143: The Cycle of Abuse


Abusive relationships are predictably unpredictable. However, when you take a step back you’ll see that they’re actually cyclical.

Enter in the Cycle of Abuse.

When you recognize the cycle of abuse, whether you’re currently in the relationship or you’re out, you’ll be empowered to make choices that will best benefit you.

What is the cycle of abuse?

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

Listen to that for a second 1979. It is right now the time of this recording 2021 which means it hasn’t been even 30 years since this was created.

It’s important to know that this cycle of abuse can apply to not only romantic relationships. This can happen between coworkers, platonic relationships, familial relationships. So if you’ve experienced this in a non-romantic relationship, you’re not alone.

One more note:

It is a cycle, meaning that there isn’t a start and end. You can be anywhere in the cycle at any time.

The phases:

First Phase: Tension Building
Second Phase: Abusive Incident
Third Phase: Reconciliation/Honeymoon
Fourth Phase: The Calm
Repeat

Tension Building

This is when tensions are beginning to rise. Your partner could come home from work agitated or angry and you know something is about to happen. It could be deafening silence or outward frustration.

You have that gut feeling that something is going to happen soon, and your body braces for it.

Abusive Incident

This is the outward expression of the tension. Whether it’s a physical incident or non physical, this is the abusive incident.

This can be ‘big’ or ‘small.’

‘Big’ meaning super intense physical abuse that we generally think of when we think of abusive relationships. ‘Small’ meaning nonphysical acts of abuse that we tend to think of as not abusive.

This does NOT mean that there’s actually big or small incidents. That’s just usually how we categorize them in our mind. Just because something isn’t physical doesn’t mean it wasn’t an abusive incident.

Reconciliation/Honeymoon Phase

This is where they apologize or ‘make up for’ what heppend.

They bring flowers, take you to a fancy dinner, or do that thing that you’ve wanted to do forever.

This is how they get you to stay.

Contrary to popular belief, victims don’t stay in relationships because they enjoy being abused. They stay in these relationships because this honeymoon phase screws with their brain.

The ‘I love you,’ the really good physical time, whatever these moments are for you, they hook your brain in and get you to stay.

Enter in thoughts like “Maybe he didn’t mean it. Maybe he won’t do it again. He promised it was going to be the last time.”

It all changes the physical make up of your brain.

This is where the trauma bond begins to form. Listen to this podcast episode to dive deeper into what it is and how to break it.

The Calm

When I say calm, I do not mean peaceful.

This is the waiting for something to go wrong. You’re still riding the high from the honeymoon phase but you recognize that it’s dropped off a bit.

You’re doing everything you can to prevent another abusive incident to make that honeymoon last as long as possible.

A victim of abuse can never truly be at peace because we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The cycle can take a long time or a short time.

The whole cycle can take place in a day. A piece of the cycle could last for months before moving to the next.

This is where we can get stuck and get in trouble because we can get hooked on the honeymoon moment and hope that it takes longer.

There may come points within the abusive relationship that it doesn’t always do a complete cycle. It may ping pong between abusive incident and calm. This can happen especially later on within the relationship. The honeymoon moments don’t need to be as long because they know it’s going to be easier to keep you around.

The longer you are with the abuser, the more they’re going to mess with your brain.

They’ll get you in a place where they’re going to essentially brainwash you. The longer you’re with them, the more addicted you’re going to become. The less effort they have to put in to keep you around and hide the fact that they’re an abuser.

If you’re currently in a relationship that fits this cycle, begin to make a plan and get out. Reach out to your local DV shelter. If you need to keep your history private, you can reach out to me by sending an email to hello@karleighlynne.com or send me a DM on Instagram.

If you’re already out of the relationship, why is this important?

This can bring a lot of awareness and clarification to the recovery journey. The more information we have the harder it is for the brain to layer on the guilt.

If you do see that you’ve lived this and don’t know where to start, check out this playlist on YouTube. It breaks down the first thing you need to start with when it comes to your healing journey.


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