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What causes people to threaten suicide as a way to stop divorce or a break up?

A little back story.
i work remote site work and work with the same group of people 2-3 weeks 12 hours a day no days off.
We land back to civilization and at the airport bar a co-worker I've made friends with opened up to me.
He proceeds to tell me how he's wife can't have kids and they've been trying for years then he gets quiet and speaks about how her ex boss kept buying her gifts and compliments and over 3 years of doing in this his wife and her boss had an affair. A few years after it was over he found out through text messages and old fb texts that didn't get deleted.
He kicked her out but her elderly dad came by and begged him to take her back (he said seeing a 70 year old guy beg almost broke his heart). He let her move back in but Told how could she be so stupid what if he got her pregnant (they were going through IVF treatments at the time) that he forgave her but would not accept what she did and he was divorcing her. He told me how he she broke down wouldn't eat had to take her to the hospital because she refused to eat and had a mental breakdown. How when she came back home she would apologize profusely and he would leave (to go get shit faced only way he could with it) he would come back home and she'd be a mess and he'd have to wrestle a knife away from her to keep her from self harming.

I asked him him if he was scared she's hurt him and he said he was more scared she's hurt herself. That she is a completely different person (after the affair was discovered) their marriage is on life support he's no longer the loving husband he was and no longer shows her blind love and affection, they've been together for so long he is also afraid to be alone. But he is also afraid what she may do to herself if he actually went through with the divorce.

why would she (or people in general) threaten self harm/suicide as a way to stop divorceing or a break up?

i mean a "mental breakdown" does that actually happen or is he being manipulated?
What causes people to threaten suicide as a way to stop divorce or a break up?
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