Ask Lisa—How Do I Trust That My Husband Has Truly Changed?
Ask Lisa is a advice post for people who write in to me, asking questions about a specific problem or situation. Although this is in no way a substitute for therapy, my hope and prayer is that it gives encouragement and direction for whatever you face.
If you have a specific question you would like answered, write in. I’d be glad to tackle it together!
Please help! My husband and I have been separated for two months. He has always had an explosive temper since we married twelve years ago. As time has passed, his temper has grown worse and he has been verbally and emotionally abusive for years. I have lived under his control and have feared making any decision that might upset him or spark another rage. I love him, but I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells around him.
Since I’ve been gone, it seems he has found his faith. Though he grew up in church, he has always been a skeptic. Now, he tells me he has changed and begs me to reconcile. I don’t know what to do? He has always been remorseful after an angry outburst, he has promised a million times that it would never happen again—and yet it inevitably does. He says he doesn’t need counseling, but assures me that things will be different. Do you think I’m in rebellion to God because I don’t want to go back home?
Heartbroken in Hunstville
Thank you for reaching out. Nothing is easy about walking away from someone you love, even when your emotional/physical safety is at risk. You made the right decision to leave. Once someone starts down the cycle of abuse, it can easily continue beyond emotional and verbal into physical abuse. I need you to know —NO type of abuse is acceptable. No amount of abuse is okay. It’s not. Your phsycial and emotional safety cannot be risked for the sake of reconciliation, without full trust that someone’s heart and behavior have changed.
This, unfortunately, is where many people make the mistake of returning based on a promise without any proof. In psychology there are two types of change. One type of change is called first-order change. First-order change occurs on the behavioral level without impacting the operating rules of the system. These changes are considered superficial and less sustainable, leaving many to coin the phrase, white-knuckling, when describing first-order change.
The other type of change is called second-order change.
This is transformational, and truly the only kind of change that is sustainable. The reason is simple —second-order change starts in the heart. It owns full responsibility for behavior, it is truly sorrowful. Most importantly, it is followed by consistent, verifiable behavioral change. This kind of change is change you can see, change you can count on, change that over time rebuilds safety and trust in the relationship.
If you are struggling in your relationship, I’ve created two of my best resources for couples, including a Marriage Expectation Worksheet as well as a Marriage Health Quiz to help you assess the health of your relationship and learn to develop healthy expectations for each other. They are FREEwhen you subscribe to my weekly newsletter and will empower and equip you to discover the spiritual, emotional, and relational healing and wellbeing you’ve always desired!
I truly hope he has recommitted his life to Christ. If he has changed, time will bear witness and his walk will continue whether you reconcile todayor not. You will see someone who is learning how to better manage his emotions. You will experience someone who speaks to you respectfully, someone who doesn’t push, understanding that you need your space to heal and come to your decision in your own time.
My encouragement for you is to find a trusted therapist who can walk with you and not only help you grieve, but help you heal from past traumas and learn to trust again. This takes time, my friend. If he is sincere, you can both heal, grow, and reconcile slowly, building a new relationship foundation that is stronger and better than ever before.
Sometimes we become impatient and try to rush our healing process. Don’t. The time and effort you put into your healing will yield a harvest of peace later.
If you are not sure exactly what healthy relationships look like or how to cultivate them, I encourage you to get my book, Peace For A Lifetime, which will help you understand and create the healthiest, most resilient relationships possible!
I’ll be praying for you!
**The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.
I've included my two best marriage resources - my Healthy Expectations Worksheet and my Marriage Health Quiz for FREE when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. Discover the spiritual + emotional + relational wellbeing and abundance God has for you! Get Yours Now!!
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891