You've Got Bail!
Imagine if everybody followed your boyfriend's lead. At the end of a meal, the waitress would ask, "Will that be cash, charge, or emotional blackmail?" Who's going to put needless wear and tear on their Visa when they can simply threaten to drown themselves in their cappuccino or slit their wrists with the butter knife?
A friend's ex-wife used to threaten suicide all the time: "I'm taking the pills, and I'll be dead before you get home!" My friend, noting the lady exhibited a remarkable will to live as long as she was getting her way, would reply, "Does that mean you don't want me to pick you up that huge Hershey bar? How about I just cram it between your big purple lips?"
Yes, sometimes, what seems to be a cry for help is really just a bluff to manipulate. Whatever this guy's doing, it appears to be working, since you're now "afraid to ask anything of him." Well, not ANYTHING. Just questions that might cause his allergy to personal responsibility to flare up. Exceptions include: "Would you like me to make you a big, juicy steak?" and "How about I work day and night to pay the attorney so you can lie on the couch and watch the fights on pay-per-view?"
Take no chances. While it might seem that a guy who's sincere about offing himself wouldn't be sending out notices -- "You're cordially invited to celebrate the end of Mr. and Mrs. Smith's son, Shecky..." -- research shows that most suicidal people do warn of their plans. So...is he or isn't he? Well, how would you know? You're merely an overworked student. This is a job for psychiatric professionals and the parents who raised him to be the man he isn't today. Inform his parents by confidential telephone call that they need to come pick up their kid before he hurts himself. Don't take no for an answer, and don't leave his side until they do. After all, it would be terrible to make a mistake; for example, failing to seize this golden opportunity to evict him from your life -- no matter how much you must "enjoy every moment" you're being held hostage by his threats to leave in an urn.
Use your time alone to reflect on why, given this guy's record -- the one accompanied by a mug shot -- you were at all surprised at how your relationship played out. (There's nothing to rev up a guy's existential angst like being told to get a job so his girlfriend doesn't have to cover his legal fees.) It isn't crass to want a partner who's going places -- and not just to county lockup if the cops get him on a traffic stop. Sure, perhaps expecting to find Prince Charming is unrealistic, but calling off the search to bond with a bail-jumping shoplifter might be a wee bit premature.
Copyright ©2005, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.