Advice: He's Trying to Control Her

I am a 21-year-old woman living with the father of our 13-month-old son. We're trying to stay together, but it seems he is trying to control me. He has not helped with our son or purchased diapers and formula. I am trying to move out, but he doesn't know about it. I have the jitters because he tells me that if I try to leave, he will take our son. His name isn't on the birth certificate because he didn't want to pay child support were we to split up. I fear that my parents will think I am giving up; but they don't know what I have been going through.

First, you must tell your parents what you're going through. You'll likely need their protection and help; calmly and explicitly ask them for it. Most parents do not wish to see their children controlled, intimidated or otherwise harmed by anyone, especially someone who is supposed to love them. Perhaps your fear that your parents will blame you stems from the fact that men who intimidate and control are good at shifting the blame for their behavior onto their partner. You do not make him mean and controlling. Second, you need facts. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) to learn what his rights are as a father and what course of action is prudent. Third, your partner may follow through on his threat to seize your son; you need to ensure your baby's safety—and your own. Develop a plan for leaving (choose a time when he is not home) and go to a place where you are welcome and protected. It would be wise to drop your baby off there beforehand. To avoid having to return to an abusive or controlling partner, you need your own means of support—arrange it now. Don't seek or expect expressions of affection toward you or your baby from this man; he seems incapable of it.

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