I recently received an insightful message from a listener who is on a journey to heal from emotionally abusive behaviors. This person expressed that they love the podcast and are currently seeking professional help.
However, they wanted to gain more insight from me into the success rate of emotionally abusive people changing and maintaining their relationships as they go through that journey.
Someone wrote to me and said, “I am the emotional abuser. I’m currently seeking professional help. I love your podcast. As I listened, I didn’t hear much about the success rate of emotionally abusive people changing and maintaining their relationships. I was hoping to gain some insight from you into that journey and what people have to do to maintain themselves when they are on that journey.”
I really appreciate when emotionally abusive people want to change and heal. Whether they are listening to this show or joining the Healed Being program, or taking whatever journey they’re on, but they want to change. They want to stop that behavior.
That is good news for all of us because it makes your life simpler. It also makes their lives easier.
I used to be emotionally abusive. Yes, that was who I was. I used to be a hurtful person, controlling and manipulative. I did it subtly and covertly, making others feel guilty and bad, withholding love and affection. It was a terrible way to be. I learned that it was wrong. I learned that it was selfish and it was a huge burden. It stressed not only others but also me.
I realized how much stress I was putting on myself. I was always ready to be triggered. I was carrying around what I call a burden. That burden was the need to change or control somebody else. If you’ve been emotionally abusive, you know what it’s like to carry that around. You’re constantly obsessed with the other person and what they’re doing wrong.
Letting that go, healing from that, and moving forward creates a new person. You become a new person when you’re past that. If you’ve been listening to the last 108 episodes, you’ve heard me talk about what it’s like to be on the other side of this, from both the victim’s perspective and the abuser’s perspective. It’s a different life. I can’t explain it any other way. I would never want to be that person ever again, not only because of all the pain and suffering that I put others through but also because it wore me out. It was tiring and depressing. I kept losing relationships and people that I cared about because of my selfish behavior.
When I finally learned what I was doing and stopped, it changed everything. The next relationship I got into is the one I’m in now (hopefully, the last one). She is now my fiancée, and we’ve been together for almost nine years. It’s been the most trigger-free relationship of my life. It’s not because of who she is but because of who I became.
I’ll give you some personal experience and some experience from the groups and the people I’ve talked to, couples and individuals.
My personal experience is after I changed and healed, after I stopped doing emotionally abusive behavior, I realized how much easier life is. Life is easier for the people I care about when I’m not that way.
So let me tell you the success rate for the person who stops being emotionally abusive. It really depends on some criteria.
One is that they have to want to change. The success rate decreases when they are told to change or else.
If the victim of their abuse says, “Look, you need to change, you need to stop hurting me, or else,” and they say, “Okay, don’t leave. I’ll do what I can,” the success rate decreases. It decreases if they don’t realize internally that they need to change and are only doing it for the other person.
In the Healed Being program, I always say, “You need to do this for yourself. You need to want to heal for yourself. This relationship may last, or it may not. You may get into another relationship, but guess who is coming along for the ride? You. The old you. And if that old you is still in there, you’re going to mess the next one up, too.”
We have to be really careful when we’re on the healing journey as the emotional abuser.
When you see changes in someone you used to care about (or are trying to care about), you want more of that. You might even open your heart a little bit to test the waters and find out if they really are changing.
If you’re willing to open your heart as they’re changing, the relationship might start to reconcile.
Can a relationship that has gone through emotional abuse be restored and maintained?
Some relationships cannot be restored because the person who’s been hurt may have sealed their heart shut. When that happens, there’s usually no going back.
If you don’t want to change for yourself, and you believe you’re right, and you believe that others are making life hard for you, you’ll lose them. That’s what it comes down to.
If you are sincerely trying your best to heal and change from this behavior, the success rate for your changing is phenomenally high. It’s astronomically high, in fact. As the emotional abuser starts healing, they feel lighter, happier, free, and liberated from the burden. They feel more in control of their lives, less worried, and less concerned about things. They’re not waiting for the other person to change so they can be happy. They’re finding happiness in other ways inside themselves.
The success rate is high for those who put work into healing. The former abuser should be able to look back and think, “I can’t believe I was that person. I don’t ever want to be that person again.”
When the abuser heals, they see other people doing the behaviors they used to do, and they think, “That used to be me. I used to do that.”
As a healing abuser, you realize that you never want to be that way again, so you continue progressing inside yourself.
People outside you start noticing the changes without you saying anything. The formerly hurtful person changes, and others notice it. When the recipient of their abusive behavior sees the new person, they think, “I want more of this. This is who I’ve always wanted. Where have you been?”
That helps to reinforce to the healing abuser that their journey is the correct one.
In the program, I always say if there’s still love left in their heart, there’s a chance.
How do you know if what you’re doing will help the relationship? How do you know if it’s going to last?
It comes back to that comment:
If there’s love in their heart, there’s a chance.
But if they’ve sealed their heart shut, there’s very little chance that the relationship can reconcile, rebuild, or become something new. That person has locked the other person out. They’ve sealed their heart shut permanently from that specific person.
There’s only so much one can take, after all. There’s a breaking point, a threshold, where one says, “No more, I’m not going to take anymore. I don’t care what you do now because I’m out of this relationship.”
There is the possibility that someone can reach their threshold and still hold hope that the other person changes so that the relationship can survive.
I’ve seen many relationships last. People in the program tell me what they’ve done, where they’ve messed up, and where they’ve improved. They tell me about their first good day, their first good week, their first good month without a fight. They tell me that their relationship is on a new path, and I’ve seen this many times.
Now I will be honest: Not all relationships can be saved. And there are fewer saved than broken.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you, as a victim, have love in your heart, and they have love in theirs, you should try.
Over and over, I see that the emotional abuser starts the healing process genuinely and really takes the steps. They are committed to healing, whether the relationship lasts or not. They are going to take this journey to the end, follow the path till the end until they’re fully healed. That’s a lifelong journey, but that’s their path.
When they’re on that path, whether the relationship lasts or not, that is when I see the most success. The most failure I see is when the other person doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, and the healing abuser stops following the path, stopping the healing and changing process.
Is this really the end?
The end of the relationship doesn’t always mean the end. Sometimes there’s a separation, divorce, or breakup, and you think that it’s over. But if you quit at that point, there’s no chance.
If you’re the emotional abuser and you decide that you’re not going to heal and change because there’s nothing to heal and change for, then you’ve lost. You’ve lost not only this relationship but also the chance at making the next relationship great or even better. Or maybe even the best one you’ve ever had.
I’m not trying to put you down if you’re on this journey. I’m trying to give you some reality. If you stop the healing process, even if your relationship doesn’t last, then what you’re doing is affecting your entire future and those that you care about in your future or present.
The idea is to work on yourself, make it about yourself, focus on yourself, reflect on your behaviors, and work through it. Show up as the best person you could possibly be in any relationship.
I’ve seen people break up and get back together because the other person still had love in their heart. They said, “I would like to try again because you seem like a different person.”
That’s why it’s so vital that when you’re on a healing journey, you don’t stop.
And it has to be about you. If, as the emotional abuser, you make it about somebody else and predicate your actions and changes on their behaviors, then you don’t get much out of it.
Emotional abuse is about trying to find satisfaction in your life by changing or controlling another person and basing your happiness on the way they show up in your life.
It’s also about trying to find satisfaction in your life by altering or controlling another person, and basing your happiness on how they act or speak.
If you rely solely on what they do or don’t do, or what they say or don’t say, you end up wanting to change who they are. This can work both ways. The victim of emotional abuse may look at the other person and say, “I’m not happy until you stop hurting me.”
I understand that’s a reality, too, and it can be real for you. But it still comes back to what you should do for yourself, what you need to reflect on in yourself.
Ask yourself, “What do I want in my life? Is this person going to be what I want in my life? Is this the person I want to be with? Can I be happy with this person, the way they’re showing up now?”
Whether it’s a romantic, platonic, or family relationship, if you can’t be happy with this person, don’t wait for them to change. Tell yourself, “I won’t be happy with the way this person is.”
You can ask, “Will you please stop doing that behavior? Because it hurts me.” In other words, if you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you can say, “Will you please stop doing that behavior because it makes me feel bad. It makes me feel guilty.”
If they change, that could be a significant step in the right direction.
If you’re the emotionally abusive person, and you say, “Will you please stop doing the behavior because I don’t like it,” or, “It hurts me,” the other person can also say yes or no to that.
But the big difference is that when you’re emotionally abusive, your intent is to change or control the other person so you’ll be happy.
When you’re the victim of emotional abuse, your intent is to stop being hurt.
That’s a significant difference from the abuser’s intent. One comes from a place of self-protection, wanting to love the person hurting you. Often, the victim wants to love the person that’s hurting them, while the person hurting the other person wants to control them.
Clearly, that’s not a healthy relationship. And that’s why these relationships often fail. The person causing the hurt must stop doing the behaviors. They have to want to heal and change.
To answer a question about the success rate for people committed to healing and changing, I would give it a good 95% plus.
If you’re on a journey of healing and changing your emotionally abusive behavior, and you genuinely want to do it, you will.
If you’re on that journey, you’ll succeed. But you have to do it for yourself. You must be reflective and do it for yourself so you can bring the best version of yourself into any relationship.
Maintaining or rebuilding a relationship is a different story. Both parties must have love in their hearts and want the relationship. If one person reaches their limit and doesn’t want to be mistreated anymore, and the other doesn’t stop, it will push them over the edge, and they will seal their heart shut.
There’s more to this, but I wanted to lay that out there. If you’re looking for a solution to stop that behavior, resources like healedbeing.com and this podcast can help.
The MEAN Workbook, an assessment and healing guide for difficult relationships, is another tool to help you.
I spoke to someone in the program the other day who asked what they could use the workbook for. I said, “Look at what your partner checked in the assessment, and do the opposite.”
It sounds simple, but it can be very hard for someone who’s been abusive or controlling to simply do different behavior (believe it or not).
For example, if it says, “I often make my partner feel guilty,” don’t do that behavior anymore. Make them feel worthy, loved, smart, and attractive. That’s the opposite.
I used to try to control my partner’s behavior by making them feel guilty. It was toxic thinking on my part, very unhealthy, and abusive. When I learned about my behaviors and stopped, I realized how awful I was being.
The big hurdle for most emotionally abusive people is that they believe they’re right, so they keep doing the behaviors.
I used to think, “Why don’t you just listen to me, and we’d both be happy.” I apologize to those I’ve done that to.
Now, I’m trying to help others get out of these toxic situations. Even if they stay in the relationship, they must stop the toxicity. A person who hurts another must stop.
With tools like the workbook, you can take all those checkboxes and say, “What is the opposite of that? I’ll start doing that.”
But behavior changes are just the start; there are still internal psychological changes to make.
I talk about that in the program and in the support group if you’re in there. I want to thank the person who wrote. I wish you much strength and healing. As always, share this with others that might benefit.