by Dr. Irene
The classic abusive relationship is characterized by a three-stage cycle that may or may not be visible to outsiders.
Victim Beware: You are on an emotional roller coaster ride that will wear you down and deplete your self-esteem!
The Tension-Building Stage: The angry person becomes increasingly controlling during this period, which may take days, weeks, or even years to evolve and progress. Limits are imposed on the partner. For example, the abuser may decide what clothes look “right” on the partner, or what image is portrayed. They may try to define whom the partner may or may not speak with and about what, etc. The control is insidious and progressive. As tension and control increase, the partner attempts to accommodate the abuser in order to keep peace, to please the abuser, or for some similar reason. Despite actions the partner takes, the abuser becomes increasingly remote, contemptuous, critical, preoccupied, or otherwise on edge. The tension and control increase until culminating in the abuse stage.
The Abuse Stage: A major verbal, emotional or physically abusive incident occurs that was instigated by the abuser. A trivial event is often used to trigger the main event. The abuser actively looks for excuses to blow up over, and may set their partner up in a no-win situation. One angry man found reason to verbally abuse his girlfriend and destroy her property because he did not like the size of the pot she was boiling eggs in. Needless to say, the pot had nothing to do with anything. This opportunist had simply received a nod from a former lover, decided to change girlfriends, and wanted an out. The victim is often left feeling hurt – and confused.
The Honeymoon Stage: Once the blows are delivered, the abuser is calmed. Having blown off steam and regaining composure, the abusive person is full of apologies and promises never to do “it” again – if the partner distances. The more distanced the victim, the more intensely the abuser pursues…and pursues…and pursues. The abuser can be so charming and complimentary, the codependent victim’s heart breaks. There is a compelling need to believe their abuser’s promises and pleas and take them back. The more codependent and insecure the partner, the more vulnerable they are to the partner’s attentive remorse. Abusers during this phase are wonderful! A “normal” person is unlikely to be so compelling and persistent in winning over their partner’s love – because they have no reason to be.
As the relationship progresses, the abuse cycle typically escalates in intensity and in the temporal contiguity of its negative aspects. The abuse lasts longer and becomes more pronounced, while the loving remorse dwindles.
The abuser loves a good challenge. The goal is to win the victim back, at any price. At a distance, the partner is perceived as emotionally “safe.” The harder the abuser has to work to win back his or her victim, the more the victim is appreciated. Once the relationship resumes, the abuser’s mistrust prompts their poor recall of any tender feelings. Their fear inevitably powers the resumption of the abuse cycle.
Doc’s Advice: Trust ACTIONS, not words.