How to Cope with a Suicidal Partner
Trigger warning: This post contains frank discussion of suicide.
Being in a relationship with a suicidal partner can be emotionally taxing and daunting. There is this complicated pattern in my dating life in that the partners I loved most have threatened suicide at least once. I am still trying to figure out exactly why I am drawn to individuals who experience such turmoil. Perhaps it is because I had suicidal ideations when I was in high school, and I feel like these partners understand me. Maybe I cannot compartmentalize the social worker in me when it comes to dating, and I want to try and "save" everyone I meet. Regardless, here are the things I wish I had known when I had a suicidal partner.
What to Do If Your Partner Is Suicidal
Urge Them to Seek Professional Help
When my former suicidal partners threatened suicide, I felt like it was my responsibility to reintroduce a will to live. In my mind, their lives were balancing upon everything I said and did. If I did not pick up their phone calls, I was sure I would be the one to blame if they were found dead. Although it can be painful to voice this to a partner, it is essential to tell your partner that you alone cannot save him or her; that person needs to seek professional help. I thought I could be the one to save my partners, but the truth is, I was highly unqualified.
Listen to Your Partner and Give Your Partner Space to Talk
There is a flawed belief that talking about suicide with individuals experiencing ideations is dangerous and can push them to take their own lives. Research shows that this is not the case. Therefore, be there to listen to your partner and talk to that person about how he or she is feeling. Of course, keep an open mind and do not push your judgments onto your partner. You may not understand how your partner is feeling, but believe him or her and take in his or her feelings as truth.
Do Not Blame Yourself
No matter what your partner says, it is crucial not to blame yourself and not to take responsibility for how your partner is feeling. About six years ago, my long term partner broke up with me in a five-minute phone call. In this phone call, he told me he was dropping out of college and was highly suicidal. He cut off communication with nearly all of his friends, and for months, I felt like his life was my responsibility. I believed that if he died, it would have been my fault. This belief weighed heavily on me and resulted in intense emotional turmoil.
When a Partner's Threat of Suicide Turns into Emotional Abuse
Although I am a firm believer that suicide threats should be taken seriously, there have been times in my life where these threats have kept me in sticky and emotionally abusive situations. When your partner threatens suicide only when you are doing something that he or she doesn't approve of, this can quickly turn into a form of manipulation. I once dated someone who would threaten to kill himself whenever I tried to end the relationship. As a result, I stayed in this relationship much longer than was healthy for me. If you suspect that your partner may be manipulating you in such a fashion, I encourage you to seek out professional support.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
O'Grady, H. (2019, September 6). How to Cope with a Suicidal Partner, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2019/9/how-to-cope-with-a-suicidal-partner