Advice: He's Trying to Control Her

If she leaves, he'll take their son. How to leave an abusive relationship.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on May 1, 2004 - last reviewed on June 6, 2007

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.