Unhealthy Relationships

An unhealthy relationship is characterized by a cycle of abuse. The abuser uses disrespect, fear, jealousy and possessiveness to create an imbalance of power. This is abuse.

Mental health professionals increasingly recognize that many factors contribute to violence beyond a need to dominate, including stress from a variety of sources, substance abuse, childhood attachment deficits, a history of trauma, lack of emotional control, and brain injuries. But none of these excuse the abuse of another.

The cycle of abuse is difficult to break once in motion. so it is vital we learn to recognize unhealthy relationships, and to do something to interrupt the cycle before it gets worse. Mouse over the circles containing the words “fear,” “control,” and “power” to see how each contributes to the cycle of abuse.These elements keep the cycle of violence in motion: fear, power, control. Fear Control: The abuser slowly takes control by intimidation and makes the victim feel isolated. In some cases, the abuse makes the victim feel that he/she 'deserves' the abuse. Power: The victim can become dependent on the abuser if he/she feels cut off from friends adn family. This gives the abuser more power. Look for cycles of abuse and violence to include these elements:

Tension: Criticism, yelling, swearing, angry gestures, coercion, or threats.

Violence: Physical and sexual attacks, or threats.

Seduction: Apologies, promises to change, or gifts

These are some of the elements that keep the cycle in motion:

Love for the abuser: Believing that the relationship is not entirely bad

Hope: Thinking things will change or it’s just a phase

Fear: Worrying that threats will become a reality

(Adapted from Dr. Lenore Walker's "Cycle of Violence")



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