The 4 Hidden Stages Of Abuse In Relationships

 / 

, , , ,
Love And Lies : The 4 Stages Of Abuse In Relationships

Did you know that abuse in relationships occurs in stages? It never starts right off the bat. It always starts slow and just when the victim is hooked with the bait of love bombing, romance quickly turns to toxicity. Understanding the stages of abuse in relationships can help us identify it and walk away before it escalates.

Abuse is often disguised as love 

Abusive people can be really funny at times though. One moment they will tell you how much they love you and need you, and the very next moment they will break all your confidence by humiliating you, criticizing you and controlling you.

Sadly, sometimes people who claim to love and care for us are the ones who are most abusive towards us. This can be very confusing as the abuser may say things like –

“I’m doing this because I love you” 

“I’m just trying to protect you.”  

But, this is not what love is like. True love is unconditional. It is built with understanding, respect and kindness. A person who loves you will never hurt you intentionally. An abusive person, however, will manipulate and dominate you for their own personal gain regardless of how much that may hurt you. 

Relationship abuse is a serious problem that affects millions of people around the world. It is not limited to physical violence, and can also take the form of emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. 

what are the stages of abuse
Understanding the hidden stages of abuse in a relationship

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to ending relationship abuse, it is important that we as a society recognize the signs and take action to prevent it from happening in the first place.

One of the most critical steps we can take is to educate ourselves and others about what abuse actually looks like and how it develops in stages. The better we can identify the signs and patterns of controlling behavior, the more we will be able to protect ourselves and escape the clutches of the abuser. 

Related: 7 Stages Of An Emotional Abuser’s Trap

4 Stages of abuse in relationships

Abusers typically follow a predictable pattern of behavior as they gain more control over their victims. There are several distinct stages that abusers will progress through to normalize abusive behavior and ensure their victim stays under their power.

So what are the stages of abuse? Let’s have a look at the four stages of abuse in relationships –

Stage 1: Idealization 

This is the honeymoon phase at the start of an abusive relationship. During this stage, the abuser lavishes the victim with praise, gifts, compliments and grand promises for a perfect future together.

When a potential abuser first meets a victim, they make the victim feel special and beloved to gain their trust. At this stage, the victim feels they have met their “Prince Charming” or “soulmate.”

The abuser presents an idealized version of themselves that slowly fades away once abuse starts. The victim may overlook some concerning behavior over their excitement about the relationship.

Subtle control starts emerging through the abuser’s jealousy or disapproval of friendships and hobbies. This is one of the most subtle stages of abuse in a relationship.

Stage 2: Verbal abuse 

Once the abuser feels the victim is sufficiently invested in the relationship, the abuse begins. This often starts with subtle verbal jabs, and eventually criticism, put-downs, name calling and insults become frequent.

Every flaw, mistake or disappointment spurns an abusive tirade from the abuser. They blame and degrade the victim relentlessly. 

The abuser may pick at the victim’s appearance, abilities, or personality to slowly chip away at their self-esteem. Gaslighting emerges to make the victim question their own memory and perception of events.

The abuse escalates over time as the abuser tests boundaries and sees how much they can get away with. Verbal abuse lays the groundwork for more severe coercion and control.

Stage 3: Isolation 

As verbal abuse intensifies, isolation begins. Contact with outside support networks is cut off one by one. The abuser will isolate the victim from friends and family who could offer support.

They may forbid contact with certain people, monitor phone calls and texts, limit outings, or find other ways to cut the victim off from independent relationships. 

what are the stages of abuse
Knowing  the stages of abuse can help us heal.

Isolation reduces outside influence and prevents the victim from seeing alternative perspectives. Isolation also allows the abuser to gain full control over the victim without outside interference.

Related: 12 Signs You Are Being Emotionally Abused

Stage 4: Physical abuse 

Once the victim is isolated and sufficiently broken down, physical violence emerges. Typically beginning with hits, slaps, shoves, choking, beating or other assaults. Physical abuse is not just about violence but asserting power and domination over the victim. Any injuries are denied or blamed on the victim. 

As physical violence becomes more frequent, the abuser gains confidence in their ability to exert power over the victim. By this point, the abuse has cycled through idealization, abuse, and increased control for so long that the victim feels completely trapped and helpless. 

While most abusive relationships involve these four stages of abuse in relationships, some abusers may progress to severe beatings and torture leading to the rare and additional stage of sadism to achieve total control.

The final stage: Sadism 

Some abusers may derive pleasure from inflicting pain and suffering on their victim. This can include severe beatings, torture, forced acts, mutilation, etc. They may attack the victim with dangerous objects, assault them for long periods of time, or force them to endure humiliating and degrading acts.

The sadist abuser derives thrill from total control and domination over the victim, using them merely as an object for abuse. 

Most abusers typically do not progress to this sadistic stage, but for those that do, it represents a point of no return in terms of the psychological and physical harm done to the victim. It represents a total loss of humanity in the abuser.

Not all abusive relationships progress through each of these four stages, but they represent a grim cycle of control, coercion and trauma. While these are the common stages of abuse in relationships, the cycle of abuse may involve a variation of these stages. 

Related: The Narcissist’s Cycle Of Abuse

Stages in the cycle of abuse

A cycle of abuse refers to a repeating pattern of violence and abuse that occurs in abusive relationships. It typically involves the following four stages:

Stage 1: Tension building

The first stage of relationship abuse is characterized by a buildup of tension between the partners. This is the period of relative calm between abusive incidents where tension builds up and minor abuse like verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or manipulation occurs. 

In the tension-building phase, the abuser becomes increasingly irritable, critical, moody, easily angered and controlling. They may use verbal or emotional abuse to assert their power and control over their partner. 

The victim may try to keep the peace by avoiding conflict, being overly accommodating, or walking on eggshells around the abuser. During this stage, the victim may feel anxious, scared, or on edge, but may not recognize the behavior as abusive. Tension builds up as the next abusive incident looms.

what are the stages of abuse
The cycle and stages of abuse in relationships.

Stage 2: Explosive incident

This is the crisis period where a major abusive incident occurs like physical violence, sexual assault, or severe intimidation. The tension reaches a breaking point and the abuser may physically, emotionally, or sexually assault their partner. The incident may be triggered by a minor disagreement, a perceived slight, or a stressful event. 

The abuser may lose control and lash out violently. This may include hitting, choking, or otherwise physically harming them. The victim may feel shocked, traumatized, or physically injured as a result of the incident. Severity tends to increase over cycles.

Related: How A Narcissist Plays You And How Their Cycle Of Abuse Works

Stage 3: Reconciliation 

After the explosive incident, the abuser may feel remorse and apologize to their partner, entering the honeymoon phase once again. During this phase, the abuser may be loving, attentive, and may promise to change their behavior.

They will make grand promises and gestures to win the victim back. They will also profess deep love and remorse, giving hope to the victim that the relationship can go back to normal.

The victim may feel relieved that the abuse has stopped and may believe that the abuser is sincere in their desire to change. The abuser may try to make up for their behavior by buying gifts, doing chores, or being overly affectionate. However, this stage is often short-lived, and the abuse may start again soon after.  

Stage 4: Calm

The final stages of abuse in relationships is the calm phase, which is a temporary period of no abuse. During this stage, the tension between the partners dissipates, and the relationship may seem to return to normal. 

The victim feels that things have really changed this time. But eventually the tension starts building again and the cycle of violence begins again with the tension-building stage. The victim may feel confused, trapped, or helpless, and may struggle to leave the abusive relationship.

Escaping the cycle 

what are the stages of abuse
Learn to heal from the four stages of abuse.

Relationship abuse is a complex and insidious problem that affects many people. Unfortunately, escaping an abusive relationship is extremely difficult. But with enough drive, support, and help, many victims are able to free themselves from the grip of control and abuse. 

Recognizing the stages of abuse, especially early on, is important. Gaining outside perspectives, planning for escape, using resources, building support networks, and knowing there are alternatives to staying in a dangerous relationship can give victims the strength and means to leave abuse behind for good.

While breaking the cycle of abuse is hard, a life without abuse is always the better choice.

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse, there are resources available for help, including hotlines, counseling services, and legal assistance. Remember, no one deserves to be abused, and there is always hope for a better future.

Related: 6 Stages Of Recovering From A Toxic Relationship


what are the stages of abuse
stages of abuse in a relationship

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

Top 6 Most Notorious Serial Killers In History and Their Psychology Unleashed

Top Most Notorious Serial Killers In History

Some of the most horrifying and notorious murder cases in criminal history are those in which the most notorious serial killers caused irreversible harm to society by their horrific deeds. Motivated by an intricate network of psychological, social, and frequently pathological elements, these infamous persons have perpetrated atrocities that persistently enthral and appal the public.

Every instance sheds light on the dark psychology of serial killers, from Ed Gein’s horrific acts to Ted Bundy’s deliberate and planned killings. Investigating these sinister tales reveals not only the specifics of their heinous deeds but also the patterns and reasons behind them, providing insights into one of the most ghastly aspects of human nature.

6 Most Notorious Serial Killers In History



Up Next

The Role of Childhood Trauma in Serial Killers: A Deep Dive Into 5 Serial Killers and Their Upbringing

Role of Childhood Trauma in Serial Killers: Case Examples

The public’s fascination with the mystery surrounding serial killers has long sparked conjecture regarding the motivations behind people’s horrific behavior. The role of childhood trauma in serial killers has received a lot of attention, despite the fact that the reasons underlying their actions are complex.

In this blog, we explore the childhood experiences in serial killers to gain insight into their terrifying world. We aim to uncover the intricate relationship between pathology and upbringing by delving into the trauma in serial killers and unfavorable conditions that shaped these individuals’ early years.

This will illuminate the shadowy pasts of some of the most infamous murderers in history. Come along with us as we venture into the darkest recesses of the human brain, where the roots of violence are planted.



Up Next

Man vs Bear Debate: What is the Right Choice for Women?

Man vs Bear Debate: Is It Safe To Choose a Bear Over Man?

Even though Leonardo Di Caprio has proven that men can beat a bear in strength and intelligence, let’s not get carried away and remember that a bear can be more powerful than men. You can guess that we are here to discuss why women chose bear in the man vs bear debate.

The real question is, what threatens women more? Getting mauled by a bear and meeting a horrific death or getting violated by a man??

Women are inclined to the second option in the viral Man vs Bear debate.



Up Next

Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse? 8 Ways Narcissists Can Muddle Your Brain

Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse? Reasons Why It Happens

Have you ever heard of the term “brain fog”? Brain fog is like a maddening haze that seems to muddle your thoughts, makes you forget what you were saying, and has you searching for your clothes in the trash bin? Well, today we are going to talk about a specific sort of brain fog – brain fog after narcissistic abuse.

Imagine that you have just escaped from a toxic and abusive relationship with a narcissist. You are slowly picking up the pieces and trying to get your life back in order, but somehow you feel like your head is not in the right place. Everything still feels very odd and you still feel very lost.

Even though you are free from the clutches of your narcissistic ex, this bizarre mental fog just won’t lift. Let’s explore how narcissists cause brain fog, and the link between brain fog and narcissistic abuse.



Up Next

Toxic Bosses Unmasked: 20 Warning Signs to Watch For

Toxic Bosses Unmasked: Warning Signs to Watch For

Having a toxic boss can really take a toll on you mentally, and toxic bosses are seriously so horrible. This article is going to help you understand the traits of a toxic boss so that you know which behaviors are not normal and ethical. Read on to know more about the signs of a toxic boss or toxic bosses.

We hear about toxic bosses all the time, but how do you know when a boss is “toxic”? “Toxic” is, of course, a vague descriptor. Are bosses toxic when they throw fits and scream, or only when they break the law?

Or are they toxic when they are immoral or unethical? Are they toxic if they’re nice one day and nasty the next, or just when they make you uncomfortable, nervous, or sick? These are valid questions because these individuals are easy to identify when their behaviors are outrageous; but perhaps less so when their behavior



Up Next

How To Know If Your Mother Hates You: 8 Not-So-Subtle Signs

How To Know If Your Mother Hates You: Not-So-Subtle Signs

Have you ever found yourself wondering if your mother harbors some deep-seated resentment, or even hatred towards you? If you have, then I know that it’s a really tough pill to swallow. How can your mother hate you, and most importantly, how to know if your mother hates you?

Today, we’re diving straight into the realm of family dynamics, exploring the question “why does my mother hate me?”. We will try to understand the signs that give away her true feelings for you, and which may indicate if your mother’s love has taken a dark turn.

Let’s uncover 8 revealing clues that might just help you make sense of the complicated bond you share with your mom. Explore how to know if your mother hates you.



Up Next

How to Recognize and Counter Emotional Blackmail: 8 Techniques and 7 Signs

What Is Emotional Blackmail? Telltale Signs Revealed

Picture this: You’re sitting across from a friend, engrossed in conversation, when suddenly you feel the atmosphere change. Their tone becomes harsh, their eyes seem accusatory, and it feels like you’re trapped in an emotional minefield. Now, that’s what is emotional blackmail.

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, whether it’s a toxic relationship, a manipulative friend, or even within our own families. But what is emotional blackmail exactly, and how to deal with emotional blackmail?

In this article, we are going to take a look into the world of emotional blackmail and try to understand each and every nuance. We will talk about the signs of emotional blackmail, the types of emotional blackmail and how to deal with emotional blackmail.

So, are you ready to do this?