I started dating my boyfriend at a pretty young age, early teens. I’m now twenty-one and realize that he is controlling and I am co-dependent. I use his car in his name, and live with him. I know I need to leave him, but I’m scared to. I don’t know the first thing about getting a car on my own, and I really have nowhere to go. I don’t know what to do. I guess what I want is help on how to deal with my codependency issues, so I can work on leaving him. Please help. I just want to be happy.

 A: Thanks for writing in with your question. It is hard these days to make a relationship last into adulthood that started in the teen years. It is difficult to know who you want as a long term partner when you are still developing your own identity, so don’t feel bad about your desire to move on. Furthermore, you describe a very unhealthy dynamic of control and codependency. 

I’m assuming that there must be reasons you can’t ask your parents for help with a car and living arrangements or you would do so. If it’s about pride, try to put that aside and ask for some help. Otherwise, seek help elsewhere. 

There are free Co-Dependents Anonymous support groups in most geographical areas, and if you are not close to one, I’d suggest joining an online support group.  I’d also suggest that you look into finding your local domestic violence shelter, because control is the underlying force behind domestic abuse. Even if he has never been physically violent, most shelters offer support groups and counseling to help with all forms of unhealthy relationships. They may also be able to connect you with resources for finding your own transportation and residence.

Also, seek help from everyone else you trust. Leaving a relationship is hard and you will need ongoing support (and reminders why you left so that you don’t go back).  Talk with friends, teachers, clergy, your yoga instructor, etc.Not only will you find much needed support, but also accountability to keep you on the right track … forward.   

Finally, there are many self-help books available on codependency and relationship issues in general. It may be helpful to find one or two that speak to you and it may also be helpful to keep a journal throughout this process. Good luck!

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts