How to break up with someone who is manipulating you to stay
Posted May 3
“If you break up with me, I will drive up the canyon and shoot myself,” Dave said looking Jessica directly in the eyes.
Jessica took a deep breath before responding to her ex-boyfriend.
“I really hope you don’t do that, but if you do ... it’s not my fault.” Jessica said.
“I have the gun right here, do you want to see it?” Dave said in a frenzied whisper. Jessica froze. Her thoughts raced.
Does he really have a gun? Would he actually go through with his suicide threat this time?
Then came the most chilling thought. Would he shoot her?
“No,” Jessica said. “I don’t want to see it.”
Jessica and Dave’s relationship lasted two and a half years. Dave would use sob stories any time Jessica tried to break up with him. What started as a fun, high school relationship soon spiraled into a terrifying experience that could happen to anyone.
“He was really good at manipulating me into feeling guilty enough that I stayed with him,” Jessica told FamilyShare. “I felt very stuck, but I felt like if I left him, he would fall apart.”
The first time he threatened to kill himself was during her sophomore year of college
One night, Dave called Jessica over and over until she eventually picked up.
“I finally answered and [Dave] said that he was in a really bad place because he felt like I didn't love him, and he wanted to kill himself,” Jessica said. “I freaked out.”
After talking him out of his plan, Jessica tried to be more committed to her relationship.
“When he brought up killing himself, it was always in the context that he was in a dark place and that only I could save him,” Jessica said. “Like I was the only thing keeping him from sinking so low that he wanted to die.”
Eventually she realized the relationship needed to end
During this crazy time, Jessica developed a crush on a guy named Josh, who he ended up making it easier for Jessica to get out of her relationship with Dave. She said she wasn’t strong or mature enough to get out of the relationship alone.
“I think I would have felt too physically vulnerable to just break up with him and then be alone. I felt like I needed someone else to physically be with me so that I would be safe, even though he didn't exactly threaten to kill me,” said Jessica.
With the support of Josh, she could finally end it.
Dave didn’t take it well.
Dave continued to lie and manipulate Jessica
After the breakup, Dave started following Jessica’s car. This is when their final conversation took place.
Jessica called Josh, and asked him to meet her in a nearby parking lot before answering Dave’s frantic calls. When Dave threatened to run her off the road, Jessica told him to pull into a parking lot (the same one where Josh was meeting her) to talk. Jessica got into Dave's car to calm him down and tell him to stop contacting her. This is when Dave asked if Jessica wanted to see the gun.
Jessica got out of Dave's car, and Josh contacted the police. Dave's family was notified of his suicide threats.
After this conversation in the canyon, Dave attempted to contact Jessica one more time, but then stopped. Josh’s emotional support helped stop Jessica from going back to Dave.
“I'm glad I got out, but there are definitely some real and lasting effects from spending two and a half years with someone like that,” Jessica said. “I should have broken up with him when he started making me responsible for his happiness.”
There are many ways a person can manipulate their significant other to remain in a relationship, including:
- Suicidal threats
- Guilt tripping
- Making another person feel worthless
- A “revelation from God”
- Pregnancy claim (fake or real)
How do you get out of the relationship?
1. Recognize manipulation
Manipulation comes in a variety of forms, some of which are difficult to recognize. If your gut tells you something about the person is dangerous or wrong, leave the relationship. Protect yourself by knowing the signs of manipulation.
2. Don’t delay the breakup
As Jessica learned, breaking up with Dave became harder as time went on. If you feel pressured to stay in a relationship, break up immediately. Nothing good will come from staying in a relationship you don’t want to be in.
3. End all contact
Block numbers and social media accounts (maybe even change phone numbers) if he or she keeps trying to contact you after you’ve broken off the relationship. If you see each other at school or at work, talk to human resources or school administration to help avoid your former partner.
4. Never go into a situation on your own
Jessica relied on Josh to help her out, but Josh knew it was time to involve the police.
Suicide threats should be taken very seriously. Notify a suicide help line or the police immediately. Friends and family should also be notified, but that can left to the authorities. Remember, your life could be in danger so always have help handy when breaking up with an abusive significant other.
5. Create a support system
You will need the support and help of loved ones and professionals when working with a manipulative person, especially if a former significant other actually goes through with their threats of suicide.
You are the victim in the relationship and are not responsible for the mental wellbeing of your former boyfriend or girlfriend.
6. Seek help
As Jessica (and other victims interviewed by FamilyShare) learned, the effects of a manipulative relationship can last for years. Manipulation is a form of abuse, and you’ll probably need more than a hug to get back to your former self. Get professional counseling and help. Get help to guide you through the healing process and teach you coping skills to overcome reservations about future relationships.
Breaking up with someone is always going to be difficult, but it’s worse when you are afraid the breakup could put you or your significant other in danger. Take the proper precautions. If needed, involve the police early and make sure your friends and family know what is going on. Your safety and happiness is important, and shouldn't be sacrificed in any sort of relationship.
Editor’s Note: To protect the privacy and safety of the individuals interviewed, all names have been changed.
Stacie Simpson is a journalism student. She loves listening to, gathering and sharing stories and advice to help others improve their quality of life. She spends most of her free time with her husband, ballroom dancing, reading and writing.