Content note: This post contains graphic descriptions of emotional abuse and mentions physical abuse. Proceed with caution.
Often people describe abuse as occurring primarily in cycles (including specifically with the pronouns this way):
- He is effusively loving
- Then, he resents her being a separate person from him
- Tension builds up
- He explodes and hits her
- Then he’s all ~remorseful~ and swears he’ll never do it again
- Then he is effusively loving again
- and the cycle continues
That’s definitely a real thing. But it’s not the only pattern (and even when it is, it happens in gender configurations other than male abusers and female victims, and it’s not always between romantic partners.) There are many, many patterns of abuse and they’re not all discussed very much.
Here’s another pattern (not the only other pattern):
- The abusive person will be demeaning and effusively loving at the same time
- They will do something degrading and something genuinely positive simultaneously
- There won’t be a discernible cyclical pattern because both parts happen at the same time
- This can be very, very disorienting to the victim, who might be tricked into seeing their abuser as loving, considerate, and insightful, and themself as not living up to their abuser’s love
- Daniel: I love you so much. I brought you your favorite flowers. Not everyone would be so understanding of your irrational need for flowers.
- Daniel hugs Debra
- Debra hugs back
- Debra feels awful about herself, and feels good about Daniel
- Susan: Hey, the fair’s in town. Let’s go!
- Susan: I made you a jacket to wear.
- Bill: That’s beautiful! Thank you!
- They drive to the fair, and it’s warm out, so Bill decides to leave the jacket in the car
- Susan: Where’s your jacket? Don’t you know that it hurts my feelings when you reject my gifts? I just wanted to have a nice time with you.
- Susan: I guess it’s not your fault. I know you’ve never been in a successful relationship before. We all have stuff to work on.
- Bill then tearfully apologizes and promises to work on it.
Short version: If someone is hurting you and it doesn’t seem to be happening in cycles, you are not alone. Abuse doesn’t always happen in a cycle of overt abuse and effusive love. Sometimes abuse is more mixed and constant. Scroll up for one example of a different pattern.