The hallmark of an abusive relationship is the cyclic nature of the phases, and predictability of the tactics and patterns.
Abuse takes many forms, for the sake of this blog post, I am referring to covert emotional/narcissistic abuse.
For women in this type of relationship, the cycle isn’t something they are aware of, but only the predictable ‘groundhog day’ feel to the recurring arguments, behaviours and actions that come from their partner.
They know they feel crazy, confused, and wonder if the relationship issues really are all their fault.
They begin to experience somatic and physical symptoms related to the emotional stress, anxiety and trauma within the relationship.
They are often on medications for depression, anxiety and insomnia.
They have ongoing ‘mystery’ health issues no doctor can figure out.
They’re completely and utterly exhausted, emotionally and physically, and have lost all confidence in themselves.
When you’re in a toxic relationship, there is a cyclic and predictable pattern of behaviours, feelings and circumstances that occur.
Bringing awareness to the cycle is the first step toward changing it.
Here are the phases and what you might be feeling in each phase:
Love Bombing: Honey Moon Stage, also part of the Hoovering phase of the cycle.
This begins in the start off the relationship. Everything feels perfect, you believe you’ve finally found ‘the one’. You are showered in gifts, trips, flowers and long late night talks. It feels amazing, and you feel like it’s just too good to be true. If you’re in a longer term relationship, this is where you start to have hope this time it will last, and that things are really changing. He promises to go to therapy, get help, and stop doing the behaviours you’ve told him need to stop.
Calm: No obvious abuse is happening
You feel calm and connected with your partner. Everything is going smoothly, no abuse is taking place, (or it’s reduced or less obvious) but is still likely occurring. You’re coping with daily life, work and parenting responsibilities and feel like things are going overall pretty well.
Tension: Buildup (Pressure Cooker) phase
Your partner starts to become irritable, edgy, easily frustrated and critical. You try to engage him in discussion to let him know how he’s treating you or how you feel. You are told it’s nothing, you’re imagining things, that he’s ‘fine’, and to just leave him alone. You feel on edge, like you have to tip toe around, acting perfect, making sure everything is in place so he has nothing to be upset about, anxiety levels rise, and you become hypervigilant. You also might notice racing thoughts and rumination about his behaviour, and if it’s your fault he’s in a bad mood.
Incident: Abuse is taking place.
Something happens that causes a rupture. Abuse escalates, your partner is caught in a lie, or you reach your boiling point and draw the line. You may be given silent treatment during this phase, or be made to feel it’s all your fault. You may blow up and emotionally react, then be made to feel like the crazy unhinged one. You will experience gaslighting, projecting, stonewalling, blame shifting, crazymaking behaviours and find yourself feeling confused and foggy.
Distance: You are left feeling confused and unsure about what has transpired.
There is a separation of some kind, you’re not talking, you sleep in a different room or feel completely shut down toward your partner. You may be seeing the stonewalling and silent treatment continue in this phase. You consider leaving and how you will get away from your partner. You feel depressed, exasperated and exhausted.
After this cycle is complete it starts up again and moves into hoovering/ love bombing to get you hooked back in the cycle.
Having an awareness of the cycle is your first step to creating change.
Tip: Print out this blog post and keep it tucked in your journal. Keep an evidence journal of the cycle, specific behaviours and how you feel during the phases to look back on to see the pattern more clearly.
End the Cycle is my group coaching program for women who are in an emotionally abusive relationship, who want to break free emotionally from the cycle and patterns to find more clarity and inner peace, and make the decisions that are right for them regarding the relationship. It is about coming back to YOU, getting clarity, setting boundaries for yourself and creating a plan of action.
Get on the waitlist for the next round of ETC by clicking the button below.