Recognizing the Cycle of Abuse

The first step to breaking the cycle, is realizing you’re stuck in it. Although professionals may disagree on the titles and exactly what each phase looks like, the Cycle of Abuse remains largely the same.

The main components being calm, tension, explosion and reconciliation, with a pattern that often starts out with longer periods of calm, and escalates toward longer periods of tension.

When the cycle is spinning out of control, the explosion may be a fatal one.


There are resources within reach. Many agencies exist with the sole purpose of helping women (or men) and children out of abusive relationships. BUT YOU MUST REACH OUT.

Recognizing the Cycle of Abuse


All is well. Everything looks normal on the outside.

This phase begins each new relationship, and usually lasts until the couple are living together or married, so that the likelihood of escaping the relationship is minimized.

The abuser is often charming, well-liked by people he or she meets, and close friends may not have a clue of how controlling or violent the person can become in a relationship.

Often called the “honeymoon” period.

This phase will be returned to over and over after Phase 4: Reconciliation, but in the majority of cases, it will not last.


Things may still look normal on the outside, but all is not well.

You often feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. Nothing you do is good enough. What was okay yesterday is not okay today.

You find yourself preoccupied with doing the “right” things, the ones that you believe will help you avoid the next (or first) explosion.

This is the phase where the abuser is most comfortable. His/her needs are being met, often enthusiastically, to placate and please and hopefully defer the threat of abuse.

But this phase cannot last. The stress level is high, and no one but the abuser can control what becomes that person’s next trigger.


House wasn’t clean enough.

You weren’t home on time.

You didn’t do something you weren’t aware you were supposed to, or maybe just forgot.

Whatever the reason given, it is no excuse for the treatment received from the abuser.

Abuse does not have to be physical. In fact, many survivors of emotional or mental abuse consider it far more hurtful and lasting than any bruise or broken bone they may have received.

Previous article: Battered Women Defense: How to Protect Yourself


“I’m sorry.”

“I’ve never done that before.”

“I’ll never do it again.”

“I didn’t mean what I said.”

“I’ll get help.”

The abuser will say and do anything to get back to Phase 1: Calm … it keeps them in control.

Abuse is abuse

You’ll find that most books and websites are written as if the male is always the abuser and the female is always the victim.

We know this is not true, but due to the number of reported cases of domestic violence being true to that stereotype, we sometimes use “she/her” when “he/his” would be just as appropriate.

No one deserves to be abused.

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