Does your boyfriend threaten suicide if you break up with him? Here’s how to respond to his threats to kill himself, including advice from a woman whose husband took his own life. It’s important to remember that you can’t get all the help you need here. You need to reach out to people in person, people who are experienced in talking to men who want to take their own lives.
Read Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, to understand what’s happening with your boyfriend emotionally and mentally. You need to learn how to see when a man is manipulating you, and how to take care of yourself. It’s scary and serious when your boyfriend threatens suicide if you leave him, and it’s important to try to gain insight and understanding into his behavior and feelings.
It’s also crucial to remember that you can’t heal him, fix his behavior, or change how he responds to this world. You can’t save your boyfriend from his thoughts or feelings, nor can you stay in a relationship with an unhealthy man who is trying to control you by threatening to kill himself. Calling a helpline is the best way to cope when your boyfriend says he’s thinking about killing himself. You need to talk to someone in person, to explain his words and behavior, and to get help for your specific situation. Here, you’ll find general tips to help you respond to a suicidal boyfriend – but the most important thing is getting help in person.
Here’s what a reader says about her partner, who is threatening to kill himself:
“My husband and I have been married for five years,” says Kyla on How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money. “The first three years, we stayed with his mother because we were both unemployed. I found a job and could afford to rent our own place, but my husband refused to find a job. I take care of everything: rent, our two little girls, groceries and gas. When I ask him to find a job, he refuses. Late last year he started to abuse me mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. When I told him I was going to divorce him he tried to commit suicide and now his family hates me for that. I even cheated on him just to show him I no longer want to be with him but he does not want to let go. I need your advice.”
Are you financially independent and self-supporting? That’s really good. Many women aren’t that lucky – they’re trapped because they’re financially dependent on their husbands. So, you’re ahead of the game (though I know it doesn’t feel like it).
The first thing to do if your boyfriend is trying to manipulate you by threatening to kill himself is to recognize that he is unhealthy, manipulative, and controlling. Your boyfriend may not be trying to control you on purpose, but he’s definitely not healthy. I don’t know if he’s trying to manipulate you – and that’s why it’s important to talk to someone in person about your relationship.
When Your Boyfriend Says He’ll Kill Himself If You Leave
“If the person in your life…really wants to die, you need assistance beyond what I can provide in this blog,” says Randi Kreger, co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder. “Please seek immediate professional help. You may also wish to call a local crisis line or hospital emergency department and ask for guidance. Then, keep the phone numbers of these people and places right by the phone. Take threats seriously. Tell your boyfriend you will call for help. Then, do it.”
Call a support hotline or visit a suicide help website
The first thing you need to do is get as much support and information as possible. The internet offers a variety of online support, such as The Support Network – so you don’t even have to make a call! Do an internet search for women’s help lines, or distress websites for women.
Though there is a lot of help online, I strongly encourage you to seek in person help. You’re in a vulnerable position: your husband is abusive, unstable, and unpredictable. You need to get help in person.
Here’s what a reader said — her husband committed suicide, and she regrets how she responded to his threats when he was alive:
“If your boyfriend is threatening to kill himself, DO NOT keep it a secret. TELL people whom both you and your partner trust and who might be able to intermediate. This is something that is too big for you and him to handle alone. And DON’T WAIT, tell someone RIGHT NOW – every second counts. As soon as that person is gone they are NEVER coming back. Telling others might not save the person, but at the least you will feel less personally responsible if he does ultimately take his life.”
Also, learn how abusive relationships work – and why it’s so hard to leave a bad marriage. Read How to Get Away From an Abusive Husband.
Remember that you are not responsible for your boyfriend’s choices
This is difficult and complicated – and it requires so much strength! But when your boyfriend threatens suicide if you leave, you have to keep telling yourself that you cannot control what he does. You need to stay focused on what is right for you and your life, and you need to listen to what people tell you.
Your boyfriend is telling you things that may or may not be true – I don’t know. When you call for in-person help, you’ll talk about how to see what’s really going on. You’ll learn how to protect your behavior and self-concept from distortions and lies.
Decide what to say to your boyfriend if you decide to break up
This is from Choosing to Live: How to Defeat Suicide Through Cognitive Therapy by Thomas Ellis and Cory Newman:
”I’m not breaking up with you to be cruel. I’m very, very sorry that this hurts you. I want what’s best for you in the future, but I just can’t be part of it. And even if I were to stay with you, that wouldn’t solve our problems.
For one thing, your life’s worth should be based on much more than just being in a relationship with me. Secondly, I know that you know deep inside that our relationship shouldn’t be based on me staying because I’m afraid of you dying and you staying because you think you can’t live without me. That’s not healthy. I care about you. And because I care about you, I want you to live. And I want you to find your own happiness, and your own life’s worth, without me.”
Print this out, write it down, and keep reading it to yourself. You may have to say it over and over, to both yourself and him. Maybe you could even write it in a letter to him – but it’s important to talk to him in person if you decide to end the relationship. For help, read How to Gently Break Up With Someone You Don’t Love Anymore.
Remember that staying with an abusive or emotionally unhealthy boyfriend isn’t just putting your physical and emotional health at risk. It’s endangering your future, and your other relationships.
Helping Your Boyfriend by Helping Yourself
In Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men Lundy Bancroft offers a collection of meditations to help women respond to men who aren’t healthy. This book is a source of strength and reassurance designed to speak to women like you, women in relationships with angry and controlling men.
This book will help you learn how to value and respect yourself — even when your partner makes it very clear that he does not. You’ll see the truth of what is happening to you, and how to cope with your boyfriend’s threats. You may feel overwhelmed by confusion, loss, and fear, and find yourself looking away from the truth and falling back into traumatic patterns.
How do you feel, what do you think? Are you in a relationship with a boyfriend who is threatening to kill himself? I welcome your thoughts below. I can’t give advice, but you may find that writing is a good way to start making sense of what’s happening…and how to respond to your boyfriend.
May you find hope and healing, and may you reach out for the support you need. Ask for help, and talk to as many people as you can – in person! Don’t struggle through this alone.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.