It is quite common for abusers to apologize after being abusive. Battered women hear, “I’m sorry” over and over, especially when the abuser thinks she is moving away physically or emotionally. Sometimes, he may believe he is sorry. Other times he says it because he thinks it is what she wants to hear. It is part of the manipulation of coercive control.

Apologies without action are hollow. Without action there is no real remorse. Without action, saying “I’m sorry” means nothing at all. It is mere words. There is no power in an apology unless it is the precursor to change.

Abusers manipulate to maintain power and control. The ultimate loss of control is for the abused person to escape the control of the abuser. When there is abuse, the abuser walks a fine line of maintaining control without losing the abused partner. The abuser has to make her believe he is sorry after escalations in abuse in order to gain greater control. Once that control is well established, the apologies often stop. He doesn’t need to pretend to be sorry anymore once he has established solid control.

Change is about action. If a person is making changes, they take actions in the direction of that change. If they are not doing the behaviors, there is no change. Abusers promise to go to counseling, talk to the pastor, go to AA meetings, go to anger management, get a job, or whatever is related to the issues in the relationship. Once she agrees to not leave or to return, he doesn’t do any of the things promised during the apology. He may attend a few counseling sessions, but then finds a reason not to return. He may go to some AA meetings, but he doesn’t do all the meetings expected, doesn’t get a sponsor, and stops going. The same is true of going to anger management or other promised changes. They were only that: part of the cycle of empty promises without behavioral commitment to change.

You know someone is committed to change once they are actually doing it. And I’m not talking about a few meetings or counseling sessions, but an ongoing change in behavior. You haven’t quit smoking until you have stopped smoking for a period of time. You haven’t quit smoking because you stop for a day or two. Behavioral change takes time and commitment.

Show me the behavior. Once you do that, then I might accept that you have made changes that are real.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry. Show me your behavior.