This work describes a constitutive framework for modeling the behavior of rough joints under cyclic loading. Particular attention is paid to the intrinsic links between dilatancy, surface degradation, and mobilized shear strength. The framework also accounts for the important effect of shear-induced anisotropy. The resulting approach is fully three-dimensional and is not restricted to plane-displacement kinematics. Both the governing formulation and an algorithm for implicit numerical integration are presented. While the proposed methods are general, we also postulate a specific model that is compared with experimental data. It employs relatively few free parameters but shows good agreement with laboratory tests. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.