QUESTION: I’m 18 and will be starting college this fall. My boyfriend of two years and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship for the last eight months. He is suicidal and he gets mad at me out of nowhere for stupid things. Then he calls me yelling and says he’s going to take his life. I’ve tried to help him but he doesn’t want it. It has gotten to the point where it’s hurting me to see him this way. He makes me feel like everything is my fault even if it’s really his. He also got mad at me because he wants a baby and I don’t want one yet. I don’t know what to do anymore. I love him so much. I wish I could get things back to the way they were. I’m young, hurting and confused. I know I should leave him but I can’t. Help.
DR. LORA’S ADVICE: Suicide is a very serious matter, and the threat of suicide should never be used to hold somebody “hostage” in a relationship or as some kind of bargaining chip in any other way. Unfortunately, this is what your boyfriend is doing. The best and only way to eliminate the threat of suicide is to take it very seriously when it is mentioned. This means that the next time your boyfriend says that he is going to kill himself, you call 911 and tell the emergency operator that your boyfriend just threatened to kill himself and you are concerned and let them take over from there. Make it very clear to your boyfriend ahead of time that this is what you are going to do if he ever threatens suicide in the future, and do it. Suicide is not a joke, and taking this approach to his threats will eliminate his ability to control you.
It sounds like your boyfriend is struggling with some issues of anger and maybe depression that he is trying to solve by manipulating you into doing things for him and blaming you for his problems and his suffering. You are right in not wanting to take this on. His emotional problems are not yours and he needs to deal with them on his own. It sounds like he used to be a different kind of person and I am wondering what happened to change him. Encourage him to talk to a professional about his problems. Tell him how much you care for him and how much you want to see him be happy. Explain to him that he will not be ready to be a father until he is able to deal with his problems in a direct and appropriate way without having to turn to thoughts or threats of suicide.
Remember that all you can do is suggest that he get help, but you cannot force him to do it and you cannot solve his problems. Your first priority is to focus on making your college experience successful, since this is a very important part of your life. One of the reasons your boyfriend may want you to have a baby is that he may be scared to lose you when you go to college. This is a time of growth and new experiences for you, so don’t let his insecurities hold you back! Good luck.
Clara Lora, Psy.D.
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