How do I break up with my boyfriend when he keeps threatening to self harm or kill himself?

The last 3 months of my relationship have been really rough. We started dating about a year and a half ago and everything was great until about a year in, when his mental health massively declined. He’s great (or was great) but I’m not sure I love him. At the same time, I’m really worried that if I actually do break up with him, he’ll take his own life or hurt himself even more as he keeps threatening to do so whenever I try end it. I also feel guilty as I don’t want to end things just because he’s going through a bad time and I know he really benefits from my support and won’t see an actual therapist, but at the same time I’ve had my doubts about us since the start and supporting him is taking a massive toll on me. I’m really grateful for any advice or support! – Anon

Thank you for writing in.

First and foremost – your partner needs help.

Not yours, either. I’m talking serious therapy and support from his friends/family or whoever otherwise cares about him.

Don’t be too hard on yourself for leaving this relationship. The way in which he is using the threat of self harm over you is manipulative and controlling (even if he is doing so unconsciously). It most definitely sounds like he is in no position to currently maintain a healthy relationship, and that he first and foremost needs to prioritize his mental health and wellbeing. 

Many people who struggle with mental health issues can benefit from loving relationships, but as you mention above, these can certainly take their toll on their partners. In your case, it sounds you’re bearing the weight of that suffering a great deal yourself. In addition, actively using mental health conditions to manipulate a partner into staying in a relationship indicates that he is in no place to work on his issues at present. 

If you’re in contact with any of his friends or family, I would reach out and let them know that you’re planning to exit the relationship, and that he’s voiced suicidal tendencies. This will mean that they’re able to step in and support him throughout the breakup period.

He’s not your responsibility, and by the sounds of it, you’ve already mentally checked out of the relationship yourself. You should in no way suffer just because of his unwillingness to seek help for his own issues.

In addition, whilst you might feel inclined to stay in touch post breakup, I would highly consider going no contact. Although this will likely be difficult for both of you, removing yourself from the situation entirely will mean you’re less likely to be on the receiving end of any future threats. You’ll also be opening up more space for him to focus entirely on himself and hopefully start facing his issues.

In terms of conveying this all to him – be honest. Let him know that you need to prioritize yourself, and that you wish him best in seeking help and overcoming his issues but that you can no longer burden supporting this behavior.

Sending my support your way!

Evie

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Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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