My husband and I met when I was 16 and he was 18. I’m now 28 and we’ve been married for 10 years. He controls my every move and calls me 50 times a day. If I don’t answer because I’m busy at work, I will have 30–50 missed calls. If he e-mails and I don’t respond right away, he calls again! When I dress for work, he says things like, “Oh, you’re seeing your boyfriend today?” He checks my cell phone, too. At first it bothered me, but I let him look or answer because I am not a cheater. I’ve always kept a nice figure but I’m so stressed that I am losing hair (but can’t lose weight from my last child). He succeeded in stopping me from exercising because I don’t have the strength to argue with him. He complains about not having sex, but we have sex five times a week. He can’t control his drinking but argues that he only does it every other weekend. Every time, though, it’s a dramatic scene in front of our girls. He does help with our daughters (who adore him), pays rent, does all the cooking and some cleaning. Should I help him get a hobby? Or let him go?
A hobby won’t distract your husband from his addiction to controlling you. And while nearly everyone wants a partner who pitches in with the housework and pays a share of the bills, that’s not reason enough to remain in a relationship that compromises your health. You’ve given up exercise for this man. We need workouts to help keep our minds and bodies in balance through the normal stress that life tosses our way. But you’re in a relationship that creates abnormal amounts of stress. You need exercise more than most. Instead you are allowing your husband to cripple you, emotionally and physically. If one of your daughters was in a marriage like yours and said she loved the man who was abusing her, wouldn’t you question where she gained such a warped view of love?
Love doesn’t control, egos do. By staying in a marriage with a man who confuses obsession with love, you’re teaching your daughters how to do the same. Since they adore him, it’s likely they will become like him. Or they’ll marry men who manipulate them like puppets. Your husband’s drinking is a concern, too. Until he quits the alternate-weekend binge fests, it is unlikely that he can confront the fears and insecurities driving his obsessive behavior. Once he’s sober, it will also be easier to determine if his control issues can be healed through talk therapy or if he has a deeper psychiatric disorder and requires something more.
One last thing: I’m not a fan of high-school senior boys dating freshman or sophomore girls. The 18-year-old (the age of your husband when you met) is often immature and unable to connect with girls his age as equals. He gravitates toward younger girls who are often impressed that an older boy is interested in them and are willing to do what is necessary to keep the arrangement intact. It may have been easy for your husband to control you when you were younger or to be with you most of the day. If the female matures, as you have, she realizes that the relationship they had as teenagers is unhealthy for adults. But because your man sees that imbalance of power as normal, the only way to gain relief is to leave. Before you do, get help. Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) or The Center for Violence-Free Relationships are great resources.