Ask Dr. Gilda-He’s Too Controlling

Her new guy doesn’t want her (or her child) to have any contact with the ex. What to do?

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
I am a divorced 34-year-old female with one daughter. The biological father doesn’t really have anything to do with her except to pay her insurance and child support, which I cannot complain about. I was married to this other guy who was there for my
Sorry, you’re wearing blinders in assessing your new love.
daughter since her birth, and his family adores her. But I have now moved on and am dating the most wonderful guy. He treats my daughter and me with so much respect. The problem is that he hates my ex-husband and says he has no right to see her. He wants me to have nothing to do with him or his family. I somewhat understand his feelings, but how can I separate my daughter from people who love her? I have told my new boyfriend that if it weren’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t have anything to do with my ex or his family. But he doesn’t understand. Please help!
– Divorced with Child

Dear Divorced with Child,
When someone enters a relationship with you, he must also accept your children, your friends, and the rest of your family as part of your life. It’s the package you bring to the table—as-is. Love is not a bidding war in which your guy gets to decide a new history for your life script! You describe this dude as treating you and your daughter “with so much respect.” Well, girl, I hate to break it to you, but it is not respectful to try to eradicate your child’s family from her life. Who does this guy think he is? Where does he get off “hating” your ex-husband? And how could you even “understand” where he’s coming from?

Sorry, you’re wearing blinders in assessing your new love. Rather than being respectful, he is a controlling, territorial man who, I fear, will only make you and your child miserable as time goes on. See the signs of his possessiveness as they really are at this early stage of dating.

Here’s a test to prove my point: List the things you enjoy doing.
No one has the right to dominate you.
What is Mr. Control Freak’s opinion about each of them? Have you curtailed any of your usual pleasures to please him? Most important is this question: Why have you allowed this guy to steamroll your life? After a divorce, it’s common to question your desirability. When someone new shows up, it’s also common to misread control as caring. Be on your guard!

This is what I recommend you do now:
  1. Take an assertiveness training course. You must sharpen your awareness about people’s hidden agendas and learn how to stand up for yourself.
  2. Tell the control freak directly that your daughter’s father and family are hers for life—and no one will change that. He can either accept it or not.
  3. Date other men. Since you’re new at this game, recognize that there are other men who will welcome the rich relationships you bring to a partnership. Good partners are accepting, not controlling.
You need to rack up more experience and exposure to the dating world. No one has the right to dominate you. Once you project your power, no one will be able to quash it!

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., has a private practice and is an associate professor at Mercy College in New York. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website ( and send her your relationship questions.
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