The cycle of terrifying love

The cycle of Terrifying Love

Abuse within relationships, commonly known as spousal, domestic, partner or marital abuse, has managed to remain as a major social problem within virtually all societies, despite gradual recognition of its harmful effects from professionals and the law. Such abuse, according to Gary Collins (2007) may involve attempts to control or coerce one’s spouse or partner through physical or emotional means which include deliberate assault, threats of violence, emotional mis treatment, forced involvement in sexual acts, neglect etc.
Psychological argument proposes that characteristic of an abusive relationship, is a cycle of predictable attitudes and behaviours that both the aggressor and the victim display. Despite attempts to predict this cycle, breaking away from it is no easy task for either party involved, since there are many underlying causes that trigger not only the abuse, but the tendency to ‘stick it out’.

Cycle of violence (Barnett et al., 1980)

Phase 1: Tranquility prevails: in the relationship, there is a peaceful environment and a time of calm. This calm may follow earlier violent episodes, or there might have been no earlier violent episodes.

Phase 2: Tension builds: in the relationship, frustration builds and ways of coping with stress and frustration become less effective. Stressors may impinge on the relationship be environmental (trouble on the job) or psychological (trust issues). In some cases there may not be a preceding stressor. It may be argued that as time passes, such tensions become more frequent and explosive.

Phase 3: Violent episode occurs: violence may range from harsh words to actual physical violence. Communication between partners have broken down and such episodes come without a warning and can be triggered by even insignificant stressors. Rationality has disintegrated. It is at this phase that the abused may report his/her aggressor or out of humiliation and fear, they may choose not to, especially because phase 4 follows soon after.

Phase 4: Remorse: many aggressors feel guilty for causing pain to their partner. This becomes the ‘honeymoon phase’ where the aggressor asks for forgiveness and may lavish his/her partner with gifts and promises to not be violent anymore. Alternatively however some abusers may not feel remorseful at all and may rationalize violent behaviour and attitudes as an a reinforcement of their rightful control. The victim may give in and relinquishes control. The victim may also take action, where he/she disagrees with their abuser and violent episodes may reoccur or there is a negotiation between abuser and victim on how to handle the crisis or stressors that created tension. Whether abuser is remorseful, the victim becomes submissive, or both negotiate, calm is usually restored, and then the cycle risks repeating itself.

A build up of tension does not justify abuse, but what do you think? Is the cycle accurate in its entirety? Literature does acknowledge that not all abusive relationships fit the cycle, as violent episodes may be once in a lifetime, but also some victims report of being constantly terrorized with no intermittent periods of calm.

another question for you: how prevalent do you think  the abuse of men in relationships are? what do you think about it?
Whether you agree with the literature of not, we should each acknowledge that we are responsible of our own safety, and take the necessary steps to ensure it. whether woman or man, abuse can affect any of our lives.


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