People who are in an abusive relationship may find themselves asking can a relationship be saved after domestic violence. Victims may hang on to the relationship hoping the abuser will change, only to be continually disappointed when violence happens again.
Knowing the answer to can domestic abuser’s change can help you to decide whether you should stay in the relationship or move on and seek a healthier partnership.
Why is domestic violence such a big deal?
Before knowing can a relationship be saved after domestic violence, it is vital to go to the core of the issue.
Domestic violence is a big deal because it is widespread and has significant consequences. According to research, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner during their lives.
While physical abuse is probably what comes to mind most often when thinking about domestic violence, there are other forms of abuse in intimate relationships, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and stalking.
All of this abuse can have serious negative consequences.
The research shows that children who witness domestic violence suffer from emotional damage, and they may also be victims of violence themselves. When they grow up, people who witnessed domestic violence as children are more likely to be victims of domestic violence themselves; they also struggle to form healthy relationships.
Adult victims of domestic violence also suffer from a variety of consequences, according to experts:
Psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or eating disorders
Isolation from friends and family
Given the numerous negative outcomes for both victims and their children, domestic violence is certainly a significant problem and the question can a relationship be saved after domestic violence requires an answer, a solution!
Reasons a victim may reconcile after domestic violence
Just as there are reasons to leave an abusive relationship, some victims may choose to stay or choose reconciliation after domestic violence because they believe there’s a solution to the question, ‘Can a relationship be saved after domestic violence?’
Some people may actually stay in the relationship for the sake of the children because the victim might desire for the children to be raised in a home with both parents.
Cultural factors, such as religious beliefs that frown upon divorce
Inability to financially support themselves
In summary, a victim may stay in an abusive relationship or choose to return to the relationship after domestic violence, because the victim has nowhere else to live, relies on the abuser for financial support, or believes the abuse is normal or warranted because of the victim’s flaws.
The victim may also truly love the abuser and hope he will change, for the sake of the relationship and perhaps also for the sake of the children.
In the video below, Leslie Morgan Steiner talks about her personal episode of domestic violence and shares the steps she took to come out of the nightmare.
Can you achieve reconciliation after domestic violence?
When it comes to the issue can a relationship be saved after domestic violence, experts tend to believe that domestic violence usually does not get better.
They don’t look for solutions to the concern ‘Can a relationship be saved after domestic violence’ as victims create a safety plan to leave the relationship.
Others warn that domestic violence is cyclical, meaning that it is a repeating pattern of abuse. The cycle begins with a threat of harm from the abuser, followed by an abusive outburst during which the abuser physically or verbally attacks the victim.
Afterward, the abuser will express remorse, promise to change, and perhaps even offer gifts. Despite promises of change, the next time the abuser becomes angry, the cycle repeats itself.
What this means is that if you choose reconciliation after domestic violence, your abuser may promise to change, but you may find yourself back in the same cycle of domestic violence.
While getting trapped in a cycle of domestic violence is a reality for many victims, this does not mean that staying together after domestic violence is out of the question in every situation.
For example, sometimes, domestic violence is so severe and dangerous to the victim that there is no choice but to leave. However, there are other situations in which there may be a single act of violence, and with the proper treatment and community support, the partnership can heal.
Domestic violence can be the result of the abuser growing up with the same pattern of violence in his own family, so he believes violent behavior is acceptable. This means that the abuser will need some sort of treatment or intervention to stop this pattern of violence in relationships.
While it requires commitment and hard work, it is possible for an abuser to get treatment and learn healthier ways of behaving in relationships. Reconciliation after abuse is possible if the abuser is willing to make changes and shows a commitment to making these changes last.
So, the question arises again, can a relationship be saved after domestic violence?
Well, staying together after domestic violence can have benefits, so long as the abuser changes. Ending a relationship abruptly after an incident of domestic violence can tear a family apart and leave children without the emotional and financial support of a second parent.
On the other hand, when you choose reconciliation after the violence, the family unit remains intact, and you avoid taking the children from their other parent or placing yourself in a situation where you struggle to pay for housing and other bills on your own.
One important question when considering can a relationship survive domestic violence is Can domestic abusers change? Can a relationship be saved after domestic violence?
As previously mentioned, abusers often engage in violent behavior because they witnessed violence as children, and they are repeating the pattern. This means that a domestic abuser will need professional interventions to learn about the harmfulness of violence and discover healthier ways of interacting in intimate relationships.
The answer to can domestic abusers change is that they can, but it is difficult and requires them to commit to the work of changing. Simply promising “never to do it again” is not enough to promote lasting change.
In order for an abuser to make lasting changes, he must identify the root causes of domestic violence and heal from them.
Distorted thoughts are a common cause of domestic violence, and getting control over these thoughts can help abusers to manage their emotions, so they do not have to act out in violence in intimate relationships.
A domestic abuser can change with professional intervention, but the process can be difficult and requires work. After domestic violence reconciliation requires evidence of lasting changes from the abuser.
This means that the abuser must be willing to get help to stop his violent behavior and show actual change over time.
Some signs a domestic abuser has changed include:
The abuser has fewer negative reactions to conflict, and when there is a negative reaction, it is less intense.
Your partner evaluates his own emotions instead of blaming you when stressed.
You and your partner are able to manage conflict in a healthy manner, without violence or verbal attacks.
When upset, your partner is able to calm himself and behave rationally, without becoming violent or threatening abuse.
You feel safe, respected, and as if you have the freedom to make your own decisions.
Keep in mind that you must see evidence of actual, lasting change to achieve reconciliation after domestic violence. Temporary change, followed by reverting to previous violent behaviors, is not enough to say that a relationship can survive after domestic violence.
Keep in mind that domestic violence often involves a pattern, whereby the abuser engages in violence, promises to change afterward, but returns to former violent ways.
When asking yourself can an abusive marriage be saved, you must be able to evaluate whether your partner is actually making changes, or simply giving empty promises to stop the violence.
Promising to change is one thing, but promises alone will not help a person to change, even if he truly wants to. If your partner is committed to stopping the abuse, you must see that he is not only going to treatment but also implementing new behaviors learned during treatment.
In cases of after domestic violence reconciliation, actions truly do speak louder than words.
When staying together after domestic violence is not the right choice
There may be situations in which an abuser can change through a commitment to getting treatment and doing the hard work necessary to make lasting changes that do not involve violence.
On the other hand, there are situations where an abuser cannot or will not change, and staying together after domestic violence is not the best choice.
Many experts do warn that domestic violence abusers rarely change.
Even those who can a relationship be saved after domestic believe that change is possible to warn that it is extremely difficult and requires significant time and effort. The process of change can be painful for both the abuser and the victim, and rarely does domestic violence get better overnight.
If you are struggling with the question of can an abusive relationship be saved, it may be best to try a period of separation before making the decision of whether or not to choose reconciliation after domestic violence.
This sets a boundary between you and the abuser and can keep you safe from further abuse while both you and the abuser work on healing.
If you choose to reconcile after separation, it is best to have a zero-tolerance policy for future violence. If you find that the abuser returns to violence after domestic violence reconciliation is probably not possible.
Ultimately, remaining in an abusive situation can damage your mental health, place your children at risk of trauma and abuse, and even seriously threaten your physical safety.
So, while there may be situations when an abuser can change after getting help and putting forth the serious effort, true, lasting change is difficult. If your partner is not able to stop the abuse, you may have to end the relationship for your own safety and wellbeing.
The answer to can a relationship be saved after domestic violence will be different for each relationship. While many experts warn that domestic abusers rarely change, it is possible to achieve reconciliation after domestic violence if the abuser is willing to accept professional help and make true, lasting changes to correct abusive behavior.
These changes will not occur overnight and will require serious hard work from the abuser.
Can a relationship be saved after domestic violence depends upon whether the abuser is willing to put forth the hard work to grow and change so that he can manage stress and conflict without becoming violent or verbally aggressive?
If, after a period of counseling and/or separation, the abuser continues to act out violently, it is likely that you are stuck in the same repeating cycle of domestic violence.
In this case, you may have to make the painful decision to end the relationship or marriage to protect your own physical and mental well being, as well as the emotional safety of your children.
Finding the answer to can a relationship be saved after domestic violence is not easy. If you are choosing whether or not to seek reconciliation after domestic violence, it is important to consult with professionals, including mental health providers and perhaps even a pastor or other religious professional.
You should carefully weigh the pros and cons of leaving vs. saving the relationship, and at the end of the day, if you cannot be safe in the relationship, you deserve to be free from the pain of emotional and physical abuse.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.