Leaving a controlling partner
Breaking up is never easy, but sometimes it can seem impossible. Here's how to stay sweet when things turn sour.
What's right for you?
Relationships don't always last forever. Situations change, as can needs and emotions. That's fine if the feeling is mutual, and you're both happy to call it a day, but what if your other half is so determined to keep things going that they attempt to manipulate your feelings?
"I stayed with Stephen because I was scared about what he might do if I left," admits Nina, 21. "He would say stuff about not being able to live without me, and I took him seriously. He knew damn well I wanted out, but he wasn't going to let me go easily. As a result, I spent three miserable months living with someone I once loved but grew to despise."
Nina wound up in that classic end game where she became more concerned for her partner's feelings than for her own. By tapping into her fear that he might do something stupid, Stephen had found a way to keep Nina in the relationship. But at the same time it turned her feelings against him, which only added to the tension between them.
"Eventually I just couldn't take any more," she explained. "I told Stephen's best mate I was planning on leaving him, and that made me feel better when I did go. It meant at least someone was looking out for him."
- Take responsibility for your own feelings: Looking back I'm only sorry that I didn't leave sooner. There was nothing I could have done within the relationship to change Stephen's attempt to control me. If anything, walking out probably helped him question his own behaviour.
- Warn someone of your decision to split: If you're going to leave then don't delay, especially when faced with emotional blackmail. It's not fair on either party to stick around. But do tell a friend. Anyone who is able to be there for the person you're leaving. In that situation, it's the best thing you can do.
- Be clear that it's over: I left after a row, a minor conflict that blew up really quickly, and I wish I had chosen a better moment. Either way, I told him straight. It was over. Walking out with little warning seems a bit cowardly, I think. Far better to be honest, and then...
- Be strong: I went to stay with a friend, and Stephen left a couple of heavy duty messages on her machine. One time I actually picked up. He begged me to come back, but I'd made up my mind. Had I been in the slightest doubt, however, I can see how easily I might have given in and ended up back at square one.
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