Inside Hubbard House

The Cycle of Abuse

In violent and unhealthy relationships there is a cycle of recurring patterns or phases of abuse. Abusive relationships consist of three stages, the tension building stage, the explosion stage, and the remorse/honeymoon stage. The length of each stage varies between couples, and not all abusive relationships fall under these three categories.

The tension building stage begins when the abuser becomes increasingly controlling.  It can take days, weeks, or even years for this stage to evolve and progress.  Most of the time the tension-building stage does not happen until a couple has known each other for a long period of time, after the couple moves in together or gets married. The victim frequently feels like he or she is “walking on eggshells,” and tends to accommodate the abuser in order to keep peace or please the abuser. The tension and control increase, cultivating into the abuse stage.

The explosion stage is a major verbally, emotionally or physically abusive incident that is instigated by the abuser. After a long tension-building stage, a certain event is usually the trigger of the explosion stage. This is the shortest stage, but often increases in severity each time through the cycle. During this time, it is not safe for the victim to fight back or retaliate; the victim can only wait it out. Victims often deny or minimize the seriousness of the injuries to the abuser to soothe them or avoid further abuse.

The last stage is the remorse/honeymoon phase. The abuser has calmed down and is very apologetic about his or her behavior. They promise they will never do it again and convince themselves and the victim they are serious this time about changing. The abuser is often very loving and kind, even promising to get help. This stage can very confusing and emotional for victims because they are seeing the caring and loving side of the partner they originally fell in love with. The abuser may blame him or herself for the explosion and gives hope to the victim that this is the last time.

Eventually, the explosion stage will increase in frequency, while the honeymoon stage will happen less often and during shorter episodes. Some abusers may repeat the cycle every day, while other abusers will repeat the cycle a few times a year.

It is important to understand that any type of abuse is unacceptable. Hubbard House, the domestic violence center serving Duval and Baker counties, wants people to know there are services available to help a victim break the cycle of abuse. Hubbard House provides emergency shelter, extensive adult and youth outreach services, individual and group counseling, therapeutic child care, court advocacy and more to victims of domestic violence free of charge.

Everyone deserves a violence-free life.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119.


Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,200 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit to learn more.

By Vicky Krook