Jacqueline Groves

6 Stage Cycle of Emotional Abuse

6 Stage Cycle of Emotional Abuse

6 Stage Cycle of Emotional Abuse

You’ve heard about emotional abuse.

And you think this might be happening to you.

But you’re not sure.

All you know is the person you cared about has changed beyond belief.

They used to be amazing.

Couldn’t do enough for you.

Salt of the earth. Everyone thinks they’re great.

Now they blow hot and cold between loving, caring and attentive to chronically bored, angry and treat you like their worst enemy.

And you’ve tried everything.

But somehow the more you try, the more you end up feeling confused.

You know something’s wrong but you can’t put your finger on it.

So you believe what they say, that you’re just too sensitive, it’s all your fault and you’ve lost the plot.

And sometimes you think you have!

Let’s face it.

We all know that Narcissists, Psychopaths and Sociopaths are abusive.

But not all toxic people have personality disorders.

Some people are just plain emotionally abusive.

Either way. It hurts like a soul-crunching hell.

Toxic people abuse in cycles.

Here’s the 6 Stage cycle of emotional abuse.


When you meet they are charming, making you feel singled out and special. You feel like soul-mates as if you’ve known each other for years.

They put you on a pedestal by focusing on your strengths and capabilities.

They’re so easy to talk to that they draw out your deepest fears and insecurities.

 The relationship moves quickly by text, calls and meetings.

They’ll say you’re kind, generous and trusting, unlike their ex who was greedy, selfish and untrustworthy, addicted or bipolar.

2. Confusion

Overt/Covert criticism and put-downs, unexpected anger, moods leaving you thrown off course.

Questioning your thoughts, intentions and motives, they make sweeping statements which throw you off guard by questioning your looks, friendships and choice of career.

They may display jealous behaviour and make condescending remarks and cruel jokes to humiliate you in public and when you protest they tell you to lighten up, that you can’t take a joke.

3. Approval 

They blame and accuse, saying it’s all your fault. When you try to justify, argue defend and explain they say, you’re just being jealous, lying or stupid, and if you get upset they say you’re crazy.

They see-saw between nice and nasty to keep you off balance.

They tell you they’re ‘disappointed’ and not the person they thought you were to make you jump high for their approval.

You may find out they’ve been lying in this stage but you turn a blind eye believing it was all for your own good.

You focus on their good behaviour and when it’s bad you become ‘Queen of Sweeping it Under The Carpet’

4. Walking on Egg-shells 

In this stage, you are expected to be a Mind reader, Tower of strength, Font of knowledge and a never-ending source of love and adoration.

You try to control people, places, things and events to keep from upsetting him.

You keep secrets and lie to your family and friends.

You’re unable to be spontaneous.

So you plan everything in advance.

You spend all your time trying to keep your children and pets quiet.

And dread every meal time as it ends up in WW3.

 5. Isolation 

They isolate you from family and friends by either overtly lying or dropping little bombs of poison behind your back turning people against you.

They may reveal your deepest secrets or fake concern to loved ones that you’re losing the plot or have an addiction to drink, drugs or porn or that you’re having affairs.

They may even accuse you of being abusive.

You avoid family and friends to keep the peace, spending time either with or waiting for the abuser.

Spending time with others is no longer fun as he/she monitors your time by constantly texting and giving you the third degree afterwards.

You seek escape routes through alcohol, food, drugs, shopping or internet gaming.

6. Desperation

In this stage, they may use anger or ramp up the silent treatment or do a disappearing act.

They may also be less willing to hide having an affair by waving photo’s of their latest flame on Facebook and Twitter.

In this stage you feel utterly hopeless, alone and invisible, you may suffer from depression, anxiety and adrenal fatigue.

Feeling that you’ve had enough and can’t take anymore, you may threaten to leave, try to get counselling or even seriously contemplate suicide.

They may discard you at this point, leaving you alone and feeling helpless.

Or they may realise that you’ve had enough and move on to stage one, honeymoon/hope phase.

They promise to change, stop drinking, raging and start being the person you used to know and love.

They may even suggest going for couple counselling.

But somehow it always ends up the same.

Time and time again. Year after year.

Until you wonder what happened to you.

And YOUR life.

Most clients I work with are relieved when they identify with the six stages.

And although extremely painful, they use these stages as a framework by filling in the bricks of their own relationship history and suddenly they stand back and it all starts makes sense.

And when it starts to make sense you may discover that you’ve been on this cycle of emotional abuse for years.

Maybe since childhood with a parent or family member.

Please make no mistake; it’s not your fault.

You can break this cycle.

No matter what age you are, it’s never too late to change.

If you identify with this post then you can take the first step by signing up for my newsletter or better still, drop me an email and let’s have ‘the conversation’.

Let’s do this.

From the heart.

Jacqueline Groves

Jacqueline Groves AdvDipCBT is a psychotherapist/coach with over 24 years professional experience of helping people reclaim their lives from emotional abuse in toxic relationships.

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