What if the abuser is repentant?
If the abuser is authentically repentant he will be showing all the things in this Checklist for Repentance.
Most abusers feign repentance. They feign repentance in order to try to convince their victim and the church that they are reforming. It’s a tactic to pressure the victim to stay with them… or come back to them. Often the church buys into this charade and believes the abuser is changing. Churches are way too naive about the mentality and tactics of abusers!
So if your spouse appears to be repenting, read the checklist and see if he is meeting all the criteria. I mean all. Don’t think he is repenting if he is only showing a few of those signs. Almost all abusers can fake repentance and put on better conduct for a while. That’s how they charm their new victims.
Can abusers change?
In this presentation Lundy Bancroft answers that question:
Yes; the great majority can change. And the great majority don’t.
And the reason they don’t is not because they can’t, but because they’ve figured out that they don’t really have to.
Here is another presentation in which Lundy Bancroft talks about how seldom abusers change.
Unless an abuser is genuinely converted to Christ, unless he has come to saving faith by the power of God (for only God can bringing a dead spirit to life) he will not truly change at the core. All he will be able to do is change by his own efforts, and his own efforts are rarely enough. He will get tired of making the effort. His basic selfishness and his belief in his own entitlement to mistreat his partner will rise to the surface again.
And even if an abuser should truly be converted, to change abusive habits of thinking and behaviour still requires much hard work on the part of the abuser. God initiates conversion, but Christians are urged to renew their minds — and that requires diligent perseverance in mortifying the habitual sins.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
The reason why an abuser rarely sustains changed behavior is that the perks he derives from maintaining power and control over his victim are so rewarding (and are so little penalised by society and the church) that he will not want to go the whole distance that change requires. The perks of clinging to his privileges are great. And he experiences so few unpleasant consequences from his abusive behaviour. …As scripture says, the dog returns to his vomit.
Here are some posts which will help you understand these things more.