Power and Control Wheel: Coercion and Threats

Making and/or carrying out threats to do
something to hurt her.
Threatening to leave her,
commit suicide, or report
her to welfare. Making
her drop charges.
Making her do illegal

Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her.   Bubba didn’t make overt threats to hurt the children or me.  He didn’t need to.  The implied threats were strong enough that he didn’t have to be verbal.  When he got angry, he would tower over us, clench his fists, the veins in his head would bulge, and his body posture was puffed up – making him appear bigger and scarier.  Why would he have to say one word when the physical intimidation spoke louder than anything he could utter?

Threatening to leave her, commit suicide, or report her to welfare.  Bubba used to threaten to divorce me each and every time we’d have a fight.  His answer to everything was, “Fine!  We’ll just get divorced then!”  Being a stay-at-home mom, this struck terror into my heart.  I was states away from my family and support so threatening to divorce me shut me up quickly.  As soon as he would say it, I would acquiesce to whatever it was Bubba wanted.  All fight would go out of me.  It got to a point where I stopped telling him when I was hurt or upset because I knew it would end with him threatening divorce.  It was just easier to swallow my feelings than to try to take things to him in a reasonable manner.  You can’t discuss things reasonably with an unreasonable person.  

Bubba threatened to kill himself.  That was just prior to The Incident.  I think that is what scared me enough to push to get him to go to the ER and for the doctors to admit him to the psych ward.  He’d threatened to kill himself and I firmly believed that he would hurt me before he’d ever try to hurt himself.  He’s just self-centered enough to not hurt himself when he had me around.  

About 4 years ago, Bubba was trying to get to Serenity.  They’d argued about something and she’d given him attitude.  It was enough to have him flying into a rage.  She ran away from him and he was really trying to get to her.  I stepped between them and he pushed me across the room.  I got them calmed a bit and told both of them to stay still.  I ran to get the boys and I put them in my car.  As I was getting into the car myself, Bubba screamed that if I took the kids he’d call the cops and tell them I’d kidnapped the kids.  I didn’t know any better and I believed him.  He apologized and promised he’d get help.  I believe him – yet again, I believed him.  And again, no changes were made.  We’d once again entered the honeymoon stage and I believed that this time would be different.  

Making her drop charges. Making her do illegal things.  We didn’t have these things in our relationship.  If your spouse has found ways of making you drop charges against him or if he’s made you do illegal things, please contact your local domestic violence agency for help.


  1. Audrey

    This is how I finally recognized that what I was experiencing was emotional abuse. The rest of the clues followed, but this was the red flag for me. Hubs was making suggestions for how to make my headache go away, when I said I didn’t want to do those things, I just needed to lay down for a bit. He then proceeded to say “FINE. You ALWAYS have a headache, you NEVER listen to me, why don’t we just get a divorce!?” He has done this countless times before and I finally told myself the next time he did it, I would say OK! So that’s what I said. He then proceeded to accuse me of cheating (he does this constantly) and then said he was going to kill himself. He always did the– “If you were to leave me I’d have nothing to live for and would just end it.” thing as if it were romantic. It’s exhausting. When I told my friend about this, she sent me info on emotional abuse. I’m glad she did so I could end the cycle.

    • When one tactic stops working, they simply move to the next. You called him on his bluff to divorce so he had to move to the next thing he knew would paralyze you in fear – his death on your head. I often wonder if they lay awake at night, wondering what they’re going to say next to keep us in line. Or maybe it’s a natural talent and they do it off the cuff. I don’t think we’ll ever know.

  2. Yeah, my x did that divorce thing. Audrey, how ridiculous he was prepared to divorce you over a headache!

    Mine was more about if we were having a disagreement, he would pull that out as a trump card. Sigh.

    And when we first separated, I told him I needed some time to think about what I was going to do. He attempted suicide the next day. Told everyone I said I was taking the kids and he would never see them again. But he made sure to text me an abusive goodbye message so I knew what he was doing, and one to his brother as well. He made me responsible for his emotions a lot. I couldn’t bring up things he had done to hurt me, because then he would say, “I know, I’m such a loser, you hate me, let’s get a divorce” I had no voice.

    • Yuck! You were in no way responsible for his suicide attempt. That was his choice. And since he didn’t succeed, it was just another tactic he used to keep you afraid of him and to keep you with him. I’m glad it didn’t work!

      And weren’t you just tempted, sometimes, to say, “Yes! You are a loser. Yes! I hate you! Yes! Let’s get a divorce?” I sure was, yet I kept my mouth closed because of the fear he instilled in me.


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