Exposing The  Cycle of Abuse in Toxic Relationships

Can you spot the cycle of abuse in toxic relationships?

What would you do if you did?

How many toxic cycles would you tolerate before you took action?

Readers of the Relationship Breakthrough Coach will recognise that having awareness of a problem is the first step towards finding the solution. In fact, a problem well stated and fully expressed is well on the way to being resolved. We are about to expose a toxic relationship pattern known as the cycle of abuse. 

Turn your toxic relationship into a breakthrough and break the cycle. 

Here is how we expose toxic abusive behaviour:

  • An introduction to toxic relationship patterns 
  • Three essential roles in a toxic relationship for a cycle of abuse to manifest
  • The role of anger in the cycle of abuse
  • Isn't the cycle of abuse just a form of betrayal?
  • The six performances of the cycle of abuse 
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 1 the abuse in full flow
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 2 reflection and guilt
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 3 Excuse the inexcusable
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 4 a brief respite
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 5 Fantasy and planning
  • Cycle of Abuse: Act 6 The set up
  • Completing the cycle of abuse
  • Breaking the cycle of abuse

An introduction to toxic relationship patterns 

Patterns of abuse occur in toxic relationships when both parties repeatedly step into the respective roles. Ego rules the roost by confusing and manipulating the fundamental human needs. The ultimate goal of being in a loving relationship is completely distorted. 


The simple truth is that if the roles are not created in the relationship then the toxic cycle of abuse cannot continue. I say simple, but that does not imply simplicity. Anyone who has experienced fear, isolation, controlling behaviour, or physical assault from an abusive partner will be familiar with the excruciating emotions that go with it. Uncertainty in abundance, lack of contribution, lack of self worth, loss of connections, and so on. 

Make sure to read about the fundamental six human needs so you can recognise and understand if your partner is meeting yours, and you are meeting your partners.

The most often misunderstood concept of toxic relationship abuse is that the victim of abuse should simply leave. Split the couple up, give them some space and they can get their lives back on track. But in reality it is never that simple. Love, need, craving, feelings of fear of being away from the perpetrators even can all muddy the waters of healing.

I created the Emotions Master Class For Men as an online study of emotions. You can learn how to enrich your relationships by improving emotional self awareness. I highly recommend taking a look over this online course to raise your awareness of your emotional state to recognise that emotions are an essential ingredient in toxic relationships. Once you recognise how the cycle of abuse is a manipulation of your emotional state you will lift the veil and see beyond its confines. 

Three essential roles in a toxic relationship for a cycle of abuse to manifest

Leading role: The Victim of Abuse

This is our hero. The star role. The hero always goes on a journey meeting with adversity beyond imagination, before they win the day. Thats the misleading and manipulative Hollywood interpretation anyway.

The victim of abuse is potentially facing life or death dilemma's on a regular basis but doesn't even realise it until it is too late. And it isn't only women who suffer. According to UK Office of National Statistics around 26% of domestic abuse crimes recorded by the police were committed against men. Roughly 155,000 offences per year. 

Around 11% of male victims (against 7.2% women victims of abuse) have considered taking their life. Over a five year period between 2015-2020 on average 12 men per year had been killed by a partner or ex-partner (74 women per year). 

Source: Mankind 

Supporting role: The Perpetrator

The Perpetrator is the evil threat that lurks in the shadows. Nothing heroic about being an abuser. Think of Hannibal Lector. Smart, intelligent, sophisticated, and completely psychotic. You would definitely want to be the one doing the cooking in that house. You'd need to know what you are eating.

Whilst the majority of perpetrators of abuse in toxic relationships are men, against women, the statistics reveal that where men play the role of victim, the perpetrators are overwhelmingly played by a female.  

Introducing: The Rescuer

The rescuer is a kind of anti-hero. The rescuer see's the adversity and wants to stop the victim taking that path. The rescuer wants the perpetrator to recognise the damage they are causing. And the rescuer doesn't even have to be a third person. It can simply be a disguise worn by either the victim, or the perpetrator.

In the cycle of abuse the perpetrator can and often does become the "rescuer" which will manifest as a change in personality. Only the change is never permanent.

The trouble with trying to resolve toxic relationship abuse is that the roles are not exclusive to one or other of the parties. Each party can take on any of the roles depending on the prevailing circumstances.

The role of anger in the cycle of abuse

You might be forgiven for thinking anger is the root cause of toxic relationship abuse. In cases of domestic violence, anger can be seen as a cause of all the problems and is therefore to be avoided at all costs. Anger can and does lead to violent outbursts but when you look at how anger stirs in the body it appears to be closely associated with passion and excitement. 

Violently eruptive anger is a surface presentation, or a symptom of a deeper rooted problem. To conclude that anger in and of itself is the cause of toxic relationship abuse isn't a well stated problem. Think of an ice-burg. Only the tip shows on the surface doesn't it?

When it comes to the cycle of abuse, uncontrolled anger is only the outward manifestation in act one. You have to find ways to release the emotional bonds created by anger, before they overwhelm. Uncontrolled anger can be totally destructive.

I use NLP tools with hypnosis and coaching which enables people to recognise the signals in the body before the eruption occurs and resolve it. Authentic anger can be useful so expressing anger in a safe environment can also be useful. Depending on the clients history working with timelines can also create profound shifts that release hidden emotional trauma's. (find out more about one to one life coaching by clicking here)

Isn't the cycle of abuse just a form of betrayal?

Betrayal is a significant element within the cycle of abuse. The illusion of deeply loving connection and commitment, interspersed with explosive anger, shame and hurtful psychological abuse. Confusion reigns with doubt and the illusion that it won't happen again. The betrayal bond becomes the trap which is repeated over and over again. 

In toxic relationship abuse the power of positive thinking becomes like a veil. If the focus is on the toxic behaviour the power of awareness not positivity is what will lead to a relationship breakthrough. Seeing only good in an abuser is just as much a self betrayal as the abuse dealt by the abuser. Exposing the  behaviours that create a cycle of abuse is the first key to breaking the cycle.  

Follow this link to dive deeper and discover how betrayal plays an important role in toxic relationships, relationship breakdown. (COMING SOON) 

The six acts of the cycle of abuse in toxic relationships

Lights Camera Action!

Cycle of Abuse: Act 1 the abuse in full flow

In Act 1 you have the actual abuse. Dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, blackmail, violence, sexual violence. You can probably name quite a few specific acts that would be within the scope of domestic violence and toxic relationship abuse. Abuse is often a power play, just to let the victim know who's boss. 

Cycle of Abuse: Act 2 reflection and guilt

After the abusive behaviour has been expressed you may notice a period of reflection which leads to guilt. Guilt is a powerful emotion that carries with it destructive behaviours. Is it the shame of leaving a bruise on your body, and having harmed you, or is it fear of being labelled as an abuser? There will be apologies, expression's of shame on themselves and love for the victim. 

The true purpose of guilt is to minimise the emotional impact on the abuser. Guilt shows the abuser that they do have a conscience. When the abuser feels guilty, it lowers the impressions of being a bad person, after all to not feel guilty, in these cases, may be a sign of psychopathy. 

 Guilt and forgiveness become the rescuers. So the toxic relationship goes on.

Cycle of Abuse: Act 3 Excuse the inexcusable 

Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. Not just outwardly either. Internally the abuser will rationalise the behaviour. They might blame their abusive and violent behaviour on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. The abusive perpetrator may minimise the abuse or even deny that it occurred. 

He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to the victim. Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behaviour is their fault. There is also a high incidence of drug abuse and alcohol abuse seen in these toxic relationships. 

Cycle of Abuse: Act 4 a brief respite

The relief of normality reigns once again. What do you consider normal behaviour? To the victim of abuse it might be a move from violent physical aggression to a mere emotional blackmail. Things settle down, even become enjoyable again. The abuser is careful, caring, charismatic and charming. 

The perpetrator does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. It may even feel like the abuse is behind the victim now. Whilst this may look like a relationship breakthrough, there is no saying how long this act of the cycle of abuse will last. Days, weeks, months. Who knows?

Cycle of Abuse: Act 5 Fantasy and planning

If you recognise acts one to four of the cycle of abuse you are in very dangerous territory. You must already know this. You have lived it breathed it and tolerated it before so you know what comes next. 

As you enter act 5 of the cycle of abuse the perpetrator may begin to fantasize about abusing again. They can spend a lot of time thinking about what they can use against the victim, for example what you’ve done wrong and how they'll make you pay. A pressure cooker comes back to the boil.

Then it is just a matter of time before the right circumstances occur for the fantasy to be played out. In some cases the perpetrator may even plan turning the fantasy into reality.

Cycle of Abuse: Act 6 The set up

The perpetrator has strict rules. All they have to do to set up the realisation of the cycle of abuse is allow the victim to break them. Since the victim can't be aware of the rules they have no idea they will break them. The abuser sets you up and puts the plan in motion, creating a situation where they can internally justify unleashing their wrath upon you once again. 

For example. The perpetrator asks for the victim to collect some goods from the shops. The victim thinks this an opportunity to makes things better and willingly accepts the task. Alternatively, the victim does not want to oppose the abuser so complies with the request. The victim takes time to get the request "just right" but misses the one vital piece. They get home five minutes late. Tick tock, tick tock.

Completing the cycle of abuse 

The cycle of abuse now begins again. If you let it. If you ask for help there may be a way out. There may even be a relationship breakthrough as you break up a toxic relationship.

If you are in any danger, you must call the police

The Relationship Breakthrough Coach does not offer emergency support for victims of domestic violence. Always contact your local police if you think you or your family is in danger. 

UK - National Domestic Violence Help Line

Access Domestic Violence help and advice here in the UK:

0808 2000 247

Breaking the cycle of abuse

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