I love you all. I love your heart. I love how you spend so much of your precious time helping one another, sharing your stories, resources and heart with one another. I love that you are humble and confess when you have reacted emotionally or harshly and want to learn to walk in CORE strength.
This is what fellowship, connection, and community is about. This is having healthy relationships, not that we are perfect, but that we can listen to each other’s various points of view in a humble respectful way and when we don't agree, we respectfully disagree without attacking one another.
We all need to practice not being defensive and reactive. Me too. Just this week I found myself getting a little bristly with someone who was opposing me and that’s not who I want to be or how I want to behave. It is a constant challenge to press pause when I get triggered or my ego is being threatened. Instead of opening my mouth, I have learned to close it and ask God for wisdom and strength before I respond.
I think this blog gives you the perfect opportunity to practice these skills. If we want to get healthier, we have to learn to handle challenges in a godly way. We have to learn how to speak the truth in love and recognize our limitations so when we get triggered we don’t react in ways we later regret.
We also have to learn to stand for something sometimes, even if we are standing alone or it costs us. This helps us shed some of our people pleasing, accommodating tendencies, which is a good thing. Jesus always pleased God, but at times he disappointed people, including his own followers.
That’s why I allow those who disagree, those who criticize, and even sometimes those who act arrogantly and bully their point of view to make comments on the blog. These are people we will encounter in real life. We need to learn to respond to them in a godly way if we want to walk in CORE strength. Why not practice learning how to do that on my blog so when you encounter this kind of person in your day-to-day life, you will be better prepared.
Also, I will be hosting a free webinar on 2/2/17 about The Link Between Depression And Marriage. This free webinar will uncover the reasons why unhappily married women are more vulnerable to depression. I hope you will join me. You can register by clicking here.
Question: I have read your book, along with many other books, to work on myself within my marriage and am learning to set boundaries with my spouse instead of falling into reactive abuse like I had been doing. However, when I do set boundaries my husband becomes despondent and threatens suicide.
These threats seem like the ultimate manipulation ploy yet I am concerned that if he does commit suicide, then I will somehow be responsible for his death.
Answer: I’m glad that you’ve recognized that you were slipping into reactive abuse and excusing it because of your husband’s treatment of you. God’s word is clear that we are not to repay evil for evil or insult for insult. We are not to be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good (Click To Tweet).
So you are on the right track by learning how to walk in CORE strength and not be reactive when triggered or threatened.
Now that you are trying to do some things differently, including setting some boundaries, this change does not sit well with your spouse. You say he becomes despondent and threatens suicide and your fear is that if he actually kills himself, you will feel responsible for his death.
First, threatening to kill one’s self is a serious matter that you don’t want to take lightly or ever ignore. When someone has lost hope and not thinking clearly and foolish decisions are sometimes made, including deciding to end one’s life.
It’s very scary when someone makes that threat. And even though you feel he is probably being manipulative, try to have compassion for your husband’s emotional state when he gets to that place. However, the next time he threatens to kill himself, I want you to compassionately say something like this to him.
“Threatening to kill yourself is very serious and I’m scared. I’m going to call 911 because I don’t want you to do something in a moment of despair and end your life. They will be able to help you.”
Then call 911 and tell them that your husband has threatened to commit suicide and you are frightened for him. The police will come and take him to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. If he is suicidal they will admit him for his safety.
This accomplishes two goals.
1) If he was close to the edge of suicide, then you have done what you can do to create a safety net for him. You are not responsible for his feelings or his choices, but as his wife, you are responsible to him to help him get help if he needs it.
2) If he was being manipulative, knowing you will call 911 if he threatens suicide may stop him from manipulating you in this particular way. (Please note it won’t stop his attempts to manipulate you in another way).
When someone manipulates you by threatening suicide, it is an attempt to control you. The person may say, “Don’t separate or I will kill myself.” Don’t have those boundaries or I will kill myself.” And it’s very effective. Who wants to live with that on your conscious the rest of your life?
And that is what you fear. If your husband does commit suicide, is it your fault? Are you to blame? Are you responsible? The answer is no.
Picture it this way. Let’s say your child says, “If you don’t buy me that toy, I’m going to scream my head off in this store.” Now a child doesn’t actually say that but that’s what they threaten you with. The message is “If you don't do what I want, I’m going to make you pay.” And if your child started screaming his head off, would you think that’s your fault because you didn’t buy him the toy? Of course not. You know it’s not your fault nor are you to blame for his outburst, even if you do end up giving in just to keep him quiet.
But is giving in to your child’s tantrum the solution for your and his distress? Nope. Giving in only sets you both up for more of the same. Every time your child wants something, if you say no, all he has to do is throw the biggest, scariest, embarrassing fit and you cave in. That pattern is not good for you as the mom, nor is it good for your child. It teaches your child that manipulation works and you end up as a victim of your child’s emotional tantrums.
So I agree with you. It’s scary when a manipulative person threatens suicide if you don’t do what he or she wants you to do. But what’s the alternative? Do you want to be held hostage to his control by your fear of what might happen? That’s why you can do something constructive to get him help if he does threaten suicide by immediately calling 911. If he ends up killing himself, it is tragic and sad, but it is not your fault. It was his choice.
Friend, how have you dealt with manipulators or confused being responsible for someone with being responsible to someone?