Six years ago things were not the worst that they'd ever been in our marriage, but things weren't the greatest either. Neither one of us were working due to a recent layoff, our finances were a bonafide wasteland, and I had just gotten out of the hospital after a long week admitted with a severe asthma attack mid-5th-pregnancy.
As I climbed the steep stairs to the attic of our 3 story rental, I already knew what I was going to say. I wanted out.
Except, that's not really what I meant. We had overcome a lot in our first 4 years or marriage. I wasn't ready to throw that away and I didn't really want out. The problem was that I didn't know what to do or to say to help us move forward and I didn't like being stuck.
I hopped up on the desk where my husband was quietly looking for work. My heart raced as I said these words.
"Listen, I just think that things might be better if we just...I don't know. I mean, are we really supposed to be together if it's this hard? Maybe a divorce is right for us. I know that I keep saying that and you don't agree but how can this work if..."
He interjected. "Divorce isn't an option. Don't ever say that to me again."
I never have.
There are so many reasons that people use the "D" word. And even more, reasons to stop using it. Saying goodbye to the "D" word is one of the most powerful things that you can do to turn your marriage around.
1. Divorce is not an option
That statement that my husband made was spot on. Divorce was not an option. Be intentional about this right from the start. Commit that you will never use divorce as a weapon of manipulation or coercion. If you are newly married, you may be thinking "Of course I would never say that!" Neither did I! So, trust us. Take this step. Laying this framework is essential to managing confrontation in your marriage.
2.. Negative words are toxic
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that "Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose." No matter what the situation may be, introducing the "D" word into the narrative of your marital discussion is like giving fear a seat at your dinner table. Fear in marriage leads to the breakdown in stability and security. If your marriage is in crisis, you should be focusing on using positive language and affirming thoughts.
3. It's manipulation
Threatening divorce to win an argument or champion your cause is relational manipulation, and "blowing off steam" is no excuse. Many spouses feel no choice but to cave in to "keep the peace." Arguments and disagreements will happen, but ultimatums are never the right way to win. The only way to win in marital conflict is with love, respect, consideration, and compromise.
4. Power of suggestion
There is always the chance that your spouse has never thought of divorce, but hearing you say it makes them believe it is the way. Most people don't actually want a divorce. Remember me? Gladly, he understood my desperation and chose to focus on the root cause. Not everyone is that fortunate. Do your marriage a massive favor and keep the words that you say intentionally focused on what you truly desire.
If you or your spouse in times of anger has threatened divorce, forgiveness is the next step. Initiate a conversation, choose to forgive the transgressions and move forward. Go back to suggestion #1 make take the "D" word off of the table. Extend to them the grace that they deserve (or accept the grace that you deserve) and have a real dialogue about better ways to move forward. Your marriage will be better for putting this work in, and soon you will find that solutions will abound as you work together to create a better future together.