After my last post, I have been pondering how to share the steps of breaking the cycles of abuse. The first step is to recognize the abuse cycle. This is the step to empower yourself so that you can start to recognize the patterning and gain strength to make a change. We can’t make a change if we don’t know it is there.
Abuse is tricky, it is hard to define and is often difficult to even recognize when you are living in it, much less address and break-free. Most often, folks from the outside looking in can see it. In my situation, I was very headstrong, independent and sure I would never fall into the abuse cycle. However, my childhood clouded my adult mind and kept me from recognizing I was still choosing abusive relationships. This is pretty common and how the cycle perpetuates through generations.
There are generally 4 phases of an abuse cycle. There can be cycles within the cycles– and the length of time of the cycles can vary. Just reading that sentence is a little confusing.
- Tension Building– This is the phase after the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship. This is where tension and stress begin to build. This is the phase when the victim is walking on eggshells as not to “trigger” the abuser, and there is a lot of passive-aggressive tendencies from the abuser.
- The Explosion– This is when the violence occurs. There are many shapes and forms of abuse. Violent behavior does not always mean physical assault. The abuse can be psychological– a violent outburst, sexual (make-up sex), or any kind of extreme-controlling behavior. Emotional abuse can be even harder to recognize. Emotional abuse can look like extreme possessiveness, jealousy, isolation, guilt-trips, put-downs, or blame-shifting.
- Honeymoon Phase- This is the phase of reconciliation. The abuser apologizes for their behavior, swear they don’t know what came over them, and they never meant to hurt you or cause any pain. They shower the victim with love, maybe even gifts, and they appear remorseful, sad, and sometimes even threaten to hurt themselves if the victim wants to leave.
- Peaceful/Calm Stage- This is when all is well, and it seems the abuser is “doing their work” to never let the behavior happen again. This is when the victim is holding on to faith that the abuser has really changed and life is looking up. Unfortunately, without extensive help and true sincerity, this is rarely the case. Something will occur to flare up the tension building stage, perpetuating the abuse cycle.
This Cycle of Violence theory was developed by Dr. Lenore Walker, and is used in many therapeutic approaches to teach the relationship dynamics of abuse.
The sad fact is, that children growing up in abusive homes have trouble recognizing that their upbringing was abnormal. This is what perpetuates the cycle and unfortunately a high number of these children grow up to be victims or abusers in their future relationships.
Awakening to Make Change
I am going to get personal here. Making a change is hard– sometimes familiarity is a comfort, and sometimes admitting that a relationship has “failed” is hard on the ego.
I am not a professional, and do not claim to be. I am just a survivor and have first hand experience. To make a change, the thing that is most important is that you love yourself enough to remove yourself from abuse. This is the part that has to be nurtured from within, and the next piece of the puzzle is to find support. Loving family, loving friends, and a strong support network can help you find the strength and light at the end of the tunnel.
Know that you deserve love, and abuse of any form is NOT love.
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011
Break the Cycle