Home Relationships The 4 cycles of toxic relationships

The 4 cycles of toxic relationships


As an adult, I am sure you have come across this phrase – toxic relationship – being thrown around in regards to the many crimes of passion being reported.

Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert who says she coined the term in her 1995 book Toxic People, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

So, what exactly is a toxic relationship?  This is a relationship that is emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially draining to the victim.

A toxic relationship usually has 4 stages that are unique to each person but follow the same pattern.

4 cycles of abuse

  1. A buildup of tension

This is the stage where the victim feels like they are walking on eggshells.

The victim notices that the explosion is about to come so he/she does everything to stop the major confrontation. Victims may begin to act as normal and good as the abuser.

Fear creeps in on the victim as others choose to give some physical space. The abused is getting careful not to get angry or show any signs of anger. Breakdown of communication follows.

Read more: It is the right time to quit your relationship and move on

2. Acting out

This is when the explosive confrontation comes out. Acting out is unique to every person and is fully dependent on the toxic habits the partner has.

In simple terms, these are things that happen with your relationship that lead to disagreements.

Toxic signs such as physical violence, verbal abuses, threats, intimidation, disrespect, lack of/toxic communication, silent treatment, cheating, etc. may lead the abuser to act out.

3. Reconciliation

The abuser first gets remorseful; then shifts the blame on their actions. The abusers may present arguments such as If you didn’t upset me, I would not have hit you’.

The abusers choose not to see any wrong in their actions when in fact, we as adults, are fully responsible for our actions.

Read more: Marriage: Dealing with reduced libido after getting the first child

The apologies come with all forms of false and empty promises. They have various ways of asking for forgiveness such as the use of gifts, sex, others may even go a step further and ask for your hand in marriage.

Others promise to work on their anger. Abusers are so toxic that they make the victim apologize for the violence they have received.

4. The state of calm

The stage where everything is back to normal, at least for dome days. The ‘normal’ here is the period before the explosion and not a healthy moment.

In most cases this phase of arguing, yelling, fighting, and name-calling somehow brings people closer. Some of them even develop good desirable qualities, but they do not last long.

Read more: Reality: How men deal with heartbreak

Abusive relationships are toxic and harmful to the physical, mental, and overall well-being of a person.

Being aware of the dynamics in your relationships can help identify if and when the toxic habits creep in.

Toxic behaviors are a pattern; the choice is yours whether to continue dealing with toxicity or leave.

Loving someone does not equate to a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships need intentional commitment for both parties.