Escaping Control in Emotional Affair

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Dear Hoopers,
I have been married to a controlling man for 5 years. We have 2 beautiful children. He doesn’t want me wearing certain clothes, won’t let me go out to the club with my family, doesn’t want me to go to college and I finally got him to “let me” go to the gym. Things have gotten abusive one time since the 9 years we’ve been together and it was him physically attacking me. Lately, we have lost chemistry. We don’t even walk side by side. We both do our separate things on our phones and we really don’t spend much time together.

So, I play a certain game on my phone that also has open chat and here comes Prince Charming. We have lots in common, he’s 13 years older than me and has much more life experience than I and he’s easy on the eyes. He lives about 1,000 miles away but plans to come visit one day. We have great conversation. I feel that I may be having an emotional affair with this guy and I know it’s wrong. So I keep trying to forget about him but I can’t. I feel so attached and attracted to him. I finally got my hubby to agree to me going back to school after a couple of arguments about it so I do plan on leaving him once I finish. He doesn’t know that yet but I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse. He’s too jealous, controlling and emotionally unavailable. But my family is making me feel bad by wanting to divorce him because he is a good provider, I am a stay at home mom. My question is should I leave this guy alone? Should I continue to talk to him as a “friend”? He has expressed that he feels a bond between him and I but I just don’t know what to do. Please give me some advice, help me. PLEASE?!?!
-Escaping Control in Emotional Affair 

Dear Escaping Control in Emotional Affair,
I think I would feel attracted to the first anything that gave me attention after being in such a deprived relationship. He “let you” go to the gym? I am so sorry dear. I can’t imagine the struggles you have been through.

The Prince Charming you met online is a romantic distraction. He’s an escape from the reality that you are in right now and that you want to leave. You are falling in love with the potential you’ve created him to be. Considering the reality you’re experiencing, there is no wonder getting lost in this illusion feels good. With that said, I think it’s important to address your husband and possible divorce before getting more emotionally entangled.

You can stay with someone and be miserable or you can make a change


Does your family know that your husband physically assaulted you? It may change the way they define “provider.” Have you explained to them that he is jealous, controlling and emotionally unavailable? Have you discussed this with anyone? I ask these questions, because it seems your family’s opinion is weighing heavily on your decision, rather than you deciding what is best for you and your children.

Domestic abuse is not okay. There are no excuses. A provider does not abuse the person they love. You can stay with someone and be miserable or you can make a change. Despite him not allowing you to make many decisions, you actually can. And you can do them without him. It may be a difficult transition and journey, but it may be better than your current reality.

Dear Escaping Control in Emotional Affair,
His pattern of control has been building for years. He wants to control every part of you to the point that he doesn’t want to be your husband, he wants to be your puppet master. It sounds like you have been considering leaving him and even discussing this with your family. But instead of them providing support to help you move forward, they criticized you. This is not helpful and is part of the uphill battle that people can face in trying to leave a controlling and abusive relationship.

Thankfully, the physical abuse in your relationship has been limited to 1 occasion. However, abuse can take many forms including isolation, coercion, and control. This has left you feeling disconnected and joyless, looking for other forms of support. Given the level of apathy you feel within your marriage, it is difficult to imagine you two making your relationship work long-term. Also know that while it isn’t impossible, it will likely be difficult for him to make the type of relationship changes needed in order to give you the respect you deserve as an equal partner in the marriage. In the event that you do want to try to make it work, couples therapy would be a must. Your husband needs an outside person to help him understand the unhealthy nature of his actions and the accountability to make substantive changes.

Abuse can take many forms including isolation, coercion, and control.

-Dr. Ryan

Even if you decide to remain together for the time being, I would encourage you to begin considering the practical options you have for separation. Only you can decide when the time is right, but I think you should understand your options for doing so. You may be surprised about the financial ability you have and/or support that family may be willing to offer.

I think you know that prince charming isn’t the best idea. It makes sense that you have looked for ways to feel better within your current relationship, but this isn’t doing much for your real life. Know that even if he was your true prince charming, much of your attraction towards him is likely influenced by how controlling your husband is and how apathetic you feel towards him. I would encourage you to look forward 2 years to consider the best actions to make today. If your values are about your emotional well-being, independence and children, make moves in that direction.
-Dr. Ryan