Morning friends,

We had an amazing CONQUER conference. It could not have been better. Over 800 women showed up from all over the US, Canada, and even Germany to be with us. God’s presence and Spirit were clearly felt. Vocal soloist Nichole Nordeman was so raw and real. Lots of tissues were used as she vulnerably shared her journey through song. Sheri Keffer, our Friday night speaker also so vulnerably shared her own painful past and how God uses all things to help us Be Brave and Grow Strong. Workshops were full of eager women who wanted to learn how to put their brave on in particular areas.

I loved meeting many of you from this blog community in person. I hope you got a chance to meet one another and visit. The CONQUER women who attended – over 160 of them, got to know one another better and some have established lasting friendships. We had a big dinner party after the conference that was tons of fun.

One of the things that took my breath away was the number of women who put their brave on and came to this conference alone. No girlfriend or daughter came with them. All alone, they ventured out. Some traveled from Alaska, even the farther reaches of Canada, driving over 20 hours alone to get there. And they may have come alone but they did not leave alone. They found girlfriends who know what their life is like. They found God and his love for them.

Words cannot express my heart right now. It is full to overflowing with what God does when we give him our five loaves and two small fish. He creates miracles.

 

Today’s Question: I just finished your book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. God has opened my eyes more and more in the last year and a half to the reality that I am in a destructive marriage.

Last year as I began to see it more clearly and got counsel from a former pastor and his wife. I am not responding to my husband like I have for 30+ years. It has messed with him and he doesn't like it.

For many years I've known “things are just not right” but as you said in your book, the counsel I received from older women was for me to do the right thing and hang in there.

Currently, I am concerned (as I have been various times in the past) about my husband's emotional state. He is depressed but is very much against medication for it.

One of his grandfathers killed himself. There has been such an increase in suicide recently that it concerns me even more. Last summer when we had a huge bad event, he left home for a day and took his pistol. He's saying things like “you can't trust anyone.” Or, he says he “Doesn't know why God would let him go through all the grief he's gone through the last 3 years.”

He doesn't see any purpose in it. He's very self-focused. He thinks he has it much worse than most people and that even though he knows Christ should be enough, he still thinks people ought to show some kind of favor towards him… I am concerned he may be suicidal.

It's hard to tell if it's that or if he's just trying a different tactic with me. How do I know? And when do I start trying to make changes?

Answer: You’re right, suicide is on the rise and your husband may be at higher risk. He’s feeling hopeless and desperate and has a family history of suicide for starters which makes his risk for suicide higher. But he also has access to a pistol (which adds to the impulsivity of an act of suicide) and has poor control over his emotions as well as a bad case of “victim” mentality.  

You have every reason to be concerned that he might do himself harm in a bad moment.

But here is what you need to wrestle through. Is it your responsibility to keep him from doing something stupid – even if it is suicide?  

Please don’t mishear what I am saying. I’m not saying to be indifferent to his pain, or just tell him, “go kill yourself if that’s what you want to do.”  That is cruel and not in keeping with the woman you want to be.

However, the bottom line question is, is it your job to keep your husband from acting out stupidly? Is it your job to manage his thought life? Is it your job to make sure he gets the help he needs for his depression?  

You see where this line of questioning is going, don’t you? You have absolutely no power to manage his life, his decisions, his feelings or his thoughts. You can try, but you won’t succeed because those are his responsibility to manage.

You’re right. It does become scary when someone you love is not managing those things well and you fear he may do something really stupid. However, if you become a hostage to the fear that he might commit suicide if you upset him, have boundaries on what you will tolerate or even separate from him, then what?  

You’ve already tried that route – to manage his negative emotions by trying harder to love him, trying harder to get him to take medication, trying harder to be the wife he wants. Did that help him? No. Did it help you? No. Did it help your marriage? No. If you choose to let fear decide, you will become a prisoner of his emotions just like he already is. Is that what you want?

So what can you do? You certainly can have a talk with him and share with him your concerns about his own mental health and emotional well-being. However, I’m pretty sure you’ve already done that and he’s not doing anything different. If you haven’t, start there.

It’s really important to take good care of you. Be kind but firm with him. If you feel unsafe or need to leave then leave. If he uses suicide as a threat to manipulate you, call the police. Simply dial 911 and say, “My husband is threatening suicide and I’m concerned for him.” If he doesn’t exactly threaten to kill himself it gets a little more tricky but I think you can say, “I fear he may harm himself.”

That’s the most you can do to help him right now short of allowing him to keep you hostage to his threats. If he gets upset by you doing that I think you can say to him, “I care about you. I care about your safety and your sanity and when you are threating to harm yourself or acting as you might, it scares me. The only person who can possibly help you right now is the police where they can take you to the hospital for help.” Notify his close family members (if he has any) that he’s suicidal and needs help.

That way if he’s using threats of suicide to manipulate you, it stops working because you do have someone to call and he has someone else to help him.  

If he’s actually intent on committing suicide because he’s angry with you or hopeless over the marriage, he very well might attempt it and succeed. I’ve worked with two women whose husband’s have committed suicide during their marital separation. My bigger concern, however, is for you. A suicidal angry husband may also be homicidal and try to kill you before he kills himself. When a person has nothing to lose, nothing to hope for, and is angry enough with you, this can be a recipe for disaster. We read about it all the time in the newspaper.

Therefore, you have to value your safety and be a good steward of your own self. Proverbs warns, “the prudent see danger and take refuge” (Proverbs 27:12). Please develop a safety plan for yourself in case he threatens you or if you feel unsafe. Consult with the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help in developing one. Their number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you can, remove the bullets from his pistol and hide them as long as you are living in the house. Make sure you have an exit strategy and the bottom line is you may need to separate, which will increase your danger levels so do it with professional guidance.

God cares about your safety and sanity. He also cares about your husband. You can show compassion for your husband’s pain but you can’t be God for your spouse and save him from himself. He has his own work to do and please do not feel guilty for not being able to “convince” him to do his own work.

Friends, when your spouse or destructive person has tried to manipulate you with threats of suicide, how have you handled your feelings of fear and guilt?

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8 Comments

  1. Working Towards Freedom on October 17, 2018 at 11:53 am

    My ex used suicidal threats for years to get what he wanted, which really was just the ability to be an immature, irresponsible adult man having all his needs cared for by his enabling wife. For years I thought it was my job to bring him out of his funk. Once I stopped enabling him by giving him all the reasons we needed him, the threats started slowing down. While they didn’t go away, he also never made any attempts at all.

  2. No one down here on October 17, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    I have not walked in your exact shoes, but I feel that Leslie is speaking wisdom. I know, you are probably confused. You can pray for your husband, obviously. The practical advice here is very important. Please be on the alert for signs that YOU are in danger. Please start working on an escape plan. Also be aware of your surroundings and work to not get trapped somewhere. Keep your phone on your person at all times. You are not alone. There are others facing the same issues you are. God knows and sees and loves you.

  3. OKRickety on October 20, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Why even suggest the husband is using threat of suicide to manipulate the wife? I see no such implication in her question.

    My ex-wife thought I was suicidal, based on me saying “I wish I’d never been born”. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was extremely frustrated and depressed with being stuck in a marriage that was nothing like it should have been.

    I wasn’t trying to manipulate my now ex-wife, but simply being transparent in my emotional state. Apparently that was not beneficial but added to her anxiety (and she NEVER shared her concern that I was suicidal).

    Overall, I highly recommend asking them directly, not supposing that you are privy to the truth of the situation and assuming the worst.

    • Aly on October 21, 2018 at 9:57 am

      OkRickety,

      If you haven’t read The Emotionally Destructive marriage, or if you are unaware of what is a destructive relationship or abusive dynamic, then I can see why you would assess the situation from your point of view.
      If you go back to the writer of the question, the writer clearly states the relationship has been destructive for 30 yrs, the writer also asks Leslie for directive on whether this is more tactics ‘about suicide’ or not? The writer is evaluating her situation based on the destructive relationship she’s been navigating through. She is also looking a family of origin and mental health issues with caution and concern.

      A person unwilling to treat depression and leaves the home…as the writer said after a bad event with a pistol and saying things that would show a heightened emotional state, IS a person as risk for harming themselves and maybe another person!

      A comment of ‘I wish I had never been born’ is a comment referring to life and death. I’m not saying you were suicidal by describing your feelings that way, but given a toxic Marriage ‘I’m assuming here based on some of your comments’ maybe your ex wife thought that you were going to do something to yourself based on your emotional state?

      There are different levels and kinds of depression too that a professional can evaluate further.
      The writer above has clear concern for what’s taking place with a spouse who won’t ‘treat’ the depression.
      Rarely does depression just get better all on its own without intervention.

  4. Moon Beam on October 20, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Who is in the picture with Leslie? A blogger?

    I confess to not carrying if an abusive partner commits suicide. Good riddance. It would hurt the kids, but these people just don’t change.

  5. Janice D on October 21, 2018 at 6:02 am

    I had a breakdown 27 years ago while dealing with my childhood sexual abuse history. I became convinced I had done things I hadn’t due to overwhelming guilt I was carrying that wasn’t mine.It belonged to my abuser ( my father). I thought ( in my mind that wasn’t functioning correctly) that the only answer was for me to die.I now know it was the enemy of my soul taking advantage of my weakened state and seeking to destroy me. The Lord in his kindness to me intervened and I received the help I needed in the hospital.Taking ones life is never to be celebrated as much as I understand the devestating pain abuse causes.There is a better way. My father never took responsibility for his actions and had a very sad life until his death 9 years ago.I trust God’s mercy and justice and leave it in His hands. I recently have had to do the same with my marriage.We are told to choose life and I believe God honors this choice…I am so grateful I did all those years ago and I pray that my husband chooses the same some day. For me,choosing life now includes separation from the dysfunction my husband continues to life with.I believe we all want to “ be better,not bitter”,as one of my pastors said to me a long time ago.Forgiveness is the better path,as costly as it is.Hope this doesn’t sound like I’m preaching…if I am I’m preaching to myself first as the Lord,in His love and care for me is continuing to heal me.I appreciate everyone’s contributions to this safe place that Leslie and her staff have provided for us.

    • Aly on October 21, 2018 at 10:06 am

      JaniceD,
      Such a blessing you are and that you have come through so much! I’m so sorry for your abuse and the pain you went through… and love that you see that the Lord will be there for you!
      I love that you chose better and are still choosing better!

      I find that abusers, users etc see and define these choices as actually ‘bitter’ not better because they don’t like the boundaries that come with choosing better and walking close with the Lord to guide our steps.

  6. Ruth on October 23, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Dear writer,
    I would be afraid that a man who threatened suicide would turn that destructive desire toward YOU ALSO. So, many women are victims of their partner’s murder/suicide. I think you should get away for you own safety – even if he’s never been violent or aggressive toward you before. If he’s become this desperate and irrational, you might not be able to predict his behavior like you might assume. Better to be safe than to become a domestic violence statistic! Much love to you. It’s been a hard path you’ve been walking. Sorry that my response makes it sound like it’s easy to ‘just leave’ when ITS NOT! and I know that.

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