03/25/2014 04:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2014

Domestic Violence, Part 1

What is it? What are the stages? And, how can it be prevented?

Domestic violence is a nice clinical name for a battering relationship or a relationship where someone is receiving physical or verbal beatings.

A batterer can be either male or female. They can come from a wealthy or a poor family, as well as all races and religions. They are often extremely charismatic and very likable. You wouldn't know someone is a batterer just by looking at them. However, if you look at their family background you may find one thing that is very consistent. Generally speaking, they come from a home where there was a lot of corporal punishment. Their parents were often very strict and cruel in the disciplining when they were a child. They received beatings. There used to be an old saying: "Spare the rod, spoil the child." This belonged to the belief that there was something inherently bad within children, and it needed to be beaten out. "I'm going to beat the hell out of you. If I beat the hell out of you, then all that will be left is the heaven or the good." So the parent, out of their loving for the child, would beat him/her so s/he would learn the lesson and change. Over time, the child began to pair loving with beating. "If I love you, I won't let you do those things that I think are wrong. If you do those things that I think are wrong, then I have to beat you, so you will change and not do it again." That's how the parents taught or controlled them, and it worked, so that is how the batterer teaches or controls his/her partner.

A person who is being battered -- I will call him/her the "injured" -- does not fit any special psychological profile. There are no similarities in their family backgrounds. However, after a person has been in a battering relationship for a while, s/he begins to demonstrate predictable coping skills, which I will discuss later.

There are basically three stages in a battering relationship. You have the battering, followed by the honeymoon phase, then the tension-building phase, then the battering again, and then the loop continues.

There are two things that generally happen in a battering relationship: The battering becomes more intense or violent and occurs more frequently.

Drugs and alcohol often make a battering relationship more volatile. However, they are not the root cause, and there can be battering in a relationship even when both people are clean and sober.

Phase One

"What constitutes a battering?"

A battering is a slap, a hit, a scratch, a kick, a push against the wall, a shove onto the floor, bed, or sofa, a spit in the face, or a violent grabbing of the arms. After the injured has been touched once, words can become a battering. Throwing a glass across the room, kicking the door, or putting a fist through the door can become a battering. The object now becomes the injured and the batterer no longer needs to touch to inflict a beating. As the batterer smashes the glass, s/he is smashing the injured. The batterer's words also become a beating. If the batterer says, "I'll kill you!" or, "If you do that again, I'll get you, and you'll be sorry!" The batterer's words have meaning, and the injured fears and believes the batterer will do what s/he says s/he will do.

Phase Two

The honeymoon phase is when the batterer says, "I'm so sorry. I'll never do it again. Please forgive me." The batterer truly means this and believes s/he will never do it again. The batterer buys flowers, buys dinners, cleans the house extra special, and becomes a wonderful romantic lover. They become the person the injured really loves. The injured says, "This is who s/he really is. The other part is just something that happened and it won't happen again." That is until it happens again, and again, and again. The honeymoon phase becomes the only part of the relationship the injured thinks about. The injured begins to think that if s/he did things differently, then s/he would have the honeymoon all the time. If the injured hadn't said "that'' or did "that" the batterer would not have exploded, and the injured knew the batterer did not like the injured doing or saying those things. The injured thinks, "It really was my fault. I'm bad. I guess I really did deserve it. If I could just keep my mouth shut, everything would be wonderful -- all the time."

This is one of the big lies in a battering relationship. The injured needs to know that having a relationship with a batterer means having all three phases. The batterer is the whole picture, and there is not that much the injured can do to change that. However, there are a few things the injured and the batterer can do to change their relationship. I will address these things a little later.

Phase Three

The tension-building phase is when the tension builds. It builds and builds until something is said or done at which point the injured then receives another battering.

Some people who have been in a battering relationship for a while begin to recognize these phases and they know that after the battering, that the wonderful honeymoon comes. They sacrifice themselves so their partner can "blow their steam" so everything will be good again. This sacrificing of oneself is usually an unconscious process. However, this is often where the injured begins to blame themselves for the battering. As I indicated above, the injured knows what will make the batterer blow up, and the injured finds themselves doing those things that bring about yet another battering.

Why? What keeps a person in this type of a relationship?

To get the answer, check out Domestic Violence, Part 2.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.