The cycle of abuse is a pattern of behavior displayed in some abusive relationships. It is a social cycle theory, which are theories made by scientists and doctors when studying human behavior. The cycle of abuse has three or more phases, usually starting with the tension building phase, progressing to the reconciliation phase, and ending with the calm phase — and it repeats until the relationship ends. Many people believe this theory is flawed because it does not cover all abusive relationships, but it is still widely used to educate people on violence. This social cycle theory was developed in the 1970s, but it has since been adapted to cover more relationships.
In the tension building phase, the parties are rarely able to hold a conversation without fighting. This is the phase where the verbal, physical, or emotional abuse begins. Abusers may scream at, punch and kick, or toy with the victim’s emotions. The victim in the relationship begins to feel fearful and often does whatever he or she can to keep the abuser calm. There is usually a lot of tension between the two parties, hence the name of the phase.
The next phase is called the honeymoon, make up, or reconciliation phase. In this phase, the abuser apologizes for what he or she has done, though this can be done in multiple ways. Sometimes the abuser profusely apologizes, occasionally crying and accepting all blame. Other times the abuser apologizes but places all blame of the abuse onto the victim. The abuser may even deny that the abuse even happened or convince the victim that the abuse was not as bad as he or she seems to think.
After the honeymoon phase, the relationship usually goes back to normal, which is called the calm phase. Minimal to no emotional, physical, or verbal abuse happens during this phase of the cycle of abuse. If the abuser made promises in the make up phase, he or she might deliver on them. The victim usually hopes the abuse is over or believes that it is over because of how nice the abuser is being. In the calm phase, both parties may appear or be happy until the cycle of abuse starts over again as tension begins to build.
These stages are sometimes given different labels. They have been adapted to suit many circumstances and both genders, since the original theory assumed the male was the abuser. In reality, both men and women are capable of abusing other people. Even considering the adaptions, some experts dismiss the cycle of abuse because it does not fit every relationship. While it can be a useful tool to help abusers and victims recognize obvious abuse, it can mislead people in unique but still abusive situations.