#57: The Cycle of Abuse

A question that I’ve received a lot pertains to how abuse continues to perpetuate in relationships when we know they’re bad.

This was a question I asked myself for a long time. From the time I was 12-23, I was in a horrid cycle of abusive relationships. I didn’t understand why every relationship was a repeat of the last.

But what I didn’t realize is that the cycle of abuse was at play.

Once you understand this concept it’s going to be a lot easier to recognize and call it out. This also makes abuse more clear so you can see that it wasn’t your fault and you didn’t deserve it.

Prefer to watch? Here’s the video!

What’s the cycle of abuse?

The cycle of abuse was first created and made popular by Lenore Walker in 1979.

The biggest criticism is that this is a very simplified version of abuse. While that may be true, it’s a great intro to the concept. Simple or not, you’ll be able to recognize the patterns of abuse in your own life using it.

You can see this cycle in every abusive relationship, whether it’s romantic, parental, a boss/employee relationship.

Remember: this is a cycle, so think of it as a circle.

Cycle of Abuse

Here are the phases:

  • Tension building
  • Abusive Incident
  • Reconciliation/Honeymoon Moment
  • The Calm
  • Repeat

Tension Building

This is when you can tell that the abuser is clearly agitated. Maybe there is a fight that went down or something happened that they just didn’t like.

So tensions begin to rise. This is when snippy comments are made, he takes out his work frustration on you. But whatever happened, something’s going on where the energy in the room is just high. It’s very, very tense.

Abusive Incident/Response

This is where the abuse happens.

It doesn’t just have to be physical; it could take on any of the many forms of abuse.

The abuser lashes out and causes harm.

After the abusive response is the honeymoon phase, and

For a more detailed explanation of honeymoon moments, listen to this episode.

This is the honeymoon phase. This is the point where they apologize and promise to never do it again. They seem so calm, sweet, and apologetic.

They make up for the abusive incident by doing something special. Maybe it’s flowers or taking you out to dinner. Maybe it’s jewelry or some sentimental act.

These moments are the reasons we stay in abusive relationships in the first place.

The Calm

Calm doesn’t mean everything is perfect and there’s no discomfort. This is where things are just kind of chill and there’s no big outburst calm. It’s the “normal” part of the relationship, whether that normal is healthy or not.

This is where the victim is generally tense waiting for something to happen. This is where we begin wracking our brains to come up with something we can do to keep the calm for as long as possible. But as the victim, we don’t always know what triggers the outburst to begin with.

Then the cycle starts over again.

The abuser just begins to raise tension for whatever reason and it builds until it escalates to the abusive incident.

However, I do want to share something important.

As the relationship continues, the honeymoon moments become farther and fewer between. So there may not always be a honeymoon phase in the cycle.

It just may be a ping pong between abusive incident and the calm.

This cycle of abuse can continue on an hourly basis, daily, weekly, monthly basis. There’s no set timeframe as to how often this can happen.

If this is a pattern that you recognize and you’re currently in the situation, please get out. At the very least reach out and get help get someone in your corner.

If you’ve gotten out but recognize that this has happened in your past, I want you to know that you’re not alone and healing is possible.

You’re not stupid for not seeing it. Your brain was looking trying to survive, not recognize a cycle it considered normal.

If you’re ready to heal from your past and finally step into a life of freedom, then Recovery Bootcamp is for you!

Recovery Bootcamp is my free five day challenge where I’m going to be taking you through the exact framework that has helped me and my clients find freedom and healing.

Click here for the details and to grab your spot!

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