Sometimes it can feel like you never saw this coming. What were the signs? What should have clued you in? Then things start becoming predictable. Abusers always follow a pattern or cycle in their violence and abuse. Once you recognize the cycle, it is very easy to notice these characteristics in your relationship. Hopefully this will become a good tool for present or future reference.
1. Honeymoon Phase
He (I use he generally because statistics show primarily males abuse) is the most charming, sweet, loving, attentive, and affectionate man you’ve ever met. He brings you flowers at work. He has dinner waiting at home. He sends cute texts just to make you smile. He tells you you’re the love of his life and could never live without you. There’s so much love and attention here you almost forget about anything else that’s ever happened and think maybe you can forgive him and just maybe he might really change and be this guy from now on.
2. Tension-Building Phase
Then things start to get edgy. You feel like you’re walking on egg shells around him. Suddenly he starts getting upset at little things. He’s not so attentive anymore. He’s more likely to patronize you than to dote on you. Things start to escalate. You do everything you can to not make him angry but it seems like there is no escape from it. You are late with dinner so he yells at you. The next night you’re early and he yells because it’s too cold. Then he says this isn’t what he wanted and you should know what he likes by now. There’s no winning here and any second you’re terrified of it becoming worse.
3. Violent Outburst
It happens. He’s hit you. He’s made you forcibly have sex with him again. He screams at you and says the most hurtful things he can think of and then accuses you of making him do this. “If you had just done what I said…” “If you hadn’t made dinner late…” “If you had just answered your phone…” “If you hadn’t made me so mad I wouldn’t have hit you.” The finger is always pointed at you even though you did everything you could to avoid this. And somehow he always makes you believe it was your fault.
4. Remorseful Phase
After the violence has ended, he comes to on his knees apologizing profusely. He says it’ll never happen again. He says he can change. He says he loves you and wouldn’t be able to live without you. He’ll say whatever he has to to make you forgive him and he’s very convincing. He knows your soft spots and knows how to make you vulnerable. He’ll remind you of the past and all the wonderful things he did for you and how happy you were. He promises things will be better from here on out and you almost begin to believe him…
This cycle then keeps repeating itself over and over. It’s extremely rare for this cycle to end and normally takes a strong outside force to make him change. The biggest thing I can offer as advice is to make sure you watch what he DOES not what he SAYS. Is he actually changing or is he only saying he will? Is he just giving you flowers to make up for what he did or is he seeking help for his problem? This cycle keeps getting shorter and more violent as time goes on. The honeymoon phase will begin to not last as long (if it even happens at all anymore) and his violent outbursts happen sooner and are much worse. The cycle of violence rarely ends, so be cautious about believing him when he’s in the remorseful phase and promises to change. Often your best option is to leave. If not, please make a safety plan. Your well-being and safety, and that of your kids if you have any, is most important thing. It’s hard to leave and even if you want to it may not seem feasible. Just remember there are options, but make sure you plan plan plan. Also, always remember that NONE of this is your fault. He’s the one with the problems, not you. Stay strong and safe my purple hearts!