Am I In a controlling relationship?

“Roses are red, violets are blue, I’ve been through your phone and I know what you do.” No, That’s not the creepiest Valentine’s day card ever, it can be actually be the daily reality faced by people trapped in relationships where their partner keep tabs on every little thing they do.

Abuse isn’t just about domestic violence or sexual assault. From bullying and belittling to deliberately restricting their partner’s freedoms, abusers can find lots of ways to control their victims. So what are the signs you might be in an abusive relationship and where can you turn?

The clip above features the characters from one of Hollyoaks’ most explosive storylines. Here Maxine finds herself in an ever-worsening cycle of abuse and violence at the hands of her partner Patrick. If you want to find out more about this storyline check out this interview with Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson about the experiences her character Maxine went through. You can also catch up on all the latest happenings from Chester's most eventful postcode by catching Hollyoaks on-demand on All 4.


Is it normal to... be in a controlling relationship?


Tainted Love

Abuse can come in many different guises. Here are some of the warning signs to look out for...

Jekyll and Hyde

Getting trapped in an abusive relationship can be easier than you think. What starts off as a loving romance can evolve into something sinister over time and you might not notice the signs until it’s too late. Many abusers claim do what they do in the name of ‘love’, being controlling or jealous because they care so much. This is why it’s important to learn how to recognise the signs.

What makes a relationship abusive?

An abusive relationship can be violent, emotional or sexual and it can affect anyone no matter what their gender, age or sexual orientation. Whilst cuts and bruises may be the most obvious signs of abuse, the psychological damage caused by controlling behaviour or verbal abuse can often be just as destructive. Remember, what starts with emotional abuse can escalate into domestic violence or sexual assault once your self-esteem has been torn to shreds.

Sticks and stones

Aside from acts of violence, there are lots ways that your partner might display abusive behaviour without laying a finger on you. They might be verbally abusive or explosively angry. They might make threats against you or the people you care about if you try and leave them. They may regularly undermine your confidence or humiliate you by criticising how you look or how you behave. Just because they’re not physically violent, it doesn’t mean their words can’t break you.

Control Issues

Controlling behaviour can be one of the most damaging aspects of an abusive relationship. Here, an abuser strips away their partner’s everyday freedoms such as talking to their friends or family, going where they like, dressing how they want or using mobile phones or computers. They’ll often begin to monitor the partner’s calls and messages, they may try to bully them into acting or looking a certain way or they might pressure them into giving up work, removing their financial independence. They might also convince them to share explicit personal photos, giving the abuser leverage for blackmail later on. Check out our article on sexting for tips on staying safe.

Guys can be victims too

It’s not just girls who can be victims of abusive relationship – guys (whether straight, gay or bi) can often find themselves the target of emotional and physical abuse. In many cases seeking help can be complicated by the fact that they don’t want to appear weak or un-manly. However the abuse needs to be dealt with and there are specialist groups who can help.

Getting help

Leaving an abusive relationship can be tough and you might be worried about the consequences. Always talk to someone about what you’re planning and try not to end the relationship when you’re alone with your partner. If you feel like you’re trapped or in danger it’s crucial to seek help. Check out our support page for places you can turn.

Advice on Abuse

Looking for help and advice on dealing with abusive relationships? We’ve got loads of links that can help.

Check out the Channel 4 support site. (This link opens in a new window)

Do you have a question you'd like to see here?

Is it normal to...

We are not able to provide individual answers to questions submitted through the site. This form is only a means of suggesting broader topics you would like to see addressed here in the future and is not monitored daily. If you are distressed we recommend talking to a family member or visiting our 4Viewers (Opens in a new window) for further information on a range of topics.