When Your Partner Threatens Suicide

It seems like a no-win situation. Someone you’re close to, like your partner, threatens suicide and says something like, “I’ll kill myself if you leave me.” You may feel stuck in your situation or afraid of what they will do if they are alone.

Why does your partner threaten suicide?

People with mental illnesses, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, typically have a higher risk of suicide. A history of depression, substance abuse, and other disorders carry risks as well. If your partner truly wishes to die and has a plan and intention to follow through, get immediate help. Call your local emergency number, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

When Your Partner Threatens Suicide
When Your Partner Threatens Suicide

How do you handle a suicide threat from your partner?

But what if your partner regularly threatens suicide, particularly whenever you’re not doing something he or she wants you to do, or when you’re trying to leave the relationship? First, understand that this is a form of emotional abuse: your partner is manipulating you by playing on your feelings of love and fear for them. You might get angry when this happens, but you also might feel like you have to give in to them to avoid a potential tragedy.

When your partner makes these threats repeatedly, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and and help your partner.

Tell your partner you care about them, but stick to your boundaries.

Giving in to threats over and over does not make a relationship healthy, and it only creates anger and resentment on your end. You could say something like, “You know I care about you very much, and I understand you’re upset right now, but I will not _____.”

Put the choice to live or die where it belongs - on your partner.

You can’t be responsible for another person’s actions, no matter what – and this includes when your partner is abusive. An optional response is: “I think our relationship should be based on love and respect, not threats. I really care about you, but this is your choice and I can’t stop you from making it.”

Remember that no matter what your partner says, you don’t have to prove anything.

Even though they might be say, “If you really loved me, you’d stop me from killing myself,” the truth is that there are unhealthy patterns in your relationship. Until those unhealthy patterns are addressed, they will most likely continue no matter how many times you give in to your partner’s demands.

Additional tips for dealing with your partner’s suicide threat

When your partner threatens to kill themselves when things don’t go their way, they’re not showing you love – they’re likely trying to control your actions. If this is the case, consider the tips above and try to get help where you can. You might consider talking to a counselor or other professional therapist if that’s an option for you. But remember, you are not your partner’s counselor, and you can’t force your partner to get help if they don’t want to. They have to make that choice for themselves.

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