My Friend is in a Controlling Relationship. How Can I Help Him?

is his leash really that tight?

Hi Heather,

One of my friends, Mat, is dating a girl named Lindsay. They have been dating quite a while now and it is a very unhealthy relationship. She is very controlling.

You see, before they started dating, Mat was best friends with EVERYONE, now, he doesn’t talk to any of us because he is not “allowed” to by his girlfriend. He isn’t allowed to talk, text or even look at any of us. If we try to talk to him, he’ll tell us to leave him alone… but only because he is with Lindsay.

When he is not with Lindsay, he is perfectly fine, laughing and talking with us. We know he is not happy because he told us, but he can’t get out. His parents forced him to be with her and he isn’t allowed to leave her.

We love him a lot and we want him out of this relationship but don’t know how to help. We have tried for so long and can’t think of anything else. It doesn’t help either that I used to date him and I still have feelings for him. I want to tell him but we can NEVER get him alone. He is always with Lindsay. Got any ideas of what we can do? HELP

It’s always hard to see your friend be in a crappy relationship — and it’s even harder when you have feelings for that person. I know you want to be able to help your friend get out of that situation, but unfortunately, that’s a decision he has to make on his own. No matter how much you want to place all of the blame on Lindsay, there are two sides to every story. Unless you know what’s really going on and that Mat is genuinely in pain, you need to be careful about throwing around the word “controlling”. It’s a form of abuse and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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Here’s my question for you: What’s up with Mat’s parents forcing him to date someone? Honestly, the situation sounds really sketchy, and that explanation could be a lie. Sometimes people say that they’re in a controlling relationship when they so aren’t. Is it possible that he really likes Lindsay and is just lying to look cool? How well do you know Lindsay?

She might be upset by and jealous of your friendship with Mat — which is understandable, considering he’s sneaking around behind her back and telling you she’s controlling his life — so give her a reason not to be and try to become friendly with her. But if your feelings for him are going to get in the way, then I would just stay out of it.

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There are plenty of other guys out there who don’t carry around nearly this much drama. After all of this stuff with you and Mat, it could be nice to switch gears completely. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

WDYT, gURLs? Have you ever lost a friend to their sweetie? Got any ideas that could help? Share your stories and advice below.

take care,

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Posted in: Dating, Friends, Friends & Family, Help Me Heather, Love Advice, Sucky Emotions, Sucky Emotions
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  • JMP

    This is terrible advice. It dismisses the possibility that the original inquiry came from a discerning person genuinely concerned for a friend/ex-partner who may genuinely be in trouble in his toxic relationship. The response instead tells the questioner that she needs to abandon her friend because he is too much “drama” and that he may be lying when he claims his girlfriend controls him.

    The advice heaps on victim-blaming rather than offer any constructive or practical measures one may take when concerned for a loved one. Yes, it’s true that people in abusive relationships got into that situation because of unhealthy patterns that hearken back to childhood … yes, every person is responsible for him/herself … that does not mean we should abandon a person enduring abuse. And controlling behavior, including isolating someone from friends & family, is a form of abuse–often just one layer of many.

    In an abusive relationship, both parties are hurting, but one party is more likely to act out while the other party is more likely to internalize. There is often collusion and confusion, shame and gaslighting. There is often enmeshment. For these reasons and more, abuse can be quite difficult to identify, even by the victim. The inquiry above states that Mat’s parents are forcing him to date Lindsay. Instead of picking up on a pattern of diminishing and subjugating Mat’s agency that probably makes it tough for him to have the personal resources to extricate himself from unwanted influences, the above advice slams Mat for confiding his discomfort and suggests he has an agenda in admitting to it. This attitude toward someone who’s in trouble is not only demeaning, but dangerous.

    It’s good to know that Mat has a group of caring friends like the person who posted above. I hope that s/he ignored the proffered advice and is doing her utmost to show support to Mat while remaining uncritical of his current decision to stay in the relationship. Demonstrating to him that his voice and perspective have value will help him regain confidence in his own abilities to navigate the situation. It’s tricky to reach a friend if the abuser is keeping them at a distance, so the one piece of the advice above that makes sense is to try to get on the abuser’s good side, or reduce that person’s sense of threat so they let down their guard. This may keep the lines of communication open enough for Mat, and others like him, to receive the assistance they need to eventually leave a toxic relationship.

    Good luck to everyone who is dealing with such a situation.

  • Linda

    Seriously? If it was a girl being abused, would you be as skeptical as you are here? All the other articles on abusive relationships on this site recommend supporting the victim and helping them find the courage to leave, but this time the girl should find someone with ‘less drama’? It’s like you’re saying, “Oh, he’s a guy, he should just man up and take it without whining.” So much for gender equality.