Dear Thelma: He says he loves me but he stifles and scares me

  • Family
  • Sunday, 18 Aug 2019

Letter No.1

I am currently in university, and I have a boyfriend of two years. He’s sweet, smart, good-looking – everything a girl could want. But there is one flaw: he is such a control freak. He gets really, really jealous. He tells me that I can’t talk to other guys, even as friends.

At first, I was taken aback by this absurd request. But then I thought there was no harm in it, as I’m a shy person so I don’t interact with others a lot; as time passed, I got used to it. It didn’t bother me because I thought there was mutual respect; I don’t do it, he doesn’t too.

But then, lately, he changed. He told me I can’t talk to guys, but he went around and took pictures with other girls.

I was so mad that I confronted him, and it was the worst fight we ever had.

He then told me he loves me, he’s sorry, and all that crap. This was actually the second time.

We discussed this matter. I said if he wants to go around and befriend other girls, I don’t care, as long as there are limits to that friendship, and I too get to do the same. The problem is, he won’t let me. And then the real problem is, I’m not allowed to have guy friends, while he is off getting friendly with other girls. I know that he was not flirting with them or cheating or anything like that, but it’s just so unfair.

I don’t understand this guy. I’ve thought off breaking up, but I love him too much to imagine him running off with another girl.

I’ve tried to compromise but he just won’t listen.


Letter No.2

I have been in a relationship with A for about four years now. He really has insecurities. We argue a lot.

I really do love him but his actions show he doesn’t trust me at all. He checks my messages on social media.

Whenever he checks on me, he will ask me who is this guy I’m messaging, and so on. He will shout at me.

Even after I explain everything, he won’t believe me. He will assume I’m cheating on him.

He even controls my outings with friends. And when he approves my request to go out, he frequently checks on me – where am I, what am I doing, etc.

He gets angry when I don’t answer his calls. I’ve explained to him how I felt.

He apologises after every argument but then he does the same thing. Because of this, I tend to shout a lot at him and cry too.

I’m basically a quiet girl who doesn’t shout at people but now when I look at myself, I feel very bad.

It’s just left me with so much anger and hurt.

I really don’t know how to overcome this.

I’m thinking of leaving this relationship. It really depressed me a lot.

I’m scared to go further in this relationship as I can’t bear it anymore.

I’ve told him that it’s better that I leave the relationship, but he doesn’t seem bothered.


A relationship is not a jail sentence.

Ms C, the man you describe as “everything a girl could want” is a nasty piece of work. Apart from acting as a jailor, he accuses you of sleeping with every man you talk with. How on earth is that “mutually respectful”?

Terrified, you are in a very dangerous situation with an emotionally abusive man who is obsessively controlling and isolating you. I am extremely worried about your physical safety.

This advice is for both of you:

The most important thing to remember about abusers is that they are not normal people. With a normal person, a relationship is about mutual input and respect. With an abuser, they want control. It’s all they want and they’ll do anything to get it.

Abusers get control by isolating you and then screaming at you if you “break the rules”. They strip away your friends, your self-esteem, and aim to make you completely helpless.

The problem with abusers is that they dominate their victims, creating a mental fog. When you are in such a trap, you can’t see what is happening. You believe you are doing something wrong, that if only you could be a little different, it would all be lovely.

It won’t. You are dealing with an abuser. They don’t want love, respect and understanding. They only want control.

Good news: you don’t have to put up with that nonsense.

Breaking up with an abuser is not the same as a normal breakup. Here are the steps:

Get your support system in place. This may include your parents, your university counsellor, an NGO that helps domestic violence victims (they do emotional abuse too) and trusted friends. Do this secretly.

Plan your exit step-by-step. The goal is to be in your own place with your own resources, safely. Do this secretly.

Once you are completely prepared, exit the relationship in terms of moving out, settling into your new place, etc. Do this secretly.

Only then tell the abuser it’s over. When you do so, go for text. Do not meet the person. If you must meet, go to a public place and have a friend with you.

Keeping safe is your number one priority.

Do know that your abuser will be furiously angry. They will kick and scream because they are losing control.

This is why you need the exit plan and the support network. With that in place, you make sure you are not there when they throw their fit, and you stay safe.

As the days go by, the abuser will do everything to try and get you back. Remember they have one aim, and one aim only: to control you. That is a recipe for lifelong misery, so you must stay firm. Lean on your support network.

Both of you sound rather young, so please do take very good advice on this. Call in an NGO or a therapist who understands how abuse works. You need the support.

In Malaysia, two NGOs that are practiced at this include AWAM (tel: 03-7877 4221) and WAO (hotline: 03-7956 3488, office hours and 018-988 8058, 24 hours).

Also, it may also be useful to consult with the police. This is especially important if your abuser has sexy photos of you or a history of stalking or attacking exes who have managed to get away.

Readers: this is the acid test to tell if you are in a healthy relationship. Imagine you are about to tell your partner you don’t agree with them.

How do you feel? If your answer includes words like “frightened”, then you are not in a healthy relationship.Yes, it really is that simple. Nobody has the right to make you afraid. Ever.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.  Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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