Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
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Cycle of Relationship Violence

The Cycle of Relationship Violence* shows how domestic violence often becomes a pattern made up of three stages. It also depicts how love (for your partner), hope (that the relationship will get better) and fear (of retaliation for ending the relationship) keep the cycle in a motion and make it hard to end a violent relationship.

*The Cycle of Violence concept comes from Walker, L. (1979). "The Battered Women", New York: Harper & Row.

Stage One: Tension Building

Rather than using mutual communication, negotiation or compromise to solve problems, violent individuals tend to rely on the use of force or coercion to get what they want.  Typically, violence occurs after a build-up of tension in the relationship about issues, which are not directly discussed or resolved.

During this period, tension mounts, communication decreases, and both partners may feel tense, edgy and jumpy.  Arguments and criticism tend to increase during this period.

Stage Two: Violence

After this build-up, physical violence may erupt over seemingly insignificant issues.  Tension seems to be released and often the relationship seems to improve.

Stage Three: Seduction

Perpetrators of violence often apologize, make promises to change and pay special attention to their partners immediately following a violent incident.  This period is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon period" because of the positive resulting from the release of tension and the hope that things will change for the better.

This kind of spontaneous change rarely occurs, however, because the underlying pattern of control and lack of communication and compromise has not changed.

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