What is the cycle of violence?

Home > I might need help > What is the cycle of violence?

What is the cycle of violence?

Most violent relationships follow a pattern called the cycle of violence. The cycle of violence has three stages: tension building, the explosive incident and the honeymoon stage.

Tension building

In this phase, the warning signs of abuse start to appear. Often during the tension building stage:

  • You argue a lot.
  • The person you are with yells at you out of nowhere.
  • You feel like you can't do anything right.
  • The person you are with makes false accusations against you.
  • You feel tension in the pit of your stomach - like things could blow up any moment and you're just waiting for something bad to happen.

Explosive incident

In this phase, all the tension that built up in the first phase is released through an outburst of violence that can include intense emotional, verbal, sexual and/or physical abuse.

During the explosion, the person you are dating may:

  • Physically abuse you by hitting, kicking, grabbing, pushing, slamming you against a wall, etc.
  • Scream and yell at you violently.
  • Throw objects across the room.
  • Rape you or force you to do something sexual you don't want to do.
  • Threaten to hurt you.

Honeymoon stage

In this phase, the person you are with will try to get you to stay in the relationship by apologizing for the explosion, trying to make up with you, and trying to shift the blame for the explosion onto something or someone else. During the honeymoon stage, the person you are with often:

  • Apologizes and promises that it will never happen again.
  • Says I love you.
  • Buys you flowers or other gifts.
  • Makes excuses, saying you did something to cause the violence or blaming it on other things, like being drunk or being stressed out.

The cycle of violence repeats itself: after the honeymoon stage, eventually the tension starts to build up again until there is another explosion. Generally, over time, the honeymoon stage gets shorter and shorter and may even disappear. The explosive incidents can become more and more violent and dangerous.

©1998-2003 Break the Cycle. All Rights Reserved.