The Cycle of Abuse

Abusers can attempt to control their partner in a variety of ways, and although each situation is different, the typical cycle of abuse is explained below.

  1. Tensions Building – At this stage the abuser has isolated their partner away from their friends or family, most likely to be seen as wanting to just “spend more time together,” and they have already experienced the honeymoon stage. However, when the victim is isolated from their friends and family it is easier for them to begin practicing their abusive behaviors without being noticed by outsiders. During this stage there is a breakdown of communication, a display of controlling behavior, the victim becomes fearful of their partner and they feel the need to appease their partner so that they stay happy.
  2. Incident – This stage includes some sort of abuse, whether it be verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual. The abuser expresses lots of anger towards their partner and blames them for their behavior. In this stage threats and intimidation are also very common, such as threatening to hurt the victim more if they tell anyone that it happened.
  3. Reconciliation – After the initial abuse, the abuser deeply apologizes, promises it will never happen again and assures their partner that they love them. It’s also common for the partner to deny that what happened in stage 2 was even a big deal or that it wasn’t as bad as the victim is claiming it was. In this stage manipulation is huge, as the abuser also commonly tries to make it up to their partner although they know exactly what has happened.
  4. Calm – The calm stage comes after the abuser has tried their hardest to make it up to their partner and the incident has now been “forgotten.” There isn’t any abuse taking place in this stage, as the couple has now entered a new honeymoon phase and are building their relationship once more. However, as time goes on the tension will build again and the cycle will continue.

Click the link below to access the Teen Power and Control Wheel to see how the cycle of abuse is applied to teen relationships, from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Teen Power & Control Wheel



Eyer, K. (n.d.). Cycle of Abuse. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from

Teen Power & Control Wheel [National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence Images]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2016, from p&c wheel no shading.pdf