Dealing With Controlling Men: What Should You Do When It’s Hard To Leave Him?

By: Tanisha Herrin

Updated December 16, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

You want to leave him but feel it is impossible, but why? People assume if you're in an unhealthy relationship with a controlling person, you should leave. While this is true, the situation is often more complicated than just leaving out the door. After being with a controlling or abusive person, they leave you feeling scared, belittled, and threatened. It may be challenging to focus on what action to take, but no matter how dire the circumstance, there is always a way out to live a better life.

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Pay Attention To Warning Signs

Signs of a controlling man include verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. It occurs in ways that may restrict or control how others do or say things. The behaviors act as a form of manipulation when a man wants things to go his way. If you notice your boyfriend or husband being paranoid, insecure or uses ultimatum tactics to manipulate you, he may be controlling. Other actions he may do include criticizing you for no reason, purposely isolating you from others, makes you feel guilty or uses guilt to control you, and makes you feel less than or little.

Lack of trust, humorous teasing disguised as criticism, implants feelings of doubt, and an expectation of meeting his sexual needs are additional warning signs. If you're experiencing emotional hurt from being verbally abused or he's physically harmed you, it is time to get out of the relationship. Anytime you have felt unsafe or disrespected; he crossed the line. It's time to assess your options and make your move. There are local agencies providing support for anyone seeking immediate assistance. There are also online counseling options if you want to talk to someone about your situation. Help is available, and you deserve to live a better life.

Determine What Is Holding You Back

When someone hears about a person being in an abusive or controlling relationship, they likely wonder why they don't leave. It is a logical response but dealing with a person with characteristics of a controlling personality isn't easy. There are several reasons why people stay in unhealthy relationships, such as the following:

  • A person may not see their relationship as unhealthy because society has normalized certain behaviors that are abusive or controlling. If you don't recognize related actions, you assume no reason for ending a relationship.
  • Unable to see they were emotionally abused when their self-esteem took a hit during the relationship. It is hard to leave and start fresh because a controlling personality infused false narratives into their partner that made them feel worthless. A person may feel unworthy of better options.
  • Get caught up in the cycle of abuse when the abuser apologizes or acts friendly after a situation. They claim they won't do it again to make the abused feel better. The behavior may be minimized, but it continues to occur.
  • Find it extremely difficult to leave if they are not sure about their safety. Some may have their lives threatened while trying to determine what to do, especially immediately after leaving their partner.
  • Find it hard to leave the cycle of abuse or control. Some may not realize the relationship is toxic, and when they do, they attempt to break up with their partner multiple times before doing so for good. Someone can get accustomed to being controlled before realizing how to end it for good.


  • Feel pressure from society to stick things out. People may say they are all in, forgive and forget, or do what is necessary to be loyal. A person may not want to be seen as someone who wronged their partner because they left them. Remember, a true friend or partner will never put you in danger or harm you if they care about you.
  • Feel responsible for their partner's actions. In relationships, such actions are known as gaslighting. The abuser makes their partner feel bad, guilty, or they were at fault. In many cases, it is not your fault, but it is a controlling, manipulative aspect that often occurs in different situations.
  • Believe things will change if they stay. Early in a relationship, you may notice signs of a controlling boyfriend but think showing your love for him will help him improve. One may think they can help their partner be better if they experienced a rough past. A person must be willing to change their behavior themselves. A relationship shouldn't be based on you changing someone's behavior.
  • Feeling pressure from society to be a perfect partner. Social media and certain cultures may contribute to how people perceive what is considered an ideal relationship.
  • Feel embarrassed or fearful when others learn about their situation. People in controlling or abusive relationships may worry about how they will be blamed, judged, or looked down on by other people.
  • Experience dependency that is hard to break, such as being married with children. A person may share finances, living space, and friends with an abuser that make leaving seem impossible.

There are many reasons why it is hard to leave a toxic relationship. It is essential to determine factors you think are holding you back from leaving or ending the relationship. You are responsible for your life and how you want to live it. Help is available to get out of the relationship.

Making An Action Plan To Leave

Once you understand why it is hard to leave, assess your options, and determine how and when to take action. It may feel hard to leave but keep yourself motivated by thinking about your freedom, safety, and how you are taking your life back. Here are suggestions to consider when determining how to leave your relationship.

Get reconnected with people you know. Many controlling relationships lead to feeling isolated or losing contact with family and friends. Reconnect with people you know and be honest about your situation. It doesn't matter if months or years have passed since you last connected with them. You may feel uncomfortable reaching out, but you may be surprised by their support and be happy to hear from you. They become an essential part of your support system. They may offer a place for you to stay, a shoulder to cry on, and an excellent form or reliance on them instead of your abuser. If you don't have family or friends, consider someone else you know or trust such as your doctor, church member, or police.

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Establish your getaway plan again and again. If your safety is a concern, there are shelters available for people seeking support through local programs or shelters. Planning how to leave the relationship increases successful separation. It ensures you are physically and emotionally able to leave while making sure everything is considered. Know actions to take such as who to call, where you'll stay, and what you need to take with you or what to take to a friend's house to keep for you until you get settled. A plan will make things more comfortable if you are waiting for the right moment to leave.

Leave when the risk of a confrontation is minimal. To ensure your plan is followed through successfully, consider when your partner is occupied so you won't be stopped. When planning to leave a controlling husband or boyfriend, know the day and time to put your plan into motion. If you plan to connect with a trusted friend or family member, let them know your plans. Consider changing passwords to accounts.

Find someone you can talk to about your situation. Don't wait until you get out of the relationship to talk. Dealing with a controlling boyfriend may bring up emotions challenging to cope with personally. Someone you can trust, such as a family member or friend you can stay in touch with while transitioning can help you stay focused on leaving. A couple's counselor can help you with emotions resulting from leaving. Controlling and abusive relationships may leave scars making it difficult to move forward with your life. You can gain tools to help you move on from abuse. Consider your mental health needs as you think about what you want to accomplish after leaving.

Make sure you are physically and mentally safe. Be proud to work up the courage to leave an abuser. It is a scary and challenging experience being with someone who uses insecurity to prey on others. Every action you complete that helps you get away from him is something to celebrate. It is an action that counts toward your victory. If you were able to ignore his calls, texts, or emails for today that is great, the aftermath would present challenges, but when you achieve a milestone, it gives you momentum to stay focused. Focus on positive actions and thoughts. Take care of yourself and treat yourself to things you enjoy. Your physical wellbeing may include seeking a restraining order or legal protection if your safety is a concern. It provides a level of security so you can focus on recovery.


You deserve love. It is important to confront your fears about leaving a controlling relationship. Understand the abuse or controlling behaviors occurring in your relationship and their patterns. You may feel like you're not worthy after being torn down by someone, but getting out of the relationship and getting professional emotional support ensures your vulnerability isn't taken advantage of by another abuser. You deserve someone that will respect, love, and admire you for who you are. Take your time and put yourself first. You can do it.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What are the signs of a controlling person? 

When you have controlling people in your life, it may sometimes not be evident right away. Your friends and family may notice controlling behavior or abusive behavior before you do, or before you are willing to admit. Toxic relationships and controlling relationships both involve an emotionally abused victim. The controlling partner is sometimes physically abusive, as well. 

Signs of a controlling person or that you have a controlling partner include:

  • They isolate you from friends and family
  • Tell you how to dress or speak 
  • Make you feel small 
  • Make you feel belittled
  • Make you feel that your socioeconomic status would suffer without them
  • They infiltrate your network of friends and family for control
  • Make you feel guilt over innocent interactions with other men
  • Severe long distance relationships with school friends and family
  • Are overly concerned for your safety when you want to go out without them
  • Force you to spend time away from your family
  • Do not appreciate your point of view

A controlling partner will eventually take over every aspect of your life until you feel finally broke inside. If you find yourself in a relationship with a control freak, you need to get away from the controlling person as fast as possible, otherwise you will end up in a long term relationship with a toxic person. 

What is a controlling husband? 

A controlling husband is a controlling person who subjects you to emotional abuse and isolates you from friends and family. They want all of your attention and do not want you to do anything they do not endorse or condone. When you are in a relationship with controlling people, you need to consider the long term implications. Will your controlling partner and their behavior impact your children? Will it make you feel guilty for bringing them into a world with such a controlling father? If he is controlling with you, what will he be like with other members of your family? Controlling men typically do not change, so if you think that you will be able to change your boyfriend or fiancé before your controlling partner becomes your husband, think twice about what the ramifications will be down the road. It is very challenging to deal with controlling men and come out on top. If you have a controlling partner now, or a controlling husband, understand that this is considered equivalent to being in an abusive relationship. 

How do you deal with a controlling man? 

It is hard to say how you deal with a controlling man because they are the one who is the controlling partner in the relationship. The relationship patterns that you deal with when dating amplifies when you are in controlling relationships with control freaks. 

If you understand that controlling people will always get their way, regardless of the measures they take to get there, you may be able to avoid becoming romantically involved with a controlling partner. However, emotional abuse is the center of the way controlling people interact with others. Some consider being overly controlling to be a personality disorder. However, controlling people do not feel that anything is wrong with them; there is something wrong with everyone else, and this is why they need to be controlled. They do not feel guilty for their behavior because they feel like they are helping you to get better or to be a better person. Controlling people or a controlling partner will use any tactics necessary to get you to behave the way they want, even if they drive you to eating disorders, utilize emotional abuse, or isolate you from your friends and family. 

The best way to get away from a controlling partner is to leave and never look back. Yes, you may love them, but you will never change them. In the end, you will be the one who gets hurt, and by the time you realize it, it may be too late or too hard to leave without them physically harming you.

What does Gaslighting mean? 

Gaslighting is used to describe abusive behavior created by controlling people who manipulate information is a way that makes the victim question his or her sanity. Controlling people use gaslighting as a way to make someone doubt their memories or perceived reality. It is a way to keep the victim away from friends and family and depend on the controlling person exclusively. Many victims of gaslighting can develop psychological disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders. They have no idea what is real and what is not because of the constant manipulation of the controlling people in their life. Even when the victim is finally told that they need to escape the abusive relationship they are in by the controlling people, they have a hard time accepting that as the truth. Both the abuser and the victim ostracize friends and family as part of the control freaks will and desires. 

What are the signs of a controlling boyfriend? 

It is not always apparent to the victim that they are in a relationship with controlling people. Despite the warnings of friends and family, controlling behavior is centered on the premise that the victim is safer with them and that the ones trying to get them away from the abuser is hurtful and mean. Controlling people use techniques to gain your absolute trust and then use it against you. 

If you are in a new relationship, some signs that you have a controlling boyfriend include:

  • Asking you to dress more modest; they do not want others to see your body
  • Making you feel bad for not supporting them or agreeing with their point of view
  • Making your feel guilty for innocent interactions, like staying late at work with a male co-worker
  • Attempting to control what you eat 

These are just a few signs that you are dating a controlling boyfriend. Controlling people rarely change, so if you feel that you are dating a controlling person, it is best to leave sooner than later. 

What is a narcissistic husband like? 

Controlling people also tend to be narcissists. A narcissistic husband thinks that he knows all and will belittle you when you try to share your opposing opinion. He will often build you up just to break you down. Where controlling people just want overall control of every situation, a narcissist may allow you to do something that they do not approve of just to have the ability to brag about how if you listened to them in the first place, you would be better off. 

What is a controlling relationship? 

A controlling relationship is being involved either as friends or romantically with controlling people who insist on getting their way. They rarely allow you to make your own decisions or to make a decision without their initial approval. This is not to say that a mutually respectful relationship is one with a controlling person; they are not the same thing. When you are in a relationship based on mutual respect, you may consult your partner when making a big decision to ensure that it is the best for everyone in your family, including you. When you are in a controlling relationship, the controlling people involved demand that you get their permission before doing things or do not allow you to do things that they do not approve of overall. 

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