A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thursday Thought — The Dynamic Cycle of Abuse

 Cycle of abuse

Most abusers do not practice their abusive behaviors all the time.  There may be periods in which their behavior is fairly normal and they show love and affection for their spouse and family.  Most victims will testify that their abuse was continual (recurring) but not continuous (uninterrupted).

Many, but not all, victims have been able to identify a pattern, a cycle in these changes.  Everything goes well for a time, then gradually the selfishness and put-downs increase until there is a big episode of abuse, after which the abuser may be very sorry and “repentant”, treating the victim with exaggerated kindness. But nothing is resolved in this aftermath.  The abuser is simply trying to gain forgiveness without having to take responsibility for his bad behavior.  This is the buy back period — the abuser tries to regain the victim’s affection and loyalty, while never really addressing his own terrible behavior.  Then gradually the tension builds … until the same sort of thing happens again.  A cycle can occur every few minutes, days, weeks or months.

The victim’s outlook and emotions go up and down with this cycle.  When she is being treated well, she is happy and hopeful: it seems like this is the man she married.  During the tension-building phase she may blame herself that things are not right.  “If I only change this or that he will settle down again.”  In the explosion she is traumatized and bewildered.  She may blame herself even more, or realize it is his fault and withdraw her affections from him, hence the need to buy back.

(this is an excerpt from Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage [*Affiliate link], pp24-25.)

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.

13 Comments

  1. MeganC

    Yes. Yes, yes. And this is why there was so much confusion . . . and why he could say, “But I did thus and such for you!” and other people, as well, “But he did thus and such for her!”

    • Anonymous

      I echo MeganC.

  2. joyisnowfree

    Since I’ve separated (one month ago) there’s been a period of silence. Until 2 days ago, he has been looking for reconciliation, being apologetic etc. And not taking responsibility for his actions, acting as if nothing ever happened. Well, he just met the gigantic mural I have in place (healthy boundaries). However, it is very frustrating to. have to deal with a perpretrator.

  3. Ann

    Yes. He exploded “out of the blue” over things that other people would not.
    A few of the MANY episodes of abuse:
    a. It’s a super hot day outside and you ask for a drink of water for your child from the cooler we brought for the outing that day. He hands you a dixie cup full ( those are very small cups) . No where near enough! You ask for more and he unleashes a torrent of fury and calls our precious child and I selfish!

    b. What I cook, how I clean, is torn down with his mouth.

    c. Another time he grabs my arms, leaving his distinguishable finger prints that have turned into black and blue marks on my arms, because I spoke up for myself or caught him in a lie and he “just wants me to stay in the room and talk about the situations” and wants me to hear what are really his twisted excuses and more lies.

    d. He plays the nice son-in-law to my parents’ face, but says hateful things behind their backs.

    e. He screams at the top of his lungs calling me swear words, because I tried to protect our children from a place that would have put the children in a dangerous situation.

    He NEVER apologized for any of these or the other abuse. He would bring home a gift or a card though as if that made everything ok. He would semi attentive and then

    BOOM!!!

    Another explosive episode.

    He would go nuts, leave the room, come back and talk in regular tones as if nothing happened.

    In front of other people he pretended to be the attentive husband or he just ignored me all together.

    I might be in the same house with him still, but he is no longer on my radar as I have separated myself as much as I possibly can in my situation.

  4. When the abuser claims to have done “such and thus for you” they are really laying claim to having purchased the right to abuse. Somewhere in their mind, even if it lies in the deep recesses, their abusive treatment of their victim is a personal entitlement bought and paid for.

    • MeganC

      Yes, Ceekayellemm! Exactly. And I used to get confused, myself, thinking, “Well, yes . . . he did do this one thing . . . . ” And, now, I understand that even that one thing he made a big fuss over was something that normal, non-abusive husbands do pretty regularly and don’t expect a big applause over it.

    • silentnomore

      I got a text from my husband after he was angry with me on the phone and I hung up on him. The text was ugly at the beginning and listed all the good things he does and at the end he said I love you.

      He definitely thinks I’m bought and paid for and all the problems in our marriage are in the past. He refuses to acknowledge a pattern of behavior of abuse. He gets very angry if he thinks I am implying that he is abusive. Of course he thinks he is justified in his anger because he says I am accusing him of an awful thing that isn’t true.

      We are well into the tension building phase right now and I am trying to figure out a way to make him move out. It’s easier for him to go than me and the kids. He wouldn’t take care of the animals if we left them behind. 😦

  5. healingInHim

    Barb’s comment about the “lure they throw” is painfully true.

  6. Annie

    But for me the honeymoon phase isn’t even that because once we get into the abuse stage he brings up all the “wrongs” I’ve done in the honeymoon phase. Now I know that even if this particular day was “calm” he no doubt has a laundry list of things I failed at and which once again prove how terrible I am. And I will hear about then. So the honeymoon phase isn’t really all that nice because he’s just keeping score.

    • That is one reason why we tend not to use the phrase ‘honeymoon period’ and call it by other terms, such as the ‘buy-back period’.

      • loves6

        I went to a group session today where they had a police officer come and talk to us.
        I asked alot of questions. I spoke of different things that i have endured by my husband and children.
        He told me i am in a high risk abuse situation. He specialsies in domestic abuse. My score out of 10 was a 10. I was shocked as i felt like i didnt need to speak to a policeman. He said my children and my husband could have had charges laid in the past.
        Yet another day of enlightenment for me. I have alot to take in. Yet another step in the direction of getting out

      • Those reality checks are immensely helpful, aren’t they? 🙂

      • loves6

        Yes but triggers my anxiety and PTSD.
        I have always felt that my husband’s passive behaviour, when my kids around while there is chaos and I’m being picked on and bullied, was not normal… I now see it for exactly what it is.
        I was told today that he had taught my kids to be his henchmen and allows them to attack while he passively sits looking demure. This happens all the time and has done for many years.
        I’m so sad and shocked …
        I have a highly toxic dysfunctional family…

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