The Cycle of Violence in Relationships and Addiction

The Cycle of Violence in Relationships and Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

Domestic violence tends to follow a pattern of abuse. If you’re not familiar with domestic violence, you might only see violence among two people happening from time to time or randomly. However, there is a clear cycle of violence that has been identified and that gets played out time and again. Typically, the cycle of violence involves four stages.  These phases are:

Tension building: During this initial phase, the relationship is experiencing increasing amounts of tension. There’s a breakdown in communication, fear is increasing, and the victim will do her best to appease the abuser.

Abuse: The tension explodes into an abusive incident in which there is anger, blame, rage that gets expressed through emotional, physical, or verbal abuse.

Reconciliation: The abuser apologizes for his actions, gives excuses, blames the victim, or claims that the abuse was not all that bad.

Calm: The abuse is forgotten and a honeymoon period begins again.

Domestic violence is a form of conflict that often exists between intimate partners. Often, there is an underlying fear that one partner uses to control the other. And there are many ways in which one partner can use fear to manipulate and control. This can include physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual violence, coercion, financial control, abusing trust, and using intimidation.

Interestingly, regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for intimate partner violence. In fact, research has shown that a battering incident that is coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater injury. Furthermore, domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction frequently occur together, but no evidence suggests a casual relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence.

In a 2002 report, the Department of Justice found that 36% of victims in domestic violence programs also had substance abuse problems. Other research has found that the risk of violence between intimate partners increases when both partners are abuse alcohol and drugs. And, the U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems.

It’s important to know that substance abuse treatment does not “cure” abusive behavior.  Therefore, just because someone participates in an addiction treatment program does not mean that the domestic violence will end. Instead, one or both partners should attend programs that focus on healing the domestic violence. In such programs, participants learn about the cycle of abuse and how a violent relationship typically has one partner who uses fear to control the other partner.

Although there is a causal relationship between drug and alcohol use and domestic violence, combining treatments for each may make the other ineffective. Because of this, it’s important to get treatment for each of these separately. If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence relationship and if one or both of the partners struggle with an addiction, be sure to find treatment for the addiction and separately for the violent relationship.

To begin, contact a mental health professional in your area.


If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community
or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
Come and visit our blog at