abuse in your relationship; emotional abusers can — and do — change.

Objectivity, responsibility, humility, self-discipline, and motivation are the necessary character traits needed by the abuser to make these necessary positive changes.

FREE QUIZ to Test if your emotional abuser can change

Determine if the emotional abuser you know has what it takes to change.

Immediate results, no email required.​

Hi, this is couple therapist Abe Kass, MA RSW RMFT.

Let’s review your Can Emotional Abusers Change? Quiz score.

Keeping in mind Your Score, scroll-down until you find the range for your score. Then read what your ‘results’ mean.

15 points. Yes, your partner is ready to stop all abuse and change for the better.


Based on your quiz results, it seems like your partner has come to understand how wrong abuse is and what he or she needs to do to make amends. You are fortunate!

14 – 12 points. Your abusive partner is on the road to recovery.


The abusive partner needs additional work to have the right attitude and behavior to stop all abuse. He or she should continue to educate and sensitize himself or herself to be more committed to being a non-abuser.

Less than 11 points. The ‘abuser’ has the wrong attitude about abusive behavior, how wrong it is, the damage it causes, and will likely continue the abuse in the future. The fewer points your abusive partner received under ’11 points,’ the less likely he or she is ready to change for the better.


Likely your abusive partner needs professional help to stop his or her harmful ways. Personal and relationship therapy, anger management, honesty, sensitivity training, spiritual commitment, and education about relationships will all likely help this person get ‘real’ about what he or she has done or is still doing.

Emotional abuse and sexless relationships

Emotional abuse causes a ‘sexless marriage or committed relationship’ that can kill all love and intimacy.

Anger is the primary tool used to emotionally abuse another. Anger has many ways of expressing itself. Watch as a husband bullies his wife.

How do you think emotional abuse impacts on this marriage? The answer is simple, the husband’s wife wants nothing to do with him… which includes sexual intimacy!

VIDEO: Are you Being Bullied by Your Partner

Play Video about are you being bullied by your partner

A Video guide for past abusers

If you are living in an emotionally abusive marriage or committed relationship, you have two questions:

1. Can emotional abusers change for the better?

2. How to heal from emotional abuse?

This video, How to heal from emotional abuse a guide for past abusers, will answer both questions.

If you have been abused, and you want to know what your partner needs to do to make it “right” — or at least try to, watch this video.

If you have been an abuser in the past, watch this video for precise guidance on how to help heal your relationship and earn forgiveness. Committed relationship and marriage builders: repair broken relationships — they don’t “throw them away.” Join their ranks. Be a committed relationship and marriage builder.

VIDEO: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse if You are the Abuser Using the 8 Relationship Guidelines for Past Abusers

Play Video about eight relationship guidelines for past abusers

Text of this video:

Hi, this is Marriage and Family therapist Abe Kass

How to Heal from Emotional Abuse if You are the Abuser using The 8 Relationship Guidelines for Past Abusers

If you are a former emotional abuser YOU CAN FIX THE RELATIONSHIP YOU BROKE… and contribute to your partner’s healing.

Know that emotional abuse recovery is a process. Just like any type of healing, it takes time and effort. Don’t rush it!

At this point in time, you may be feeling ashamed of yourself, fearful about your future, and not sure how to undo the mess you have created.

Perhaps your partner is threatening to leave you or has already left, and you want to get him or her back.

To start, know YOU CAN FIX THE RELATIONSHIP YOU BROKE… and contribute to your partner’s healing, and the only way you can achieve this is if you acknowledge your your abusive behavior, and work through it with your partner so he or she can begin to trust you and feel safe around you once again.

Typically, individuals who abuse others either have low self-esteem, or as children grew up in homes where emotional abuse was present, or if you are a man you were taught that men have the right to control women.

If any of this is true for you, you certainly CAN change for the better. There are ways you can find to improve your self-esteem, to educate yourself, so you know how to treat your partner with respect, and to accept that men and women are equal in value.

As we discuss this matter, I am going to assume three things:

1. You have abused your partner in the past.

2. You are a “good” person, but you never learned the ‘how and why’ to treat your partner with respect.

3. You seriously want to change for the better.

If these three points apply to you, then the following 8 Relationship Guidelines will help you clean up the ‘relationship mess’ you have made and reduce the likelihood that your abusive behavior will return in the future:

1. Education

Unless you know what emotional abuse is, it will be impossible to stop this bad behavior. Thus, your first task is to learn what in fact is emotional abuse. When you know what emotional abuse is, only then can you stop it!

For example, sustained anger, ignoring, name-calling, threats, curses and more are all examples of emotional abuse.

Not all relationship fighting is abuse. You need to learn what abuse is and what is not.

2. Responsibility

An essential component of emotional abuse recovery is taking responsibility for the abuse you have perpetrated upon your partner.

In other words, you have no one to blame for your bad behavior accept yourself. You need to accept this fact, or you will never stop your abusive ways.

If you blame someone else for your “bad behavior,” what you are saying is that another person is controlling you — they determine your behavior.

If this is what you believe, this means you can’t control yourself — that YOUR behavior — good or bad — is dependent upon someone else. If so, how then can you ever stop future abuse? Obviously, this is an unacceptable position, and you will fail in your efforts to stop abuse in the future and heal yourself and your partner from the past abuse.

Verbalize to your partner — the victim of your abuse — that what you did was hurtful and wrong, that you are at fault and no one else, and you will make every effort to make sure it does not happen again. This is what it means to take responsibility for your past bad behavior.

3. Humility

Recovering from emotional abuse requires humility. You need to listen and understand how your abuse devastated your partner.

When humble, you can be empathetic, understand your partner’s pain, and have the possibility to reconnect as a couple.

Let your partner describe in detail his or her feelings without becoming defensive.

Don’t explain yourself, justify what you have done, point out inconsistencies, or hypocrisies regarding your partner’s point of view and feelings.

In fact, unless you are asked, “don’t give your opinion at all.” Just listen, listen, listen…

4. Be patient

Healing from injuries, be they physical or emotional, have their own timeline.

You need to let your partner decide when and how the work on recovering from emotional abuse is to happen. He or she may get over their injuries quickly, or it may take a long time. You should be prepared for either and adjust appropriately.

Willingly hang in there as long as it takes. Let your partner decide when to “close the book” on the abuse.

5. Self-examination

Examine yourself to learn the sources of your abusive behavior.

Knowing why you have behaved abusively in the past will help you understand your feelings and will help you take appropriate steps to make sure your bad behavior does not return in the future.

If you do not know where in your life “your abuse” has come from, stopping your bad behavior will be more difficult. Like leaking water, if you don’t know the source of the leak is, how then can you stop it?

Ask yourself the question: Why have I abused my partner? Make sure you answer this question. This is an essential part of the healing process.

6. Feedback

Ask your partner to help you monitor your behavior and to let you know ‘if and when’ your behavior feels controlling, intimidating, and unreasonable.

Be calm and appreciative when your partner gives you feedback letting you know that he or she is uncomfortable with your behavior. This feedback must be used to refine your behavior making it more loving, kind, and respectful.

Your partner’s perception is what matters. It does not matter whether or not you feel you are “controlling, mean, threatening.” It’s how your partner EXPERIENCES YOU that matters. Perception is everything!

If your partner says that your behavior is bad, “accept” his or her words and improve yourself.

7. Forgiveness

After you have spent some time working on taking responsibility for having abused your partner, and you have shown remorse and committed to not letting abuse happen in the future, you can then ask your partner to forgive you.

Should your partner be gracious and forgive, be grateful. If you are not forgiven, humbly accept your fate without protest.

You can always ask again for forgiveness at another time.

Forgiveness cannot be forced. Genuine forgiveness requires that your partner feel in his or her heart that you have made amends and it will not happen again in the future.

Because forgiveness is a feeling and cannot be forced, the feeling of forgiveness must come naturally. However, how you behave during the recovery period will greatly influence whether or not, in the end, you will be genuinely forgiven.

Follow carefully The 8 Relationship Guidelines for Past Abusers and you increase the likelihood that your partner will eventually forgive you.

8. Grateful

Be grateful the victim of your emotional abuse is giving you a second chance. He or she is not obligated to do so.

And when he or she does give you a “second chance,” be grateful and know that a terrible fate for you and your family has been avoided.

Verbalize your gratitude. Your partner needs to hear with his or her ears your sincere feelings of regret for the hurt you have caused and your appreciation that you have been given an opportunity to correct the bad behavior you had in the past.

Emotional abuse is a deadly relationship disease. Many families are torn apart because of emotional abuse.

Unlike many serious medical conditions, emotional abuse can be cured. However, it is up to you — YOU are the relationship doctor!

Use these 8 Relationship Guidelines for Past Abusers as a map to heal yourself and everyone injured by your past abuse.

Be a marriage builder, fix past mistakes and make for yourself and your loved ones a healthy relationship future.

Good luck. Contact me if you need professional assistance, Abe

Get our FREE 58-page eBook

Be A Couple-Team — The 10 most important guidelines

In addition, I understand I will be given a free subscription to {MOMENT OF WISDOM NEWS} email. (You can easily unsubscribe any time you like).

Share This and Help Others!


Related Content

Leave a Reply

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
back to top