Cycle of Abuse: Understanding the Patterns and Breaking the Cycle

Abuse can come in many forms. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or even financial. Regardless of the type of abuse, there is a common pattern that often emerges in abusive relationships called the cycle of abuse.

The cycle of abuse is a pattern of behavior that occurs in abusive relationships. It consists of four stages: the tension-building stage, the explosion stage, the honeymoon stage, and the calm stage.

The Tension-Building Stage

The first stage in the cycle of abuse is the tension-building stage. During this stage, there is a buildup of tension between the abuser and the victim. The victim may feel like they are walking on eggshells, trying to avoid triggering the abuser’s anger. The abuser may become increasingly critical or controlling, and may even become physically violent during this stage.

This stage can last for weeks or even months, and often goes unnoticed by the victim. The victim may try to placate the abuser and avoid conflict, thinking that this will help to diffuse the tension.

The Explosion Stage

The second stage in the cycle of abuse is the explosion stage. This is when the tension that has been building up between the abuser and the victim reaches a breaking point. The abuser may become extremely violent or may even rape the victim during this stage.

The victim is often traumatized by the explosion stage, but may also feel relieved that the tension has been released. The victim may believe that the explosion stage was a one-time event and may try to rationalize the abuser’s behavior.

The Honeymoon Stage

The third stage in the cycle of abuse is the honeymoon stage. During this stage, the abuser may apologize, feel remorseful, and may even shower the victim with gifts and affection. The victim may believe that the abuser has changed and that the relationship can be salvaged.

This stage usually does not last long, and the abuser’s behavior will eventually return to the tension-building stage. Many victims may stay in an abusive relationship because they believe that the abuser will change or because they are afraid of being alone.

The Calm Stage

The final stage in the cycle of abuse is the calm stage. This is a period of relative peace in the relationship, where the tension has dissipated and the abuser’s behavior is more predictable. However, the calm stage is often short-lived and will eventually lead back to the tension-building stage.

This is the cycle of abuse, and it can repeat itself over and over again. It is important to remember that abuse is never the victim’s fault and that the abuser is solely responsible for their behavior.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Breaking the cycle of abuse can be a difficult and complex process, but it is possible. Here are some strategies for breaking the cycle:

1. Seek Help

The first step in breaking the cycle of abuse is to seek help. This may involve reaching out to a trusted friend or family member, a counselor, or a domestic violence hotline. It is important to have support and to know that you are not alone.

2. Develop a Safety Plan

A safety plan can help you to protect yourself and your children from violence. This may involve creating a plan for leaving the relationship, having a safe place to go, and developing a code word to let others know when you need help.

3. Build Self-Esteem

Abuse can erode a victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It is important to build self-esteem through positive self-talk, self-care, and recognizing your strengths.

4. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

Setting boundaries can help to protect you from further abuse. This may involve setting limits on the abuser’s behavior, developing consequences for breaking the boundaries, and having a support network to help you enforce the boundaries.

5. Hold the Abuser Accountable

Abusers are responsible for their own behavior. Holding the abuser accountable can involve reporting the abuse to law enforcement, seeking a restraining order, or attending counseling together to address the abusive behavior.

6. Practice Self-Care

Taking care of yourself is important, especially during times of stress and trauma. This may involve engaging in activities that bring you joy, practicing relaxation techniques, and seeking support from a therapist or support group.

In Conclusion

The cycle of abuse is a pattern of behavior that often emerges in abusive relationships. Understanding the cycle is an important step in breaking free from abuse and taking back control of your life. Remember that you are not alone, and that help is available. Breaking the cycle of abuse is possible, and it starts with seeking help and developing a plan for safety.

FAQs

FAQs About the Cycle of Abuse

What Is the Cycle of Abuse?

The cycle of abuse is a pattern of behaviour seen in abusive relationships where the abuser repeatedly engages in abuse followed by contrition and a period of calm before the cycle begins again.

What Are the Stages of the Cycle of Abuse?

There are four stages to the cycle of abuse: tension building, the incident of abuse, reconciliation, and honeymoon. During the tension-building phase, minor incidents escalate into arguments and fights. The incident of abuse is characterized by physical or emotional abuse. The abuser then apologizes and shows remorse during the reconciliation phase, followed by a period of calm during the honeymoon phase.

What Is the Impact of the Cycle of Abuse?

The cycle of abuse can have long-lasting effects on survivors, including low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulties trusting others. It is important for survivors to seek help and support to break the cycle of abuse and heal from the effects of abuse.


References

1. Kuijpers, K. F., van der Knaap, L. M., & Lodewijks, I. A. (2020). The cycle of abuse: A meta-synthesis of qualitative literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 21(4), 705-719. (https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838020905348)

2. Dutton, D. G., & Painter, S. L. (2020). The cycle of abuse and intimate partner violence: A review with implications for counseling and therapy. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(3), 289-299. (https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12307)

3. Smith, S. G., Zhang, X., Basile, K. C., Merrick, M. T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M. J., & Chen, J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 data brief–updated release. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf)