I learned about The Cycle (not to be confused with the Wheel of Pain) volunteering on the Distress Line. We mostly use it to let people in domestic violence relationships see the pattern in what's happening, but I think it applies to any unhealthy patterns in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. Sometimes it even occurs in a relationship with oneself (I'm thinking specifically of trying to break an addiction here, but there are probably other examples)
There are three phases to the Cycle.
Everything is fine. The relationship is great. Better than great, maybe. I can't believe I thought we had problems. They seem so distant now.
There might not be something overtly wrong, but you can feel a change in the relationship. It's a tension you feel in your body, even if you aren't sure where it's coming from. Many veteran abusees hate this part. Sometimes they may even provoke a fight just to get it over with and move on to the...
This is where the fight, abuse, etc. happens. It may or may not be physical, but it sucks. After the explosion, there is the making up, apologizing, and promising it will never happen again. Occasionally, the abusee may feel like the explosion was his/her fault. "He/She wouldn't have X, if I hadn't Y." The abuser may apologize, but may also encourage this line of thinking.
That takes you back to the Good Times stage and the cycle begins anew. Second verse, same as the first.
There are four things worth noting about the cycle.
1 - The Cycle tends to contract and tighten over time. The amount of time it takes to go through the cycle becomes shorter and shorter.
2 - The level of abuse tends to intensify and get worse and worse.
3 - If that isn't bad enough, the good times stage gets shorter and may even disappear completely so you end up oscillating back and forth between the tension and the explosion.
4 - The cycle won't change by itself. Something needs to change in the relationship.(It has to end, one or both parties need to seek help, etc). Usually that means the people involved have to make a commitment to change and stick to it.
If you ARE in a violent or abusive relationship, I strongly encourage you to get out or at least start thinking about boundaries--ie: What would have to happen for you to decide to leave? If you aren' ready to go yet, that's normal. Sometimes it takes a few tries. Take steps to keep yourself safe and (since I don't know where you are when you're reading this) use Google or local community agencies to find resources to help you.
-May All Beings Be Safe
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