I want to invite you to invite your counselor, pastor, or any other people helper you know to attend a free webinar Pastor Chris Moles and I are giving on Thursday at noon ET on Three Crucial Milestones You Must Master to Understand Destructive/Abusive Marriages. Here is the link to share. https://quiz.leslievernick.com/sf/c3aad1f1
Today’s Question: I was in a dysfunctional marriage for 35 years. My husband was emotionally destructive and a big manipulator. I was easily manipulated because if I did not go along with his thoughts, he did punishing behavior. There was a lot wrong
I read your book on emotionally destructive relationships. We had all sorts of counseling, but the “problem” was always me he thought; he would not accept any responsibility or accountability.
Long story short we were divorced. I moved. He was not able to manipulate me any longer. Our alimony issue has been in the court system for almost three years – at first it was an unfair judgment, so I appealed and won. Now the judge came back with a fair ruling and my ex wants to appeal this! He cannot. He is now becoming very depressed and my son is afraid he may hurt himself. This is the only time he has not been able to manipulate an outcome.
What is my role here? Mainly to pray is what I see. He has not submitted to an authority that I know of. He needs mental health help but has not reached out for any. I see this as the Lord allowing him to come to the end of himself. I do not have any contact with my ex-husband.
What is the likelihood he will hurt himself and what do you advise? I am not sure if with the depression is he trying to manipulate me through my children or not. They have recommended Christian counseling to him and my son has told him to, “cry out to the Lord”.
Answer: It is frightening when someone threatens suicide or is so depressed that you worry that he might do harm to himself. Suicide and depression are increasing because of the pandemic pressures of continued isolation, stress, and financial uncertainty.
Your adult children are caught in the middle and I’m sure feel frightened of what he might do. We want to do all we can to help a person in distress, but sometimes people do use threats of suicide and self-harm to manipulate others in order to get what they want. We’re afraid that if we don’t give in, we will have to live with the guilt of his or her suicide.
Hear me. It is not your fault if your husband chooses to kill himself if you do not back down on your financial settlement claims. However, I do want to give you some things to consider (and to share with your adult kids) since your question was asking about the likelihood he will hurt himself.
The research on high risk people has identified a number of factors. If you know a person who fits these categories, the risk of suicide is higher. For example, people who have depression, mood disorders or bi-polar disorder, alcoholism, substance abuse, low social support, family history of suicide, or previous history of suicide attempts and who feel hopelessness are at higher risk. Some big days for high suicides rates are New Year's Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
If your husband is suffering from depression or bi-polar disorder he needs some help in dealing with his feelings of suicide. However, unless he becomes a danger to himself or others, there is little you (or your kids) can do to make him receive the help he so desperately needs.
However, here are a few more things you can do to help you handle this dilemma.
If your husband threatens suicide, call the Police in his town. Tell them you fear he is suicidal and ask them to do a wellness check. They will go out to the house and check on his safety. Your husband needs to learn that if he threatens suicide, this is the result. The police will take him to the hospital to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Then they will decide what his next steps need to be. That phone call to 911 may be the most loving and helpful thing you can do for him.
Second, if he calls you and threatens suicide, be compassionate but maintain your boundaries. Suicide is an irreversible decision often made in a moment of emotional angst.
Empathize with his feelings while maintaining your own boundaries and need to take care of yourself. Encourage him that things are not hopeless and to get the help he needs to deal with his feelings. Provide him with phone numbers (or give your adult children phone numbers) of Christian counselors who can help him. Again, call the police or Crisis Intervention if you feel he is in danger of hurting himself.
It is tempting to give in to his demands in order to prevent him from taking his life but this is a short term solution to a deeper problem. Even if you were to give in to his immediate demands, then what? If he can get what he wants by threatening his own life, then he continues to manipulate and control everyone else to give him what he wants.
When you are dealing with this kind of situation there are no easy answers or simple solutions. But prayer (as you already indicated you are doing) is a great help in dealing with the demonic forces at play in a suicidal person’s thought life. Satan wants to kill and to destroy us. People I know who have struggled with suicidal thoughts have always said that there is an inner urge compelling them to do it. That is a spiritual battle that he must face but you and your kids can pray he listens to God say “Choose life” not death. Your husband has been immature in the way he has handled his life, his feelings and his relationships. This is his opportunity to grow. But only he can choose that path. Giving into his tantrums or threats will not give him that opportunity. If he has other family (siblings, parents) or men friends that would come along side of him at this time for support, call them and inform him of your concerns. That’s about all you can do.
Friend, when someone you know and love or loved is threatening self-harm if you don’t do what they want, how have you handled it?