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Cycle of Violence

Research and experience show that violence in a relationship follows a cycle.

The tension builds over a period of time – days, weeks, months or even years. Then comes the assault, which is followed by a period of peacemaking, often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ phase. Many believe that abused partners do not experience a true ‘honeymoon’ phase once the cycle of abuse has begun. This may more accurately reflect the abuser’s state.

Phase one – tension build-up

  • You can sense your partner’s edginess
  • You are unable to discuss the underlying problem with you
  • Your partner becomes verbally abusive
  • You may feel the abuse is deserved.
  • In order to cope, you deny that violence will occur and believe that it can be controlled.

Phase two – violent episode

  • The tension builds until it becomes unbearable. You may even provoke violence to get it over with. Your partner loses control and acts violently.
  • It may begin with a push or shove. With time, it escalates to a slap, kick or punch, then possibly to the use of weapons, resulting in more serious injuries.
  • You partner claims not to want to hurt you, just to teach you a lesson.
  • Your partner justifies his/her actions and blames you.
  • Both you and your partner minimize the seriousness of the injuries.
  • You accept the blame.

Phase three – honeymoon

Your partner:

  • fears you will leave the relationship;
  • is worried and tries to make up;
  • becomes charming and manipulative;
  • believes anger can be controlled and it will never happen again; and/or
  • may shower you with gifts (flowers, etc.)


  • want to believe your partner;
  • begin to feel responsible for the abuse; and/or
  • in advanced stages of abuse, the honeymoon period may be reduced to a day without violence or be totally absent.

If you look at your own relationship with your partner, you may relate to this cycle of violence. As the violence is not constant, you can often be confused, particularly when the abusive partner has positive traits as well. Being needed can be a powerful incentive to stay in a relationship. It can create a strong belief that things will get better. But once violence has begun, it will need outside intervention to stop.