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Domestic Violence

Getting Back with an Abuser in the Future?

03/17/2010

Question:

My boyfriend has physically, emotionally and verbally abused me. I dumped him and now am hearing the sorries and that he has learned his lesson. I told him no I cannot get back together with him now. My question is in the future could we ever have a normal relationship? Will he ever change?

Answer:

There isn't a straightforward answer to your question.  Typically, in relationships that are chronically abusive, which it sounds like yours is, abusive dynamics persist unless you can make a clean break from the relationship.  It is unclear whether your boyfriend will actually change his behavior; typically, a drastic change/improvement in your boyfriend's behavior would require (at a minimum) significant time spent in psychotherapy and anger management programs.  Also, if your boyfriend is a heavy drinker, his drinking would need to stop completely (not an easy feat), since there is an extremely high correlation between drinking alcohol and domestic violence.  Even with these things in place, it's not certain that the abuse would stop.  

The bottom line question  I would ask you is this:  Does this person value, respect, and care for you in the way(s) that you would like to be?  If the answer(s) to this question is no, then I suggest you try to make the break from this person.  Regardless of whether abuse is occurring, you must feel valued, respected, and cared for in order for you to go forward in your relationship.

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Response by:

Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University