The Cycle of Violence – Tension Building, Abuse, Honeymoon Phase

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Abuse comes in many forms such as physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual amongst the most common types. People being abused by their partners are not constantly being abused and the abuse is inflicted at totally random times. There is a definite pattern for the abuse, which is recurring and appears to have three distinct phases. The phases are Honeymoon, Tension Building, and Abuse. This pattern is commonly referred to as the Cycle of Abuse.

The first phase is the “Honeymoon Phase”. This phase comes right after the abuse in the form with feelings of filled love and a sense of security in the relationship.  This phase holds a lot of weight to acts of gift-giving, apologizing and victims feeling that their perpetrator has a sense of remorse and sadness for the abuse that they caused.   

The second phase is the “Tension Building Phase”. During this phase, the person experiencing a build-up of tension, and a subtle shift is occurring in the dynamic.   Common examples of this are the perpetrator giving “silent treatment”, ignoring their attempts to converse, as well as a feeling of a sense of acting cold toward the victim.    As a result, the victim tries to keep their abusive partner from becoming angry and makes every attempt to keep their household and their perpetrator calm.  

During this phase, some common phrases/actions that are used by the perpetrator are as followed:

  • “Don’t push it”
  • “If you loved me”
  • Questioning and jealousy
  • Manipulation and mind games
  • Blaming

As the tension continues to grow and increase, the “Abuse (or Explosive) Phase” occurs. In this phase, the perpetrator actively shows a dark side, whether it’s verbal, emotional,  sexual, and/or physical, or any other forms that transpire.  In this phase, the tension has overflowed and abusiveness takes over.  

At this phase, some common phrases/actions used to control and manipulate by the perpetrator are:

  • “You pushed me too far this time”
  • “Why would you make me do this to you”
  • “This is all your fault”
  • And overall, making the victim feel as if they are “crazy” 

After the abuse is over, the perpetrator retreats back to the “Honeymoon Phase”  In order to do this, the perpetrator often appears sincerely sorry for the abuse and many promises are made. In this phase, the relationship seems to be moving back in the right direction and for a brief moment, there is hope for the victim.  However, in time, the tension begins building again and another explosion occurs.

Common phrases/actions that are used by the perpetrator during this phase are:

  • “I love you; I’m sorry”
  • “It’ll never happen again”
  • “We can work it out; I’ll go for counseling”
  • Begs for forgiveness
  • Romance, gifts (flowers, jewelry)

This cycle of abuse will repeat itself again and again. In many abusive relationships, the abuse becomes more frequent and severe and the Honeymoon Phase becomes shorter and shorter, and oftentimes disappears completely. The longer the cycle continues the more dangerous it becomes for the person being abused and the less strength they have to employ a plan to leave.

Source: “Cycle of Abuse” by Envision Counseling

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