Dear Virginia, My husband's always been a bit possessive. He said that once we were married, he'd relax, but now he demands to know where I'm going to be every minute of the day and checks up on me by ringing or texting me. He says my clothes are too sexy, and wants me to cut my hair and wear flat shoes. I can't even talk to a man without him questioning me for days. He says if we have a baby that'll make him feel less threatened, but I'm not sure. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Antoinette

What I'd do is to go on the Pill straight away, if you're not already on it, and take extra birth control precautions just to make sure there's absolutely no question of your getting pregnant by this controlling man at the moment. Of course, any right-thinking woman would get out straight away, but it's difficult to think straight when you're in a relationship like yours, and no doubt there's a bit of you that loves him, which hinders your making a strong, wise and far-sighted decision.

Abusive men like your husband are usually tragically insecure and desperate underneath. They feel that unless they're on constant watch for betrayal, they'll be desperately hurt. These feelings usually go far, far back to early childhood – perhaps they were constantly let down by their mother and feel they just can't trust women – and, if he himself had an abusive father, he probably sees his behaviour as normal.

Sadly, as you've discovered, there's no satisfying a man like this. Get married, and he's still suspicious. Cut your hair, wear flat shoes, and he still doesn't trust you. Speak to another man, even a shop assistant, and he believes you're having an affair.

Unless he's prepared to get help from a third party, and understand fully that he has a really big problem – and it's his problem, not yours – there's not much you can do. He may well, at some point, start hitting you and the natural end to violence is, of course, murder, not that it usually comes to this. These men are so maddened and deranged by the anxiety provoked by the women close to them that they'd rather be rid of them than suffer the tormenting thoughts and the possibility of what they imagine would be unbearable pain.

It might help you to separate if you can think of him as suffering from an illness. Cut your losses, leave (preferably in the company of a strong woman friend – you don't want to be alone when you break the news) try to find someone who wants a child because he loves you, not because he wants to relax. And, perhaps, ask yourself, before you go into another relationship, what drew you to a man that most of us would have spotted as a dangerous control-freak long before we walked up the aisle.

He may be dangerous

Your husband is suffering extreme low self-esteem and possibly developmental trauma – quite likely with a history of childhood abuse (whether emotional, physical or sexual). If he could recognise his behaviour as being intensely insecure and paranoid and/or admit to nightmares or flashbacks, and accept psychotherapy (for trauma), your relationship has a good chance of surviving.

However, if not, here's a prediction: his behaviour will become increasingly bizarre, paranoid and sooner or later, violent. If he does become violent, he will apologise profusely on his knees, beg for forgiveness and vow he will never do anything like that again, most likely crying like a baby. You, naturally, will forgive him – time after time. You will feel increasingly trapped and depressed and will continue to hope that his promises are real and that he will change. You will persuade yourself that he's weak and that he needs you. You will cry yourself to sleep many, many times before you decide you have had enough.

A child or children will make no difference. If you decide to leave him, he will stalk you, terrorise you and even use your children to blackmail you.

So the question is, how are you two the perfect match? Because after all Antoinette, you have very likely married someone who in some way reenacts your own past.

If you both have the courage to seek help, preferably with someone who is trauma trained, you can both shake off your demons and make a great partnership. I wish you both so much love and luck.


By email

Get out right now

Antoinette, you need to get out of this abusive relationship, right now. Someone like this is not going to change of his own accord, and I doubt whether he'd agree to relationship counselling or psychiatric treatment, even assuming they'd help in his case. As for even thinking of having a child in your situation, why make yourself more helpless and tied to a damaged man determined to bully and browbeat you – not to mention the likely effects on the child?

Just make sure that, when you tell him the marriage is over, there are other people around to protect you. Make sure he doesn't get your new address (arrange to use a solicitor's address for divorce proceedings). But go, now. Things can only get worse.

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Next week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

After a shotgun marriage that resulted in my youngest son (I have two others), it turned out my partner wasn't interested in sex, which makes me so sad. He says he loves us all, but he won't see a doctor. We were going to see Relate, but he wriggled out of it. I've now given up. The boys have a good, supportive family, but I don't want them to suffer another split. When I suggested separating, my partner said: "If that's what you want." Why do I go for people who are so unavailable?

Yours sincerely, Hattie

What would you advise Hattie to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to, or go to Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Naked Wines (