An Abusive Relationship Contains Distinct Patterns and Elements.
Power & Control
Abuse is not about anger. The root of abuse is power and control.
Power and control can manifest in unique ways as they intersect with your other identities such as your sexuality or physical ability. For more info on these more specific intersections, click on the appropriate link:
Cycle of Abuse
You may feel as though one day your relationship is a honeymoon–everything seems perfect. The next day you might feel your words or actions are policed, as if there isn’t anything you can do or say right; things feel unpredictable and unsafe. This is what’s known as the cycle of abuse. Each situation is unique. That “honeymoon” phase might last weeks or months before abusive tactics escalate, or you may navigate the entire cycle in just one day.
- Intimidating body language
- Constrains me from leaving
- Throwing things
- Slamming doors
- Silent treatment
- Physical assault
- Name calling
- Improved communication
- More attentative
- Helps around the house
- Promises to change
- Gives gifts & compliments
- Spends time with family more
- Fault finding
- Controls what I do
- Quick mood changes
- Emotionally distant
Here are some common characteristics of each phase in the cycle. These behaviors are typical examples, but not an exhaustive list:
- The abusive partner may be charismatic, charming, and attentive.
- They are generous with their gifts and affection.
- They may make a lot of promises.
- You may start to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. No matter what you say or do they do not seem content.
- The time spent together seems unpredictable, with increased controlling behavior, verbal and emotional abuse.
- They may minimize the tension and blame you.
- The tension building escalates to an abusive incident emotionally or physically.
- You feel unsafe and fearful.
- They may apologize for the abusive incident and blame you for the escalation.
- They may make promises to not act abusively again or promise to seek help like counseling.
Warning Signs/Red Flags – These are a sample of behaviors that foreshadow a cycle of abuse. You do not have to experience all of these to be in an abusive relationship, reach out to us if you are experiencing any of these dynamics.
- The relationship moves quickly: Example: declaring “I love yous” very early on in the relationship
- Extreme jealousy
- They don’t respect your boundaries
- They may not have many of their own boundaries
- Isolation. They don’t like your friends or family or you spending time with people outside of each other
- They frequently check-in on your whereabouts and who you’re with
- They hold rigid gender roles or make sexist comments
- They may deny, minimize or blame you for their actions
- They may control what you wear, where you go, and who you talk to
- You try to talk to them and offer understanding and compromise, but nothing you do ever seems to help your relationship
- You’ve become so devastated by being shamed, ridiculed and deceived that you find it difficult to function day to day
- They consider your feelings and opinions worthless