People may resort to all sorts of tactics during the divorce process or after a separation to get what they want. Unfortunatly, one of those tactics could be threats to commit suicide.
Your former partner may make such threats to get you to stay or come back. They may make such threats to get money. Whatever the specific reason, they want something that is probably at odds with what you want. So what do you do? Do you give in to “save them?” Do you continue with your plans?
We aren’t doctors, so here comes the disclaimer. We cannot give you a definitive answer. We can only give you options based on our experience. Reading between the lines of the case that spurred this post shows that the threatening party is trying to make a case to get more money. “Life is terrible because I don’t have enough money so I am going to commit suicide. But if you send me more money, everything will be OK.” But the problem with such threats is the nagging thought that the person may be serious.
Should you give in?
According to Steven Kalas, a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grif and Doing the Right Thing” (Stevens Press), a suicide threat is not a reason to stay in an unhappy marriage. We can especially relate to the following exerpt from his column in the “Las Vegas Review Journal”:
“The result of your husband’s threat is you two are no longer mates; rather, you are both now hostages.
The threat speaks of something that has gone terribly wrong, both inside the threatening mate and with the marriage bond.
How should a wife feel if her husband says, “If you leave me, I’ll kill YOU.” Wouldn’t she think that was creepy and evil and wrong — absent real love? It is my prejudice that “If you leave me I’ll kill myself” is the exact same comment, only with a different homicidal target. Murdering another, murdering oneself — just a different movement of the same energy.
Suicidal pleas sound like pathos. They are actually hostility. Pure rage. At minimum, a grotesque manipulation. And love, if it is love, does not manipulate.
It is not OK to threaten to die — or to kill — to get what you need or want from interpersonal relationships.”
What can I do?
That said, there are some actions that you might want to take if for no other reason than to calm your own mind, which may be especially important if children are involved.
1) Research some suicide hotline numbers that you can give your partner when they start making threats.
2) Contact your partner’s family and let them know what is going on.
3) Call the police and have the person 51/50’d (labeled by police or doctors as being an endangerment to yourself and others. Once labeled as 51/50, you get taken to a psych ward for a 72 hour hold to see if you are mentally stable.)
4) Try to get the person into therapy short of being 51/50’d.
Taking any of these actions have the dual advantage of calling the person’s bluff if they are not serious and getting help for the person if they really do need it.
Remember, you can do as much as you can to help someone, but if they don’t want to be helped, in the end, it is their problem, not yours.
Over to you
Have you faced such a situation? What did you do?