What is love? The truth is, it can be a whole combination of things: from knowing you can be authentically yourself with another person, to feeling safe and secure in their presence, and knowing they have your best interests at heart. Of course, conflict can exist in healthy relationships. Arguments happen, but the intention isn’t to harm or demean the other person: you should feel safe to express different points of view, even if you disagree.

This Valentine’s Day, we’re asking people to contemplate a harder question, “What isn’t love?” Our campaign, “It’s not love if…” sends a strong message: your words and actions should never hurt the person you love, and if they do, the Respect Phoneline is here to help you take the first step towards change.

As part of the campaign, we are asking people to reflect on their own relationships, raising awareness of the feelings and behaviours associated with abuse. On the Respect Phoneline, callers often tell us they’ve noticed their anger or jealousy getting out of control, or that they’ve felt a build-up of frustration with their partner. When these feelings aren’t managed, they can manifest in abusive behaviours, which can look like:

  • Controlling who your partner spends time with.
    This might sound like
    “They’re bad friends, wouldn’t you rather stay at home with me?
  • Telling your partner what they can and can’t wear.
    This might sound like 
    “Isn’t that a bit revealing? I don’t want other guys to see you like that”
  • Pressuring your partner to have sex, or sulking when they don’t want to
    This might sound like 
    “Come on babe, it’s been ages. It makes me feel crap when you don’t want to”
  • Making your partner feel stupid or humiliated
    This might sound like 
    “You can’t get anything right can you?”
  • Checking your partner’s messages
    This might sound like 
    “Can I get the code for your phone, it’s weird that I don’t have it”
  • Controlling what your partner spends and how they spend it
    This might sound like 
    “You’ve spent too much this month, I’ll look after your card for now”  
  • Accusing your partner of being unfaithful when there is no evidence
    This might sound like 
    “Why are you talking to them? Is there something going on?"

  • Breaking or ruining your partner’s things
    This might sound like
    “Look what you made me do"

Behaving in a way that controls or scares your partner is never OK. We are directing anyone who is concerned about their own behaviour to the Respect Phoneline, the UK’s only helpline, email, and webchat service for perpetrators of domestic abuse. 

Our friendly, non-judgemental advisors help people to take the first step towards accountability and change, to prevent further harm and make their partners, ex-partners, and families safer. We offer confidential advice and guidance to anyone, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and where appropriate, we support callers to access more long-term support. Concerned friends, family, and practitioners can also access support via the helpline. 

Anyone concerned about their behaviour can contact the Respect Phoneline by phone, email or by using our webchat function.

Phone support0808 8024040Mon-Fri 10am-5pm
Email support[email protected]Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Webchat supportrespectphoneline.org.ukThursday 2-4pm
Respect is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 1141636, in Scotland, number SC051284 and a company, number 7582438. Registered address: VAI Second Floor, 200a Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP
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