Can abusive spouses really change?
This is something 27-year-old Redditor THROWRAthep is struggling with after her formerly violent 29-year-old husband began a behavioral transformation as an unexpected result of a surgical procedure.
Still uncertain about their future, however, she sought the wisdom of strangers on the Relationship Advice subReddit.
She titled her post:
“My abusive husband got surgery to remove a brain tumour and now he’s completely different.”
“I don’t know if I should still divorce him.”
The Original Poster (OP) began by describing her husband prior to surgery.
“I have been married to my husband for 4 years. We have a 3 year old daughter.”
“My husband was abusive to me from the beginning. He was also quite manipulative, and convinced me (who already had very low self esteem) that he was my only chance at love and that I could never find someone better.”
“He also regularly physically abused me. Before the marriage, I tried to leave him once, but he stormed to my family’s house and dragged me back into his car.”
“He has even threatened to kill me if I ever left him again.”
“I put up with all of his abuse because I loved him. Also he was a handsome, rich trust-fund baby so everything about him looked good on paper.”
“But about four months ago, I decided I was tired of the abuse and secretly drew up plans to get divorced.”
“Just about a month after that, my husband got an MRI after a head injury and it showed that he also had a brain tumour. He went into surgery to have it removed.”
“After the surgery, his personality is like ‘night and day.’ He is more empathetic and compassionate now.”
“He doesn’t hit me or yell at me anymore. He’s even agreed to marriage counselling, which is something he never would have before.”
A member of the OP’s family remained skeptical this would be a permanent change.
“However, my sister still thinks I should get the divorce. She doesnt trust him, and is wondering if his ‘new personality’ is all just an act.”
“Or if he’ll revert to his old evil self over time.”
“My sister said ‘You’ll be better off living a life away from the guy who beat you up because he didn’t like dinner, or the guy who once locked you in a closet for hours after an argument’.”
“But he’s really like a different person, and is actually remorseful of his past behaviour. The other day he started crying and apologizing when he saw the scar on my shoulder from when he pushed me into a bookshelf.”
“Am I crazy for wanting to give our marriage a second chance? I love him even more now than I did before, but a part of me still wonders if this is all an act or if he’d revert to his old self over time.”
Most Redditors suggested that the tumor may have been the culprit for the husband’s previously violent behavior.
“It’s totally possible the tumor was causing personality issues and the behavioral and emotional volatility. I’ve seen it go the other way too.”
“I once knew a man who was a wonderful person with a great marriage for 15 years who had a stroke at 37. From the time he came to he was a completely different person.”
“Anger issues and physically abusive to his wife, who finally had to leave him for her own safety. It was really hard on her to give up the man she knew and loved, but he wasn’t there anymore.”
“It sounds like your situation may have gone in a positive direction. If you feel safe, then certainly, give it some time.”
“You may find that he’s everything you ever dreamed of. If he starts becoming violent or excessively angry again, then you can leave.” – Conclusively_elusive
“It is entirely possible that his bad behaviour was caused by the tumor, and it’s also possible that his new good personality is caused by the tumor – either way, ‘good’ husband could well be here to stay.”
“So I see no harm in pausing your plans to leave, if you think you really might want to make a go of it. But don’t stay just for the money, eh?”
“But I do think that if you stay, then you would be living on eggshells waiting for him to go bad again; plus all those bad memories.” – maxminhotcold2
“Brain chemistry and neuropathways absolutely determine behavior and personality and it is entirely possible that his brain has changed since surgery like a tumor being removed or changed back to what it was before the tumor began growing.”
“It could always change back or it could stay that way forever or go in another direction. You already have your plans in place to divorce.”
“If you really don’t mind the new husband and want to try it I don’t see any harm in staying to see how it goes.”
“Just keep that plan hidden somewhere but ready to execute if need be and you can always go back to it if things don’t work out.” – De5perad0
A former victim of abuse weighed in on the situation.
“All those memories of being pushed around and looking at my scars wondering if it’ll happen again. Maybe it’s not his fault that he did those things but I still have to live with it happening to me for so long.”
“Especially as my daughter gets older. Right now she’s young enough to hopefully not remember the time when mommy was being yelled at because of dinner.”
“But if it happens again those will be very real memories that stick with her for life. Not only that but who was watching her while you were locked in the closet for hours?”
“It sucks for him that he maybe wasn’t in control of himself for your entire relationship but you still experienced all that pain by his hands. Unfortunately for him, he’s gotta deal with the consequences of the actions of his pre tumor removal self.” – normgirl
“OP should be careful but it’s very much a possibility.”
“The most evil bully in my school, a boy whom everyone thought would become a career criminal was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumor.”
“He got surgery. He came back a normal, actually rather friendly human being. Also a much better student.”
“I kept in touch with people who are still acquainted to him, and apparently he has not changed from his post-surgery personality (regular topic when he is mentioned). This happened over 20 years ago by the way.”
“So maybe the OP’s husband had a similar evil-persona tumor.”
“And then, maybe not.” – Redducer
“I would say go ahead with the divorce, and continue the relationship if you think it might work. He might be more amicable and understanding now, especially if he feels remorse for what he did.”
“In a couple of years if his old behaviour comes back it’ll be difficult to go through with the divorce. If it never comes back then you can live together happily ever after and remarry if you want.”
“But the fact that this guy abused you doesn’t go away with a surgery.” – hiregar
“If you want to give it a second chance, then it’s worth trying, with very firm boundaries – like, counseling is mandatory (both individual and relationship), he is on a zero tolerance aggression policy – any verbal, mental, emotional, or physical abuse is immediate game-over and you go straight to a divorce attorney, you will be checking in with your sister every day to give her a status update (not details if you don’t want to, but a general sense of how things are going)”
“If you feel like something he has said or done is manipulative, you will immediately call the relationship counselor to get their opinion and, if they agree it’s manipulative, everything ends immediately, things like that.”
“I am not one to excuse abuse, and I’m not excusing it here (personally I think you’d be better off continuing the divorce)…. however, depending on how long the tumor was there, you might be meeting the ‘real’ him for the first time – the a**hole him might have been 100% caused by the tumor and its location and the real him might be a genuinely good person.”
“Or it may be like your sister says, he’s fooling you. Time is the only way to know. If you want to take the chance of staying, then at least put safeguards in place.” – the_last_basselope
The OP responded to the above comment with:
“That’s a good idea about the therapy and the boundaries.”
“The doctor says the tumour has been growing benignly for about 5 years, so it started roughly around when we first met.”
“Even his friends tell him he seems different and more like his ‘old self’ which leads me to believe that he wasn’t always like this.”
“Hopefully we can make it work. Hopefully this man is the real him.”
Redditors are also hoping for the same.