Ask Ralph: Thanks to the recession, her boyfriend is jobless; threatens to take own life

Here’s a letter from Texas.

Hi Ralph.

I’m a fan of your work and an avid reader of your blog even before we moved to the US. (We have been here for three years now).  From your blog, I see that you are a man with depth and a deep spirituality. The reason that I write is because I need advice on a personal relationship. I don’t know who to turn to or what to do. You see, I’ve been seeing Jason ever since we moved to the US.  I love him and it seemed like he was the perfect match for me.  Until recently.

He was one of the people affected by the first few hints of recession in the country. He has been unemployed for the past year and a half and while I tried to support him and help him find a job, he seems to have lost all hope. He refuses to leave the house, look for a job, even get a haircut. It was very frustrating as well to have him take out all his anger and depression on me. He has insulted me, lashed out at me, only to burst in tears and beg me to understand him. One time he nearly hit me. It came to a point that the emotional abuse – and the threat of physical abuse – became too much that I asked to break up with him. He, however, has threatened to commit suicide if I do, and says that I am the only reason that he hasn’t done so in the first place.

I feel trapped and confused. I love him and want him to heal, pick up the pieces of his life, and just LIVE again. But I can’t be his savior.

Sorry for the rambling and thank you for listening.

Mischa, 22 years old
Houston, Texas


Hi, Mischa.

Thanks for writing.  I feel humbled by the trust that you are giving me.  And I salute you for opening up with regard to such a problem.

One thing’s for sure: the recession has not only hit the economy and the livelihood of millions and millions of people around the world.  It has also affected many personal relationships.  We all know these are trying times.  And so the challenge is for the crisis not to get the better of us.  While this is easier said than done, it is still possible.

One point you said very clearly and correctly — you cannot be Jason’s savior.  I agree with you on that 100%.  It is great and admirable that you are there for your boyfriend through this storm.  But at the end of it all, the decision to be saved, the will to change circumstances for the better, the choice to be happy or sad is beyond your control.  It is Jason’s decision to make. You are NOT his savior. He will need to save himself.  You can only do so much.

I’m glad that you are aware of this very early.  To think that a person can “save” his or her partner could be very frustrating, and it can eat up anyone’s self-esteem, especially if things don’t work out.

What then is your role now?  I can imagine that these are emotional times for you as well, and as this episode drags on, I can surmise that it gets more and more difficult for you.  But you don’t have to be alone in helping Jason out.

My advice is that you get more people involved to help Jason out.  Get people he trusts — his family, relatives, other friends, etc.  Your role with them is not necessarily to give advice right away.  Nor is it to nag.

What is essential in talking to him at this point is to really probe and find out what he really feels, and what he is thinking.  What is key is for him to be assured that he has the support of his friends and loved ones, and that he is not alone in this crisis.

From your end, it is necessary that you set boundaries — of what and how much help you can really give.  Yes, you need to be supportive.  But you also need to be firm and unwavering with what is right and wrong, for this may not be clear to Jason given his situation.  Don’t feel blackmailed.

Whether you are married or not, Jason has no license to hurt you, whether this would be in the form of physical harm, or verbal harm.  If you see physical harm coming, do take extra care.  Don’t wait for it to happen.  As much as possible, it is best that you are with someone when you talk to him.  At this point, there is no clear indication of how stable he is.

It is best that to tell him calmly that as much as you want to be there for him, it will be impossible for you to help him if he will hurt you physically or verbally.  If Jason cannot take such feedback (this depends on his personality and situation now), then I believe it is enough that you are with someone when you talk to him.

You may wish to consider exploring the option of getting professional help for him from a specialist like a therapist, especially if he has threatened to take his own life.  This is something you will need to carefully study.  What we’d like to avoid is for him to have the wrong impression that there is something wrong with him or worse, that he is a candidate for a mental institution.  This would aggravate matters.  That is why it is best that you get friends and family first to intervene before you consult someone who can be a stranger to him.  Also, don’t forget to take away any materials he can potentially use to hurt himself.  Do this discretely.

When he continues to feel highly emotional and expresses it through words, remember that it is the emotions talking, and not necessarily Jason himself.  So to speak, let the emotions enter one ear and out right away through the other.  See where you can objectively help, after listening to the feedback.  And again, this is where being with another person when you talk to Jason will come in handy.  That other person may serve to prevent Jason from lashing out at you.  Secondly, he can look at matters without any emotions.  Third, you can process the situation with him or her.

You can, of course, continue on giving him advice or help if he is ready for it.  Ask Jason on what he really wants to do — things that he is really passionate about.  Be on the lookout for job ads that might interest him.  Lay down all the cards for him, if he is unable to do this himself.  What are his options.  Emphasize the benefit of each option.  Or, simply just listen to how he feels — provided that he is ready to talk to you without hurting you.

You may also want to give Jason a wonderful, inspiring book.  A very inspiring book that has helped me when I was once at the crossroads of my career was Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe.  It is available in online stores like  It gives inspiring inputs on valuing and loving one’s self, as well as knowing what true freedom is.  It’s a most liberating book that has helped many people.

Either way, don’t be forced to be in the relationship just for him.  You may need to reassess your relationship with him.  This episode now can be a sign of things to come, especially if you end up together in the long run.  Are you ready to possibly deal with this again years later when you are already married to him?  Whether there is a recession or not, a person can easily lose his job.  It is not advisable to be with someone who sinks into deep depression every time a challenge comes to him.  A person who has this problem should get help for this before he enters marriage — or even any relationship.  Nor should a partner have the impression that he or she can save the other.  You are young, and it may be too early to say that Jason is the one you will really end up with.  You may choose to get out of the relationship now, rather than get out of it through a messy divorce or separation.  Of course, this will not exactly be a walk in the park, but if it is the right thing to do, then you will find your peace eventually.  In any case, before you think of breaking up, do what is most immediate first — get help for him.  By the way, aside from friends and family, I have heard of support groups there in the US for people who have lost their jobs.

Most importantly, continue praying.  If you are already praying, pray with more fervor.  If you are Catholic, pray through the intercession of Our Mother, as well as St. Joseph, who is the patron of workers.  Believe in the power of prayer.  Offer everything up to God.  Tell Jason that you are praying for him and that he should also ask for light in prayer.  Remember that God is stronger than any of our problems, no matter how big they are.

Keep me posted, Mischa.  I’m praying for you and Jason.




As always, the site is open for additional advice from everyone.  Feel free to post a comment below.

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