Ending significant relationships is difficult. In these situations, there can be a great deal of emotion and uncertainty and often the decision to end the relationship is made by one of the partners despite the feelings and commitment of the other.
In some situations, the overwhelming nature of the situation can lead to one partner feeling hopeless and suicidal.
In these situations, it is more often the person who feels aggrieved or abandoned who might feel suicidal rather than the person who has chosen to end the relationship.
The person who made the decision to end the relationship has usually gone through a lengthy grieving and letting-go process, before leaving the relationship. And in most cases, they have already determined what their future will look like. They are much further along the journey of separation than the other partner.
In contrast, while the person left behind might have been aware of conflict or problems within the relationship, it often comes as a shock when their partner leaves. In some instances, the aggrieved or abandoned partner may then directly blame the other, for the suicidal feelings they are having.
Alternatively, the person who made the decision to end the relationship may in some way feel responsible or that they have done something to cause them to feel this way. It is important to understand that it is usually not their fault.
It may be helpful to remember the following if you are ever in this situation:
- Your former partner has become suicidal as a result of their interpretation of the crises or difficult situations that they are going through, and due to their current perception that the future either looks bleak or non-existent to them.
- The separation/relationship breakdown could be one of several stressful life situations that your former partner is currently experiencing.
- If you have decided to leave a relationship, your decision to end the relationship was probably based on much thinking over a great deal of time. It is important for you to keep in mind your reasons for choosing to end the relationship as people can feel obligated to return to or stay in a dysfunctional relationship when their former partner or spouse becomes suicidal.
It is important for you to remember that your partner or spouse is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings, just as you are responsible for your own thoughts and feelings.
Relationships: Supporting an ex-partner who is distressed or suicidal
It can be very difficult to work out how much support you can provide your partner as they go through their personal grieving process following the end of your relationship. Even though you have made the decision to end the relationship, it can be very troubling to witness someone who you have had a relationship with experiencing such distressing emotions.
While you may want to give the other person support, it is important that they do not get the wrong message about your thoughts about possibly continuing the relationship.
There are a number of things that you can do. These include:
- Making sure that the other person is safe. If you are not in a position to do this yourself, you must find someone who can assist your partner work through their feelings or ensure that they receive professional help.
- Ensuring that any support or assistance that you do provide is driven by your concerns about your partner’s wellbeing rather than being perceived as an attempt to renew the relationship.
- Finding someone to talk with about how you are coping with the separation and your concerns about your partner.
In an emergency
If you are with your former partner and their life is in immediate danger, or you are concerned for their safety in any way:
- Call 000 and request an ambulance, police or local Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT). Stay on the line, speak clearly, and be ready to answer the operator’s questions
- Visit your local hospital’s emergency department.
Further reading if you are worried about someone
- Why do people become suicidal?
- Suicide warning signs
- Supporting someone who may be suicidal
- Discussing suicide: How to talk to somebody about suicide
- Supporting someone to get help
- Looking after yourself
- Helping someone to create a safety plan
- Relationships and suicide
- Supporting someone after a suicide attempt
- When someone you know self-harms