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When Love Bites

When Love Bites: A young person’s guide to escaping the trap of harmful, toxic and hurtful relationships

When Love Bites

When Love Bites is for every young person who has found themselves with a partner who thinks it is acceptable to use abusive behaviour towards them. It doesn’t matter how they identify When Love Bites is inclusive and is for all young people.

Many of us have rushed to pair up with a partner, seduced by their compliments, attentiveness, love bombing and grooming. However, if our partner quickly becomes coercive and controlling and we experience gaslighting, passive aggressive behaviours, constant demands for sex, threats to hurt us and/or stalking, the relationship becomes tricky to navigate.

It is estimated that at least 40 per cent of all young people experience abuse within their early relationships, and it makes no difference how long those relationships last or the gender of the partners. Further, it is likely that those same young people will go on to experience abusive behaviours in future adult relationships, all of which will affect their wellbeing – physically, socially and sexually, and/or impact their emotional and mental health.

When Love Bites asks you to consider questions like:

  • Does your partner sulk when they don’t get their own way?
  • Does your partner make everything out to be your fault?
  • Does your partner expect you to be up for sex whenever they want it?
  • Does your partner scare, frighten or hurt you?
  • Do you want to leave your relationship but don’t know how?

If you believe that your relationship – past or present – was or is bad and ‘it’s all your fault’ or ‘you were/are the problem’ or ‘you were/are responsible for meeting your partner’s needs’, then this book is for you. When Love Bites explores what happens to us in relationships that are less than comfortable and happy. It gives an in-depth explanation of the many different types of abusive behaviour, who is actually responsible for this behaviour and, more importantly, how this behaviour may have impacted you and the way you see yourself. Having awareness is the first step to protecting yourself.

When Love Bites aims to make clear that you are not responsible for the way you are treated by your partner or for how you feel about yourself as a result of their behaviour. You can only be responsible for your own behaviour, and in turn, your partner is responsible for the way they choose to behave towards you.

How to use When Love Bites

When Love Bites is structured in two parts. Part 1 focuses on identifying the many controlling and coercive behaviours of an abusive partner – referred to in this book as the ‘Controller’ – and how we are affected by such abusive behaviour. The Controller is made up of five characters – the Charmer, the Bully, the Mindmixer, the Taker and the Keeper. Each character has their own unique set of behaviours and you may experience two or more of the five types of character.

Part 2 provides ideas on what you can do if you find yourself on the receiving end of an abusive partner and want to leave the realtionship. It addresses how such experiences impact your mental and emotional well-being and the way you see yourself – your confidence and self-esteem, feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and panic attacks, and most importantly how you can learn to self-regulate and resource yourself when feeling this way.

Each chapter has a specific focus so you can either read When Love Bites from cover to cover or dip into whichever chapter seems most relevant to you in the moment. That said, no matter what order you read the chapters in, aim to read the whole book because you will start to identify your partner’s behaviour and aspects about yourself – your experiences, thoughts and feelings.

Why I wrote When Love Bites

I was inspired to write When Love Bites as a result of working over three decades as a psychotherapist with thousands of people, both teenagers and adults and encompassing all sexual orientations, who have had long histories of relationship abuse. Much of this suffering could have been avoided if they had had access to the knowledge, insight and learning in their teenage years.

It is my experience, that many adults find the themes in When Love Bites difficult to handle, discuss or reflect on, in terms of their own experiences, and are uncomfortable having such discussions with young people. Equally, many young people won’t talk to an adult because they believe adults will patronise, undermine and belittle their relationships as not being serious. Thereby closing the door to discussion on what at least 40 per cent of young people experience.

Parents can feel at a loss or may be unaware of the potential for such abuse and professionals and those working with young people are often left responding to young people when their situation has reached absolute crisis.

When Love Bites will support parents, practitioners working with young people, school staff, mentors etc, to explore and discuss the themes and issues raised in the book, in a safe, straightforward, honest, accessible and meaningful way.

Whilst young people in the main are not comfortable talking to an adult or even a friend, they could dip into or read When Love Bites. It will give them the conversation and insights they need but maybe don’t get.


from young people who have done the Escape the Trap course

Most of us had experienced different types of abuse, and different situations. I would say do Escape the Trap, it’s really helpful


The group really worked well for me because I realised I’m not alone and the only person who has experienced issues. I have got closer to someone who understands and would say go for it and take it seriously.


The programme has made me aware that anyone can be in an abusive relationship and that 80% of abused girls carry on dating their abuser. I’m not the only one who has been in that situation.


Attending group is like a place you go to find out about relationships and how to be in a happy position without pushing anyone away – It’s helpful and easy to get an understanding about abuse.


I would say the programme helps teenage girls to identify abuse and that the programme helps you to speak out


The best course I have ever done. It open’s your eyes.


In response to week 5 of the programme – the Taker – ‘Write a poem or lyrics for a song’:

When I wake up, I cover the pain with make up, from your names, and your games, bit by bit, with every horrible hit, you slowly, kill me.


The programme was eye opening, surprising, interesting and worth doing. I think the programme should be done in PHSE lessons and on the curriculum. We have some sex education but nothing about abusive relationships, plus considering a lot of it is teenage relationships, teenagers go to high school.


The group really helped me understand why the abuse happened to me. It is very informative and helpful.


The group helped me to express my feelings and emotions. The programme is really good and I would advise anyone who has been though domestic abuse to attend the programme.


About the Author

Cathy Press

Cathy Press

As a young person in an early abusive relationship, I believed that the dreadful things my partner did to me were my fault. I never told anyone at the time because I thought I must have done something wrong and deserved to be treated this way.

This shaped the choices I made in relationships through my early adult life. However, when many years later I started working as a counsellor with survivors of domestic abuse, I realised that everything my clients were telling me about their experiences, I had experienced myself in several relationships.

So many of the people I have worked with have wished that someone had noticed, warned them or talked more openly about the reality of coercive and controlling behaviours.

I wrote this book with respect to that younger part of myself, and for the thousands of young people and adults with whom I have worked across three decades, that experienced direct harm and suffering at the hands of the person that was supposed to love, care and respect them. Your experiences will inform others.

I have over 25yrs experience as a psychotherapist and trainer and for much of this time I’ve worked within the arena of domestic and sexual violence & abuse.

My greatest career highlights are witnessing the breakthrough moments for my clients. It is always a privilege to empower those who have been dismantled by the abuse of others and watch them reclaim their sense of self, their self-esteem, confidence and dignity.

I grew up in London and now live with my family in Suffolk where I have learned I love being outside walking, running or gardening. I love a blue sky and warmth.

I am MBACP Senior Accredited Counsellor and Supervisor with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, Director of Awareness Matters, running workshops and training for multi-agency professionals both in the UK and internationally, on issues related to domestic violence & abuse, the Escape the TRAP programme for young people, the VOICE programme for adults and the Who’s in Charge? programme for parents. To find out more please visit Awareness Matters Ltd.

Where to buy

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Buy from us directly.

When Love Bites Book: £14.99
Postage and Packaging: £6.00 (incl. VAT)