What Are Threatening Words and Behavior?
As you can guess, threatening words and behavior imply or involve emotional pain, physical pain, or both. If your partner threatens to leave if you do or don’t do something, that is a threat. Threats are verbal and emotional abuse. Some things you could hear are, “If you go out dressed like that I will play wing-man for my friend” or “If you don’t have dinner on the table by 6 tonight, there will be hell to pay.” Any statement that says or implies “If you … then I’ll” is a threat.
Examples of Threatening Behaviors
Threatening behaviors include
- playing with or cleaning weapons while looking at you threateningly,
- blocking you in a room or corner (using their hands to block you is also considered domestic violence),
- “puffing up” or getting in your face while in conversation,
- breaking things (usually your things),
- shoving, pushing, poking your chest (shoving and pushing is considered physical violence, not only threats of further violence),
- holding the children in a way or with an expression that alarms you,
- and many other behaviors.
Analyze anything your abuser does that makes your heart skip a beat in alarm. What kind of threat did you just perceive?
Describing your abuser’s action may sound like nothing when repeating it to a friend. But abusers have certain menacing looks and actions known only to their victims. Don’t second-guess yourself if someone you tell says or implies “That doesn’t sound so bad!” They weren’t there, they don’t know, There are counselors and domestic violence workers who will understand exactly what you felt.
How My Husband Uses Threatening Words and Behavior
My husband uses threatening behavior to let me know that he is in control. He wants me to know that I should shut up and do as he says OR ELSE. Threatening behavior implies that he’s going to hurt me physically. Here are some threatening behaviors I’ve experienced:
- grabbing my face,
- getting in my face while yelling, spitting, and red-faced,
- acting like he’s wringing my neck at a distance,
- kicking a chair, punching cabinets, etc.,
- or threatening my pets to coerce me to do what he wants.
Many times when he’s in this state, he’ll say, “Is this what you want?! You must want me pissed off. Why else would you do this to me?!” He wants me to think he’s out of control and more threatening! But asking that question tells me that he is very much in control of himself. He knows what he’s doing. He’s acting like that ON PURPOSE.
The Police Take Threatening Behavior Very Seriously
The night I left for good, I was on the phone with the police dispatcher. She’d asked me to stay on the line until the officer arrived. My husband stormed about the house. He replaced the dresser he’d pressed into the wall while shoving his way through the bedroom door. He came out of the bedroom and picked up his knife – a sharp jackknife with a 4-inch blade. He glared at me and … opened a piece of Nicorette gum.
I was calm, but his action scared me to death. I was giving the dispatcher an accurate account of what was happening as she’d asked. When the officer arrived, I realized he’d been listening in on the call. Will locked us out of the house, but my keys were in my pocket. I unlocked the door and the officer motioned for me to move aside. He opened the door with his taser drawn.
If cops take the presence of a weapon seriously, shouldn’t we?
How to React to Threatening Behavior & Words
First, you analyze the threat. Did your partner threaten to kill you while holding a gun? If so, get the hell out of there ASAP.
Did they threaten to kill you if you leave them? This is also very serious and could be true! However, if you walk out the door at that moment, you don’t have to worry about imminent death. Abusers can’t kill a person they cannot find.
It is very important to take threats like these very seriously. Most people would be heart-sick, depressed, sad, or even anxious if their lover left them. Most people would not kill them, but abusive people might. And no matter how many times your abuser has said it to you, decent people don’t say this to someone they love.
A similar version of that statement is “I will kill myself if you...” Abusive people may kill themselves if you leave, but chances are they will kill you first. I know you should take this suicide threat as seriously as one upon your own life.
You need a comprehensive safety plan if your abuser turns homicidal. You also should confide in someone familiar with domestic violence (like a counselor at a local domestic violence center). They’ll help you sort things out.
Not All of the Abuser’s Threats Are As Dangerous as Murder-Suicide
Some threats are not as life-threatening as you well know. Threats that are not imminent require some thinking and feeling. If your abuser threatens to leave you, try calmly saying “Stop threatening me. I don’t like it” or just ignore them. Abusers strike at the heart of your fears. If they know you have abandonment issues, they’ll threaten to abandon you. If they know you’re afraid of your father, they’ll act like (they think) your father would.
Feeling a wince of fear or sadness after hearing a threat is normal — that’s why threats work. But you have to ask yourself one question. “Why would my partner want me to feel fear or pain when all I want for them is happiness?”
*Remember that these statements are to help you feel better and detach from your abuser’s antics. They do not guarantee that your abuser will stop abusing you, nor do they protect you from further abuse. You should fill out a safety plan so you know what you will do if things get out of hand.
Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003, and my experiences with verbal abuse.
- Abusive Anger
- Accusing and Blaming
- Blocking and Diverting
- Judging and Criticizing
- Name-Calling Is Pure Verbal Abuse
- Ordering and Demanding
- Threatening Behavior And Words
- Undermining Is Verbal Abuse
- Withholding or Depriving
- Verbal Abuse Disguised as a Joke