“He Won’t Allow Me to Travel Without Him”

I have been with my boyfriend for a year and a half now. I’m 20 and he’s 40. My family doesn’t approve because of his age. My whole family hasn’t been together in forever and we finally had the opportunity to get everyone together for a family reunion in Brazil this past weekend.

My boyfriend and I were supposed to go, but he didn’t get his visa in time. I wanted to go with him, of course, but, because he couldn’t go, I wanted to go by myself so I wouldn’t miss out on the family reunion. I thought that maybe he could come when he got his visa or I would just come back within three days.

I simply wanted to go to the family reunion, but he said we should never travel apart and he never likes to be away from me. He gets lonely and depressed when I’m not with him. I made him buy the ticket to Brazil anyway, but there were complications at the airport and I ended up not going because I wouldn’t get there in time.

Even though I didn’t go, he was still acting upset because he wants me to tell him that I will never travel without him for any reason ever again. My mom and brother live in a different state so I like to go visit them for a week sometimes, and, since my family won’t accept him, I can’t bring him with me. I am extremely close with my mother, and I almost feel like I’ll have to choose between him or her. I was wondering if there’s any other way to fix things other than just leaving him. I do love him, but I also love my family. I don’t know what to do. — Choosing Between Family and Boyfriend

Your boyfriend is bad news, and, yes, you should absolutely leave him. He doesn’t love you and he doesn’t think of you as a person. He thinks of you as his property. He thinks he owns you. If he thought of you and loved you as a person, he would want you to see your family; he would want you to have interests and a life outside of him and your relationship. But he doesn’t.

He is taking advantage of your youth and naiveté and what sounds like your dependency on him — did you mean to say you made him buy your ticket to Brazil (that you then didn’t even use because of “complications” at the airport)? — to attempt to control you. This is not love, and it is not a healthy relationship.

Do not let this man control you. Stop depending on him for anything. If you can’t be self-sufficient, ask your family for help. I’m sure they would much, much rather help you in any way they can than lose you forever to a man twice your age who won’t let you out of his sight. Stop depending on this man, and leave him. Run and don’t look back. And from now on, don’t ever get involved with a man who makes you believe the price of his “love” is your entire life.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. I think there is another reason, besides age, that your family doesn’t approve of your boyfriend. It’s because he’s controlling. Come on, you can and should have a life outside of him and any person who isn’t ok with that is kind of effed up. That IS NOT SOMEONE you want to be with. Please MOA. Join activities and work on your self confidence. You’re so young, you have so many good things ahead of you. Don’t let this guy drag you down. Seriously.
    Ok, now I need to read Wendy’s response.

  2. If someone told me I couldn’t see my family, I’d tell them to F off. Seriously, this guy is controlling you. You are so young, in a few years you’ll see him as just a blip on the radar in your past. Dump him and enjoy being young and single, maybe hang out with some guys closer to your age, and go visit your family!

  3. What Wendy said.


    “I simply wanted to go to the family reunion, but he said we should never travel apart and he never likes to be away from me. He gets lonely and depressed when I’m not with him.”

    Normal couples can survive more than 24 hours away from each other without falling apart.

    It’s just normal that in the future, when you have a family, you may need to travel separately because of work logistics or finances (a single ticket is way cheaper than four or five, for instance).

    Leave, give yourself a break, and find somebody who has a life and interests of his own and understands that you don’t need to be with him all the time to demonstrate that you love him.


  4. I can’t imagine if someone told me I wasn’t allowed to travel without him?! That is incredibly controlling and should be a huge red flag waving and blocking out your view of anything else. Your family doesn’t just dislike him because of his age, they dislike him because he obviously sees you as chattel and not as an equal partner. He chose someone as young as you because he knew that you might be more likely to mistake his controlling behavior for love and it appears he was right. Prove him wrong and get out now. The next step will be a fight that gets out of control and he will tell you that you made him do whatever it is he does during that fight and have you apologizing for his bad behavior.

  5. I travel alone without Othello once or twice a year. I have been in the 8 years we’ve been married. And it’s always fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love going on vacation with Othello as well. But, sometimes I want to go visit my family out of state, but he can’t come because of logistics or finances, so I’ll go alone. I get to spend one-on-one time with my family, and he gets to have the house to himself for a week or so. Yes, we miss each other. But, when I get home, we have lots to talk about and catch up on. I’ve always thought that it was good for our marriage for me to take these occasional trips. And it he didn’t “let me”, he wouldn’t be my husband for much longer.

  6. I try not to have as few regrets in my life as possible, but I will say the thing I’ve regretted most is spending too much time dating the wrong guy. Your boyfriend is not a good man at all. Break it off with him because he will control your life otherwise. After you break it off go out and kiss a lot of boys and have a lot of fun because you’re 20 and carefree. 🙂

  7. Simonthegrey says:

    I spend a lot of time traveling without the Ginger. I have a small business that shows at conventions, festivals, and so forth. Generally he doesn’t want to go to these (sitting in a dealer room can be boring, sitting outside in the summer can be brutal). So, many weekends during the summer we are apart. We have been married a year, and on our WEDDING ANNIVERSARY I was out of town for a show that I scheduled before actually realizing the date. OP, you can travel without him. You should travel without him. This guy is bad news.

  8. How do you go to brazil for only 3 days? Also you made him buy your ticket and then you didn’t go? He sounds kind of clingy. If this were a 20 year old guy you would say his behaviour was immature. Just because he’s 40 doesn’t mean he’s mature.

  9. Bittergaymark says:

    So, you feel you have to chose between her (your mother) and him (your aging and textbook — yawn! — controlling boyfriend)?


    Chose her.

    1. Right? This is a no-brainer.

  10. I’d bet that your parents wouldn’t object to this guy so much if he were a normal, well-adjusted 40-year-old guy. And not a seriously disturbed control freak.

    I know it’s really annoying when the Olds say “you’ll understand when you’re older.” So I’ll try not to do that. 🙂 But here’s what your parents are seeing that you’re not.

    1. Someone who tries to keep you away from your family is NOT a good person. Unless your family is abusive and toxic and ruining your mental health, and they’re frightened for you because they love you. But you have a healthy, happy, relationship with your family, and what he’s doing is a giant, neon, flashing red sign of controlling tendencies. Not at all something you want in a relationship.

    2. “He wants me to tell him that I will never travel without him ever again.” That’s an absurd promise to ask anyone to make. What if your job requires you to travel someday? To go to a conference or something. Are you going to take him along on all of your work trips? What if he can’t go? Are you going to quit your job so you don’t have to travel without him? Or turn down a good job offer because you might have to travel? LW, mentally healthy people do not ask people to make that kind of promise. At best, it’s childish. At worst…..yup, controlling tendencies again.

    3. I’ve heard the phrase, “there’s a thin line between devotion and pathology.” It might seem to you that he’s asking these things because he’s so madly in love with you that he can’t bear to be away from you. And that’s kind of awesome, right? What’s really going on is that he’s terrified that you might find someone else while you’re away from him. That you might find you don’t need him. Not traveling without him will turn into not wanting you to work. And not wanting you to go out with your friends without him. His hold will get tighter and tighter.

    I think you might find a book called “The Gift of Fear” helpful. It’s by Gavin deBecker, and it’s a fairly short read. But it will help you understand situations like the one you’re in now.

    Please, walk away from this guy. Soon.

    1. cakemonster says:

      “Not traveling without him will turn into not wanting you to work. And not wanting you to go out with your friends without him. His hold will get tighter and tighter.”

      So, so true… LW, it starts out small, but his demands will grow. I, too, dated a guy like this when I was 20. His controlling tendencies started out small (e.g. don’t go out with friends without him) until slowly it was a huge list of things I wasn’t “allowed” to do – because you know, if I “really loved him,” why would I want to do them? I couldn’t travel without him. I couldn’t spend my weekends doing anything but be with him. I couldn’t visit my family, because they didn’t like him. I couldn’t have alone time, ever, because he “loved me so much,” that he couldn’t spend a minute without me – if I really loved him, I was supposed to understand that. FFS, I eventually couldn’t wear things he didn’t approve of in public, like tank tops. And what started as him just sulking and making me feel guilty eventually turned into rage.
      I broke up with him over 7 years ago, and a couple of restraining orders later, I’m *almost* rid of him. Be very careful, LW, and please listen to Wendy’s and other commenters’ advice.

  11. trixy minx says:

    I would probably dumb someone if they told mei couldn’t go to Brazil to visit my family. Eff. That.

  12. Laura Hope says:

    I think he needs to get a dog and you need to get a new boyfriend. And one day if you ever have children you’ll see they also freak out when you try to leave. But that’s normal. This isn’t.

    1. Monica Connolly says:

      Dog doesn’t deserve that nonsense either.

  13. No. Absolutely not. Hard no. LW, ditch this guy. He is 100% bad news.

  14. I think that there is more than meets the eye here. You are a 20 year old dating a controlling 40 year old? Why are you even interested in a 40 year old? I’m guessing that you have severe self-esteem issues and feel like you can’t make it on your own, but if you give yourself a chance, you can. Really. I’m guessing that your family is pretty dysfunctional as well (which is why you have issues and chose to be in such a bad relationship), so don’t go back to being dependent on them, either. Your 20s is the time you should be spreading your wings and learning to make it on your own. Go back to school, get an entry level job and do it well so you can move up and get better jobs.

    You can do much, much better. You just have to believe it in your heart. Find a way to make some small accomplishments and build on those, feel good about your future, and fulfill your potential. 20 is much too young to give up and accept this kind of life.

    1. Oh, it’s easy enough to see why a 20 year old would be attracted to a 40 year old, without any self-esteem issues or dysfunctional family. 40 isn’t ‘old man’, it’s someone who’s established, seems worldly, is vital and in their prime. The LW was 18 when she started seeing this guy. 18 year old guys can be goofy and immature, and in comparison, this guy seemed like he was mature and settled and had it all together.

      1. She was 18 and he was 38? More than twice her age! No, I disagree with you. Normal 18 or 20 years think someone that old is very very very old. I remember when I was that age…. guys that old seemed gross. It’s one thing if you’re a super-mature 18 year old and want a mature guy. Then you might choose a 25 year old guy, but not a 40 year old.

      2. Yeah, at 21 I dated a 33 year old, and in some things he seemed waaaay too old for me. And I´ve always been an old fogey in a young body haha.

      3. Scoozers answer. 100%

    2. I agree. That’s why in my comment I put “kiss lots of boys!” because that’s what people should be doing in their early 20’s……..

      1. Not to mention it’s beyond creepy that this guy is almost preying on women half his age. He was the LW’s age when she was born. That’s what creeps.me.out.

      2. When I was 21, this 39 year old guy kept bugging me to date him… and all I kept thinking was what the hell is wrong with this guy that he’s into me when I’m half his age??

  15. This whole letter is just wrong.

    1) When someone loves you, they encourage you to spend time w/ your family- not isolate you from them.
    2) He can never be alone because he gets depressed? Why would you want a partner that can not be on his own or have his own life aside from you. That gets old REALLY fast & suffocating.

    I gotta agree with your family & really urge you to see their side. You are still really young & don’t need to be in this controlling relationship that you will most likely end up regretting if you stay. Family is important- especially if you have a good relationship with them. Don’t ever let anyone isolate you from them. That is NOT their decision to make. This is your life, your family, your time. Make that a priority & you will soon realize what a loser this guy is.

    Aim higher!

    1. Agree, and just as an aside, re: the “can’t be alone because he gets depressed,” I would bet a lot that what would happen if you DID go away even for a night or two, is that he’d end up doing something unacceptable, like hooking up with somebody, and then blaming it on the fact that he went nuts because you weren’t around. I can so see that happening.

      Also: This not allowing you to travel is a major red-flag warning sign of an abuser, as others pointed out. Please google and familiarize yourself with the other warning signs of an abusive boyfriend.

      1. That’s a really good point… It’s a definite possibility he would act out & then blame it on her…

    2. Skyblossom says:

      If he gets so depressed without her how did he manage to survive until he met her? I think he’s using that as a way of being controlling.

  16. Here’s a general rule of thumb: beware of the word “allow”. If it comes up at all, like, “He won’t allow me to ________” take a step back. Someone who loves you will not put restrictions on you. If they have a concern, they will sit down with you and have a reasonable, adult conversation and you work it out together. Just saying you’re not allowed to do something is controlling, not loving.

    1. I love this rule of thumb. The only situation I can remotely think of where it is acceptable to say “s/he won’t allow me to ___” about a partner would be something like “s/he won’t allow me to eat shellfish because s/he knows I am allergic and could die.” But in pretty much any other scenario, if you are saying “s/he won’t allow me to ____,” that’s a sign to GTFO and don’t look back.

      1. Precisely. And in the situation you describe, presumably the person who isn’t “allowed” to eat shellfish knows the reason and agrees with it.

      2. Adding to my own comment: I’m not saying “allow” is necessarily a bad word, but you need to think about where it is coming from. Excuse the actorini talk for a second, but what is his motivation? Is it coming from a place of control or of concern? In the shellfish scenario above, it comes from concern and a desire to keep you from harm. It also is about presentation. Did he just come out and say, “I don’t want you to travel without me, ever.” or was it more, “I’m concerned about this trip you’re planning. Can we talk about this?” (A friend of mine is planning to go to Israel for a semester, and so she’s hearing a lot of this.)

    2. Just last night I was talking to a friend about the little ways Bear used to control me like this and made me feel like I couldn’t have a life. It was a little more subtle, he never put things in terms of “allow,” but rather he’d pout and act hurt if I spent too much time out doing things on my own without him. A one-hour yoga class on a weekend or something was fine, but I could have never had the social life I have now – spontaneous plans, late nights out, going somewhere new every weekend. It turned into this thing where I wouldn’t allow *myself* to go out and do things without him – especially when he was traveling all the time for work, I felt like I had to stay with him on weekends because that was our only time together and to do otherwise would be selfish. He was also wary of me spending lots of time with friends he didn’t know, especially guy friends around my age, like if I wanted to go out with a coworker after hours or something.
      My friend snorted and said that shit would never fly with her. And you know, if he were more explicitly forbidding, I might have wised up to it, but this can play out so subtly, to the point where I didn’t do anything I felt might displease him or that he might question me on. Not a fun time. LW, if this sounds familiar, RUN.

  17. GertietheDino says:

    I am going abroad soon. DudetheDino isn’t going with me. Guess what he said when I told him my grand plan – “I hope you have a wonderful time,” ::kiss::. Partners travel separately. Partners go on differing vacations. This guy is not a partner. He is a classic control freak and you need to MOA.

    1. DudethDino. I love that name 🙂

  18. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    separate traveling is not preferable for my husband and I, but sometimes it happens. my family lives in another country, and sometimes I need to go visit them by myself. sure hubs is lonely, but he deals and it’s OK.

    ditch this dude.

    1. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

      why would this be downvoted?? normally i don’t even notice, but really? at least speak up.

      1. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

        because some people just like to hit that thumbs down button. Your advice was perfectly lovely and didn’t deserve a thumbs down, but whaddya gonna do?

      2. It could have bee the use of “hubs.”

      3. Skyblossom says:

        I don’t get why people think they should be able to tell other people what they can or cannot call their spouse. I have never used hubby or hubs or anything other than my husbands name but I don’t feel I should have any say in what someone else calls their spouse. That is totally between spouses. Just because it isn’t me or what I would do doesn’t mean that it can’t work perfectly for them.

      4. Well, no one actually said that, it was just my guess why someone would down-thumb that comment.

      5. They can’t tell you what to do but they are entitled to their opinion regarding what they find annoying. It’s a thumbs down on the internet, not a death sentence.

      6. Stonegypsy says:

        I have been seeing a lot of baffling thumbs down lately. And it’s never just one, like the number keeps climbing! I don’t get it

      7. You mean people will be anonymous dicks on the internet just because they can? (sarcasm)

        Have you guys been on the internet before??

      8. I’m down thumbing my comment for sounding too bratty. See it’s not that bad.

      9. Stonegypsy says:

        Ha, yeah I know. I don’t pay too much mind to it, but it still just seems kind of silly to me.
        Most of the time, if I don’t particularly like something, my response it to just ignore it. I’ll just see someone’s totally innocuous, or sometimes even quite helpful, not at all offensive post, and it’ll have like 10 thumbs down.
        Doesn’t bother me, really, I’m just curious about the rationale.

      10. Isn’t it Addie that always says the first rule of thumbs is don’t TALK about the thumbs? Otherwise you’ll get two or three MORE thumbs down just for mentioning it…

      11. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        It’s Iwannatalkaboutsampson

  19. I am currently on vacation visiting my parents for 5 days. I gave Bassanio the option of coming but he opted not to (it’s far away, I get it) but was supportive of me visiting. He’s also going to miss me, but he’s keeping himself very busy in the meantime.
    A partner that prevents you from seeing your family is not a good partner. Run.

  20. Not a Princess says:

    Yikes! Jinkies! and ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Run. Far and Fast. Scamper the hell out of there.

  21. Stonegypsy says:

    I don’t have anything helpful to add that hasn’t already been said, so I will just add my voice to the chorus of “This is creepy! Run! MOA! DTMFA! Get out while you still can! This is not at all normal!”
    Get out of this relationship, go travel by yourself, and have fun. Don’t let this dude have your life.

  22. “He gets lonely and depressed when I’m not with him.” Honey, this is not romantic, it’s pathetic. No one’s happiness should be dependent on one person.

  23. JenjaRose says:

    Am I the only one who occasionally reads Dear Wendy when I’m annoyed with the fella just to make myself feel better? Like, “JEEZ, I guess he’s pretty great after all. Glad I’m not these people!” Ha ha!

    (Full Disclaimer: I have also done this with trashy daytime TV, like “Maury.” It totally works. It’s hard to stay mad at your partner for being snappy one morning or “not appreciating” you when there are people out there sleeping with their girlfriend’s sisters or not allowing them to leave their sight to visit family!)

  24. This man is actually dangerous…he is the profile of every abusive spouse you ever read about in tragic news stories.. It’s not enough to get out; you need to consult a domestic violence expert to get out safely.

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