What to Do When a Spouse Threatens Suicide

By Karen O’Connor:

 What can a person do when a spouse threatens suicide? Here is what Marcella did.


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Marcella was married for fifty years when her husband died. For at least thirty of those years he controlled her by drinking heavily and threatening to take his own life. She cowed every time he raised his voice and she hushed her children whenever their father went into a drunken rage. She did not want to be responsible for his death.

Following twenty years of his threats she listened to a friend who encouraged her to go to Al-Anon, a 12-step program for families of alcoholics.  (To find out more about that, click here: Al-Anon Family Groups; Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers .)

With the strength she gained from turning her will and her life over to the care of God and from following the philosophy and steps of the program, Marcella was able to reclaim her life and let her husband be responsible for his.

“After several months in the program,” she said, “I told him that if he wanted to end his life that was up to him. I had my own life to live and I planned to live it.  I wouldn’t try to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. ”

Something amazing happened right after that.

“He never again mentioned suicide,” said Marcella. “Eventually he stopped drinking and he died from natural causes some years later.”

Marcella is not advising others what to do. She simply shared the step she took in her situation. She realized that as her husband was trying to control her life with his threats of suicide, she, too, was trying to control his life by succumbing to and living in fear of his irrational behavior. So when a spouse threatens suicide, perhaps the best thing to do is stand firm on your own two feet, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the person but acknowledging with dignity and grace, that person’s right to make his or her own choices. This ‘hands off’ approach may be the very thing that turns the individual in the right direction. Perhaps he or she has never experienced true respect before.

And here is what God says:

Stand firm, and you will win life (Luke 21:19  NIV Bible)

View and share this excellent YouTube video from Joyce Meyer on the hope of seeing change.