Dear Thelma: My boyfriend's controlling ways are killing my love for him

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Dear Thelma,

My boyfriend and I have been going out for about a year now.

We're both in our late-20s.

He is very sweet and attentive, but lately he's been quite controlling.

He doesn't like me to talk to other guys, whether they are my colleagues or neighbours. He throws a fit whenever he sees me talking to another man.

I am so put off by it and have told him so.

He admits that he feels insecure whenever I talk to other guys.

I suggested he get professional help since it's an issue he has grappled with for a long time. But he's dragging his feet. I don't know how else I can help him.

We have been having more fights lately too, over this matter. One time, he broke off the relationship but later asked to get back together again.

He said he can't stand the thought of me having a meal with my male colleagues (even if it's in a group that includes female colleagues as well). He always probes about who I will be going for lunch/dinner with, and if I mention a male person, he gets upset.

He regularly checks on my social media accounts too, and gets very upset if he sees posts of me with my guy friends.

Also, if he can't reach me on my mobile phone, he would call or text my friends and even my colleagues to find out where I am. He always wants to know my whereabouts.

I am not cheating on him, but I am a sociable person who thrives on having many friends, whether male or female.

I am so tired of this.


Your boyfriend is not sweet. He shouts and screams because he knows it scares you, and he is deliberately frightening you out of talking to people.

He tracks you as if you're a convicted criminal and even pulls in others to spy on you.

He agrees he is doing this and he has told you he does not intend to change.

I hope that by this paragraph you've realised that you are in an abusive relationship. So, how did you get here?

Abuse is tricky because it's rarely straightforward. Typically, abusers start off sweet and perfect. It's when you're hooked on the romance that they start to show their true colours.

If you think about this, it makes sense. After all, if they were mean straight away, you'd not stick around. It's the promise of romance and happiness that keeps you hanging in there.

As you point out, the abuse is escalating. I am extremely concerned about you. My opinion is that you should break it off immediately.

However, as it's not sensible to take life-changing advice from a stranger on the basis of a letter, do some reading. It won't take long, and it will be insightful.

We find it hard to believe that people who say they love us are dangerous. We therefore make excuses. "Oh, he loves me, really." This is why people end up stuck in relationships with abusive and violent partners.

To learn how abuse works, Google up Wheel of Power and Control or Duluth Model. First step is that they make you scared of upsetting them. That's what his rages are about. When you're scared, you stop communicating authentically and you start second-guessing yourself.

Then there's emotional abuse to make you feel bad about yourself, and gaslighting so you think you're imagining the bad treatment. Also, they isolate you so you have no support.

Abuse can also include depriving you of money, making threats, and using privilege to humiliate and bully you.

As you will see, you are already in this situation. If you stay with this man, it will only get worse. You will be isolated and controlled. He is already using rage, and this may very quickly turn into physical violence.

So please, get into a safe space. As you have left him before, expect temper tantrums and promises.

If he had started to fix it, it might be different. However, he's been this way for a long time and he doesn't want to change.

If you stay, he will be sweet for a short time, and then go straight back to being abusive. Just like he did last time!

You are young and this relationship is just a year old. It's not a marriage. Please, just move on. Go find a nice man who respects you, who wants you to be happy, and who rejoices in your friendships.

To shore you up as you walk away, talk to a person in your family whom you trust. Show them this letter. Or find a therapist skilled in abuse and control who can support you while you exit.

Please know I'll be thinking about you. I hope you stay safe and get the happiness you deserve.

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