There is no doubt in my mind that my husband is actually changing. It's sincere. But, it's very, very slow and it takes alot of money and resources. My husband goes to 12 step; individual therapy with a trauma therapist; group psychotherapy; a weekly men's group; weekly meditation group; weekly marriage counseling. He needs all of this and he needs it every week.
I'll say what I learned to look for, but it's actually more important to think about how I am doing. How is my healing program. That is infinitely more important and leads straight to my happiness.
I completely agree with Lionne. At the outset, get in control of the money. Or as much control as you can. Realize that your partner is NOT safe and does NOT have your best interest in mind.
To understand if they are sincere, we need to see a reduction in acting out and shitty partner behavior; and more importantly, an increase in healthy overall behavior and adult skills in every arena. And they can more easily hide and fake the not acting out. They cannot fake the learning adult relational skills (like, expressing empathy, initiating meaningful conversation, using adult language about emotion, owning their behavior).
Here's what I saw early on:
1) a reduction in staring, less distraction
2) a reduction in raging
3) after a year, saying out loud he was an addict
4) commitment to his recovery program
After two years I saw and heard:
1) Out loud saying he learned he needed to recover to save himself, not just the marriage.
2) more tolerance for my questions about our past
3) less raging
4) SOMETIMES...correcting what he just said and saying "no, really, the truth is...."
5) owning his behavior
6) decreasing the blaming (this takes a long time)
After six years, he can:
1) tolerate more of my talking about my feelings and the impact of his behavior on my feelings
2) better listening
3) better ability to stay in a conversation
4) improved skills at managing conflict
5) more honesty about his addiction
6) more reliability in doing what he said he would do
But, and here is a big but, he still needs improvement on:
1) not being defensive
2) initiating meaningful conversation
3) being proactive rather than reactive
4) being more adult always
5) deepening his empathy AND expressing it
6) showing he CHOOSES me, VALUES me
7) not being controlling and having fun
His self esteem is still at rock bottom and he is full of self loathing. That has to improve.
Remember, they are TERRIFIED of emotional connection. They can't have emotionally-based, relational sex. Only objectified sex.
I think my husband will develop more adult skills in relating, but he has 60 years of stunted development. I'm not sure it will be enough for me.
What I have no hope for is that he could develop a healthy, adult sexuality AND be able to express that with me. I just don't see it.
More important, is that I needed to disconnect from all the above to focus on my well being. It helps immensely that he's not the asshole rageaholic he used to be. But I don't love him any more. I feel compassion for him and I respect his recovery work. I know he is desperate to keep me. But it's not all that important to me anymore. What is important is how I am feeling about myself and my life. Figuring out what I want and achieving it.