There are no guarantees he won’t abuse you again, and unfortunately, the chances are high that he will abuse you again if he’s not addressing his problems in an accountability group and therapy.
If your husband has physically or sexually harmed you, or if there is a pattern of verbal, emotional, or mental abuse, there is no obligation to stay with him as his wife. Physical and emotional safety are foundational in marriage; without it you don’t have a marriage, you’re in a prison and you’re the prisoner.
No one should judge you if you can’t continue in this earthly hell and end your marriage. Domestic violence is illegal and there are so many wives and girlfriends murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country alone. And if there are children, the damage done to them must be taken into account (An excellent book on this is The Batterer as Parent 2 by Bancroft, Silverman, and Ritchie.) There are many factors to consider when deciding to stay or leave, but if a woman chooses to stay, there are conditions that should be in place so that the chances of repeated abuse are lessened.
- While he is getting help for his abuse, you must be safe from your abusive husband. In other words, you are living in separate homes and he is respecting your privacy and not showing up unannounced without your permission. He isn’t threatening you and he’s committed to ending his violence against you.
- He’s actively engaged in group therapy led by someone who is trained in domestic violence issues. He may or may not be in individual therapy, but his progress will always include a group for accountability.
- You are making the decision to stay on your own, with no coercion. (no one has pressured you to stay in this marriage.)
The most important sign you’ll see in your husband is that he supports your decision to be safe. He won’t burden you with guilt to come back home before you’re ready or before he’s ready to have you back. Some husbands make it difficult for their wives to stick it out because they beg, plead, argue, and demand them to come home too early. They call the pastor and tell him that his wife is out of the “will of God” by not submitting to his “authority” by coming back to him. After all, the husband reasons, he’s remorseful, he’s come before the church, and now he’s ready to be a better husband. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pastors and therapists fall for this manipulative strategy and join the abuser to put more weight on the wife to get back home before it’s time. Rushing the process of growth and healing is a sure sign that the abusive husband is not interested in true growth or healing.
Any manipulation to get you back home or to let him come home too soon is a serious warning that he is remaining in a place of power and control over you. He’s operating out of inequality instead of mutual equality, love and respect for you. He is nowhere near ready to restore your marriage.
The most important sign you’ll see in yourself is that you are listening to that voice inside you that tells you when things are safe and when they are not. When you see that you are not succumbing to what others want you to do, and you are doing what you want to do, then you are in a good place. But don’t be hard on yourself if you continue to be tempted by his manipulations; abusers are masters of manipulation and convince smart people that they are safe to be with the family again, even when they’re not ready.
The decision to stay in and work on an abusive marriage is a difficult one. It will take a significant amount of time for the abuser to address his attitudes that cause him to relate to you from a place of power instead of love. Remember, one of the best markers that he’s on the road to health is that he is supportive of your decision to separate and be safe.