The Cycle of Behavior in a Toxic Relationship

That Psych Nerd

Understanding the pattern of behavior that may occur in a toxic relationship.

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.



Every relationship has behavioral patterns. In fact, everybody has behavioral patterns. We all do the same things repeatedly, and we cycle through them without much thought. Our cycles of behavior are how we function.

From getting up every day to completing our work tasks, there's always some behavioral pattern that we are fulfilling. Knowing the signs of a toxic relationship is important to help you stay safe and aware.

The development of our behaviors can be seen through our upbringing and our developing years. The relationships we enter influence us in ways we aren't even aware of. The relationships in our early years and childhood years help us develop patterns in relationships.

But remember that not all toxic relationships are romantic relationships. Toxic relationships can be friendships and even family members.

Toxic relationships form their own behavior pattern that keeps you stuck in this cycle of torment. In a toxic relationship, the cycle of behavior can be intense and scary. We can cycle through this behavioral loop because it is ingrained in us.

There is always a fight brewing, one that just happened or is close to happening. The cycle of behavior can keep you blind to reality.

Big fight

There are typically big fights or big blowups within toxic relationships. The lows of a toxic relationship can really be seen through the fights that occur, the frequency, and the severity. There has always been a period leading up to the big fight.

This can be seen as "walking on eggshells" because who knows what might set them off. When you experience walking on eggshells around family members or a partner, it can be almost impossible to feel safe and happy.

I found it nearly impossible to feel anything but fear when my narcissist was tense or irritated. The fight is the worst part, where you don't know what they will say or do next. This is the roughest part I have found within a toxic relationship cycle. I hated waiting for that big fight that would break any bit of happiness that you may have left.

When that fight comes, it can be tough to see any positivity at the moment or even a way out. Now that the explosion has happened, there has to be a clean-up.

Apologies and forgiveness

Commonly referred to as the "honeymoon phase," it begins when the person who started the big fight tries to get the other person back. I have had this happen before in my family.

The narcissist in my life simply bought me some coffee to offer something to quell the burn of their attack. A slew of compliments would always come my way after a massive fallout. It's as if nothing had even happened. It was a strange thing, and it always unsettled me. I didn't like being subjected to their anger and then pretending that nothing happened.

And that's precisely what happens during this part of the toxic relationship cycle. You may experience behavior from them that is positive, happy, and remorseful. But them exploding on you is at the forefront of their mind.

They would explode, lose their mind, and then try to smooth things over. But they weren't trying to make me feel better; they wanted to help me forget.

With toxic relationships, it's a pull--there's something that makes you stay. So you may experience them trying to make you remember that they will never do that again.

But it always happens. Actions will always speak louder than words.

Another fight is nearby

Once the honeymoon phase is over, then the clock is ticking, waiting for another fight to happen. During this time, things seem okay and safe. Things are finally better! This is how you always wished for the relationship to be.

But it is all a façade.

Another fight is clearly imminent.

Before you know it, you are right back where you started.

And then the cycle repeats itself, over and over again. I spent years trying to understand how I could break free from a toxic relationship. The narcissist in my life was at the forefront of toxic relationships that I had to endure.

Going through this cycle of behavior is draining.

In the end, it is rough to break the cycles of toxic behavior in relationships. But the first step is identifying the behavior and understanding it. The signs listed in this article are pickings from a well-established cycle of abuse.

If you would like to learn more about the cycle of abuse click here.


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MS in Psychology | Mom of three cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind


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