Unable to leave

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 and a half years. We started dating when I was 17, he was 23. A year later, I moved out of my mother’s house and into a friend’s, and he moved in with me. 6 months after that, we moved into our own place. I became pregnant with our daughter and gave birth when I was 19. 6 weeks before I gave birth, he kicked me out of the house for being too moody, and I was staying at my mother’s house at the time. While I was gone, he slept with another woman. I found out about this after he allowed me and our child to move back into the house after she was born. He claims that he didn’t consider us “together” at that time, and thus it should not count as cheating. The woman he slept with later had a child, and he denies that child to this day. I have asked him repeatedly to have a paternity test so we can put that issue to rest. Besides all of that, we cannot agree on anything, especially anything concerning the health or well-being of our child, and generally ignore each other, to avoid loud fights.

I want out desperately. Every time I’ve tried to leave in the past (there have been MULTIPLE times), he cries and begs and threatens suicide. If that weren’t enough, he uses the baby against me. He tells me that I’m taking his whole world away from him and that I’m horrible because he already can’t see his other children. He has two sons from a marriage to another woman before we met. He is still married to that woman, 3 and a half years into our relationship. He refuses to do anything about divorcing her.

He refuses to do anything, period, except go to work and then come home and sit on the computer and then go to sleep. He will not help with the baby very much at all, yet when I try to leave him, she is the most precious thing in the world to him. I do not know what to do. I don’t even know if it’s legal for me to take the baby with me when I leave, or if he could call the police on me for kidnapping. Please help me!

A: The first thing you need to do is see a lawyer. If you don’t have the money for that, search LegalAid.org for your state. Legal Aid provides help with legal problems to low-income people. It will give you peace of mind to know exactly what your rights as a parent are.

This man seems to think that a father’s duties end with making the babies. He’s not supporting any of them. He’s using threats and emotional blackmail to keep you with him. I have to wonder why. I suspect that you are doing far more than your share and he doesn’t want to lose the benefits that come with living with you even though he doesn’t want to contribute anything toward making the three of you into a functioning family.

Please understand that this man is unlikely to change. You are only 20. Cut your losses now and get on with your life. Get an education and a job you can feel good about. Make yourself available again so you can find a man who will cherish you and be the kind of father your child deserves.

Talking with his wife might help you find the courage to leave. I have a guess he behaved the same way with her.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Unable to leave. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/02/01/unable-to-leave/