This article proposes that some perpetrators of domestic violence respond to their partners' apparent rejection of them with abusive behaviour, and that there exists a cycle of rejection and abuse. The model posits that some men, having experienced rejection within their families of origin or in relation to past partners, become sensitive to potential rejection in their current relationships. The cycle for rejection-sensitive men consists of an event that constitutes a threat to self, leading to a defence against this threat which in turn results in psychological or physical abuse. This model was tested on sixty-six male participants of perpetrator group programmes who completed a survey designed to measure each point in the proposed model through path analysis. There was support for the following model: rejection, threat to self-defence against threat, abuse. Other paths were tested, but were not significant. These results are discussed in terms of the implications for treating perpetrators.