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Activity Overview

The cycle of unhealthy relationships is an important concept for students to understand when talking about healthy relationships. Each relationship is unique and it may be tough to compare one to another, but when there is abuse or unhealthy aspects, there is usually a pattern. This pattern, or cycle, can start with the honeymoon phase, continue into the tension building phase, move into the explosion phase, and finally enter the honeymoon phase again, continuing the cycle. This cycle does not have to be a romantic relationship; friends and family can go through this cycle and find it hard to get out.

Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is dangerous and tough. Recognizing the cycle of unhealthy relationships is the first step. After teaching the topics, have students create a storyboard that follows the cycle of an unhealthy relationship. Monitor students' creations for any inappropriate content. Students should not be using themselves or other peers a victims or aggressors. If needed, they can use the highly expressive, but less realistic, Stickies rather than the regular Storyboard That characters.

Honeymoon Phase

Everything seems to be going great with no issues or fights during the honeymoon phase. There may be apologies, gifts given, or promises made in order to maintain the facade of a happy relationship. This is a time period the abusers use to manipulate the victim into believing everything is okay - or will be again.

Tension Builds

The tension-building phase is when the aggressor seems to be getting agitated at small things, often yelling, fighting, or controlling parts of the relationship. This phase is where many red flags occur.


The explosion phase is where the attack takes place. There can be different examples of outbursts of intimidation, emotional and verbal abuse, even physical abuse. Following the explosion, there is often an apology and manipulation of the honeymoon phase in order to keep the victim buying into the relationship.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-12

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the unhealthy relationship cycle. Use different example relationships for each cell.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Title the appropriate cells with each phase and fill in the description with your own definition.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the phase in each cell using a combination of school-appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Unhealthy Relationships

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