For many of us, when we are deep into a fight with our spouse we turn our words into weapons, designed to hit them where it hurts the most. Through our pain and anger we feel things slip through our lips that we don’t even mean, but that temporarily give us a small feeling of accomplishment once they have been said. When all else fails, we may even threaten the person we love the most with the dreaded “D” word… Divorce. This threat is usually unfounded and loses its power each time it is used in the heat of anger.
During my first marriage I was very young and immature. I was 17 when we met, 20 when we married. It was my first real relationship and I had zero idea what a healthy relationship should look or feel like. My parents also married young, at 18 years old, and had a very tumultuous relationship, in which they spoke disrespectfully to each other and fought in front of my siblings and I on a regular basis. We grew up not understanding how to properly communicate or resolve issues without resorting to anger. Therefore, when I got married I didn’t have a solid example as to what a stable relationship should be like.
My first husband was a very controlling man. We both identified as Christians, but our ideas of what that meant were quite different. In my eyes, I believed that God created men and women as equals, to support and love each other. In his eyes, women were designed to submit to men and serve them. These conflicting beliefs, coupled with my strong-will and his authoritative personality were a disastrous combination. His use of emotional abuse and manipulation became a regular part of my days. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells and was so stressed out trying to avoid what would trigger our next fight.
The biggest source of pain through all of the fighting was when my Ex would threaten break-ups during our dating years and divorce after we had married. No matter how miserable and trapped I felt in that relationship, each time he told me he would divorce me it felt like a dagger stabbing me in the stomach. I was terrified of what life would be like if he ever left me. He had spent so many years putting me down and making me feel like the dumbest, most unlovable person alive, that I had begun to believe that if he left I would be alone forever and would never find love again. He used the “D” word as his biggest weapon against me, leaving me powerless and devastated each time he thrashed it at me. Eventually he did follow through and filed for divorce, setting me free to find that the world could be a beautiful, exciting place, where love was abundant and far less stressful.
I tell you this story, not to suggest that you are an abusive, manipulative monster, but to make you aware of the power of your words. The things we say to our spouses through anger can leave permanent scars that damage them and drive a wedge into our marriages. DON’T USE THE “D” WORD UNLESS YOU REALLY MEAN IT! Threatening divorce is one of the most destructive things you can do in a marriage. Not only are you showing your spouse how lightly you take the vows you spoke on your wedding day, but you are also proving that your words are insignificant and that you don’t follow through on what you say. Whether you mean to or not, by using divorce as a threat you are being manipulative and are forcing your spouse to do what you want, instead of finding healthy ways to communicate about your needs. These threats are extremely destructive to your spouse’s self-worth and can make them feel depressed, confused, and hopeless. Using divorce as a threat can also backfire when your partner finally grows tired of hearing it over and over again and files for divorce on their own.
It is not uncommon to lash out and say things we don’t mean, but when we are in healthy relationships, we discover that threats and evil words don’t lead to effective communication or happiness. If you aren’t able to communicate with your spouse and feel that either of you use threats as a tool during fights, you may want to seek out a marriage counselor to help you figure out the best methods for communication. Everyone has different views on counseling, but it can be an effective approach to a failing marriage. Once you discover the right counselor, with whom you both feel comfortable, you may find healing and techniques to change your marriage for the better.
If you are using the “D” word and are actually leaning towards wanting a divorce, then maybe it is time to follow through on your threat. It is extremely painful to be threatened regularly, so do your spouse a favor and do what you say you will do already. No one deserves to live a life in which they are walking on eggshells, waiting for their spouse to divorce them.