We grew up with stories such as Romeo and Juliet, where “love” was portrayed so powerfully that death would be preferred over living without the other.
In reality, threatening someone with your own life is manipulative and is often used as a weapon by manipulators/narcissists.
When a toxic/manipulative person identifies that you are done with their abuse, they will not be thrilled. They may pull out their final card trick, threatening self-harm if you leave them.
In some cases, these are idle threats. In other cases, they are not. There is no way for you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt if they are serious about following through.
It will only worsen, and a manipulator will pull out all of the stops if they feel you slipping away.
Keep these reminders top of mind if self-harm threats are rising to the surface of your toxic relationship.
Remember that self-harm threats are not your fault or responsibility.
If someone is abusive or manipulative, it will ramp up if they feel abandoned by their partner. They want you to be by their side and don’t want you to leave. What better way to guilt you into staying than saying that they’re going to end their life?
We often put the needs of others before our own, which can land us in toxic or abusive situations. Years ago, I was in that exact situation, with my abuser screaming that if I left, he would end his life, and I would be responsible.
At the time, I didn’t realize that it was not my job to save him and that I would not be the one to blame if he took his life.
Recognize and accept that you could genuinely be in danger
The memory is as clear as day. I was sitting in the car when my narcissistic/toxic ex explained how he wanted to blow his brains out. He grabbed my hand and held it against his temple while he screamed that he just wanted to die.
At the time, I was sobbing as if my heart was breaking. A few weeks later, he physically laid his hands on me for the first time.
I was young and unaware that I was in grave danger. Stories of victims in abusive relationships that resulted in their death, such as Gabby Petito, have reminded me that I could have ended the same way.
Remind yourself that even if their pain is real, you are not responsible
It was the night of my ex’s 36th birthday. Initially, the night was fun; we were surrounded by his friends who were making the evening about him. After a few drinks, something shifted, and he began having a complete meltdown. The rant was about how his life contained no purpose, had no money or career, and could barely scrounge up enough change to buy a six-pack of beer.
One of his friends mentioned that he had me, and without a beat, he responded with, “I have nothing; she doesn’t matter.”
My ex had been offered support, every opportunity to succeed, and unconditional love — yet had chosen not to take those chances. His pain may have been honest at that moment, but I was beginning to accept I was not responsible.
Utilizing threats is not love; it is coercive manipulation.
Threatening suicide is often the final straw in a toxic/abusive playbook. Using their tactic will make victims feel like they have to stay, and the guilt usually stops them from leaving.
In some cases, these threats hold real weight. However, there is no way of knowing the outcome when someone starts making them. All that remains true is that you are not responsible for someone else’s life. Protecting yourself has to be priority number one, and you cannot allow yourself to be tormented by an outcome you ultimately don’t control.
Love is not threatening someone and making them responsible for a life. A healthy relationship will not include someone controlling your decisions and forcing you to stay with them.