The Cycle of Abuse and How to Leave

Eleven years ago I was married to an abuser. Before I met him I had very high self-esteem (maybe even a little too high), was happy in my career, and pretty much worked and got whatever I wanted. Life was good. After I married Justin, he started showing signs of anger in his expressions. That progressed to hitting things, breaking things, and throwing things. The message an abuser is making with this action is “I can do that to you”. This is a tactic to make you scared and fearful of him. The abuse then progressed to physical, mental, financial, and emotional abuse. Abuse is a progression. Violent behavior starts out small and each time the level of intensity increases as the abuser has to get a "higher high" similar to a drug addict.

Never in my life had I met anyone with anger problems like this or as mean and heartless as Justin was. Never was I exposed to this type of behavior in my life. I was never around anyone who would lie and steal like he did either. This guy, after marriage, used my social security number to get credit cards with $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 limits without my knowledge. He maxed them out in the first month, got home before I did and hid the mail when the bills started coming in. It wasn’t until months later when the creditors started calling that I figured out what had happened. He told me everything he purchased with given to him from his rich father. His mom would even lie to me to cover his story. I went to the police to file charges and they wouldn’t do anything because we were married (this part about being married, most people don't know).

I thought this kind of thing was just something that happened on TV and in the movies. I remember watching a talk show one day and the guest was a victim of domestic violence. I couldn’t believe she was sitting there saying how much she loved him and how she couldn’t leave him. I thought this girl was just nuts. When she said she loved him I asked myself how? How can you love someone who beats on you, I thought. I asked myself why doesn’t she just leave this dude. That, my friend, was my ignorance and my lack of knowledge about being a victim of domestic violence, also called abuse.

The Cycle of Abuse

What is the cycle of Abuse?

First everything is going along just fine.

The next stage in the cycle is the Tension Building stage. This is where the abuser starts showing his/her anger, yells, swears, and criticizes everything. Nothing you can do is good enough. Didn’t matter if it was good enough last week, it may not be good enough this week. This is where the abused walks on egg shells, tries do to everything possible to make the abuser satisfied and nothing works.

The next stage is the Explosion stage. This is when the threats start. This is where there is a look in the abuser’s eyes like you’ve never seen. A look of rage. A glassy stare. Some might even say devilish. This is where is abuser explodes with acts of violence and rage towards his/her spouse.

The next stage is the Honeymoon stage. Yep, that’s right, the honeymoon stage. This is when the abuser apologizes, says he/she will never do it again, makes promises, and brings gifts. This is where Justin would become the world’s greatest romantic. This is where the abused falls back in love with the abuser.
Then everything is back to the beginning, going along just fine and this is where the cycle of abuse starts all over again.

Why can’t you just leave?

Most abused individuals are humiliated because of what their life has become. They are ashamed this has happen . They live in terrible fear because of the threats the abuser has made. In my case, Justin told me that if I ever tried to leave him he would kill my youngest child and my dear father and I believed him. I actually believed he was capable of doing just that. That’s one reason it’s difficult for a victim of domestic violence to leave. They don’t leave because of fatal threats, pure fear, and the low self-esteem they now have from all of the verbal and emotional abuse.

How to leave:

Leaving an abusive relationship is difficult and very dangerous. Leaving an abuser will trigger a rage of violence. Leaving an abuser takes time and careful planning (seek a victim's advocate). You’ll need someone to help you, someone you can trust not to tell the abuser. Ask them to be patient with you and to work with you as you follow the escape plan. Slowly gather items you will need once you’re on your own and ask your friend to keep the items for you. Do not take things that will be noticed once removed. You’ll need to plan your next place to live or where you're going to go. This must be in place before you leave. Maybe this is with a friend, family member, shelter, or a new place you’ve secured yourself.

You’ll want to seek help from a victims advocate. Your local courts can help you with this connection. The victims advocate will assist you getting back on your own feet.

Sounds simple right? Let me share more of my story with you. After Justin and I divorced (which took a lot of planning to get him to agree with the divorce) he moved back home with his family in a different state. After a few months (I really don’t remember how long it was) Justin returned where I lived and tried to suffocate me. Once I was lifeless he let go and I was able to breathe again. At this point he realized what he had done and knew I’d call the police. He then had to think of a plan so he wouldn’t go to jail. He told me how he was going to snap my neck and throw me in a lake. I was able to do some major acting and get him to believe me that if he just let me go he could walk free. I was so convincing that he finally did leave. When I knew the coast was clear I went immediately to the police. Before driving there I drove around to make sure he wasn’t following me. I told the police where he was staying and they went and arrested him.

Realize and understand the abuse was not your fault. You’ve been told it was your fault and that’s not true, do don’t accept that blame. You might find comfort in learning about your abusers personality disorder so you can accept the things he did was not your fault. You may research Sociopath and Narcissistic personalities. You’ll also want to get yourself into therapy or counseling to rebuild your self-esteem. Your local courts can connect you with community support groups and I highly recommend these once a week.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship and need help you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY). If you would like to reach out to me for more help please email me at Rhonda@RhondaNeely.

Author's Bio: 

Rhonda Neely, author and creator of Your Christian Marriage Restoration Station, is a Certified Christian Life Coach specializing in marriage and family coaching based on Christian values. She has helped many families successfully restore their marriage or other types of relationships. As a Life Coach, Rhonda provides an ongoing partnership with her clients, designed to help them produce fulfilling results in their personal life. Rhonda helps people improve their own performance with forward movement action steps to enhance the skills that the client already has. Rhonda received her certification through PCCCA (Professional Christian Coaching and Counseling Academy) and has continued her education through Coaching4Clergy. Sign up to receive her daily blog posts at her website at