Did you know that conflict in a marriage can actually be healthy? Experts say that disagreements in a relationship can provide opportunities for making a change, getting creative with problem solving and helping partners grow (if both parties are willing, of course). But here’s the kicker: How you argue with your spouse matters...a lot. Specifically, there’s one phrase you really shouldn’t resort to when you’re yelling at your S.O. about putting the damn dishes away because once it’s out there… well, you can’t take it back.
“Maybe we should get a divorce.”
“Marriage can be challenging and there are days when it feels like more work than pleasure,” Chanel Dokun, a certified New York City life planner trained in marriage and family therapy, tells us. But she adds that no matter how hard things get (or how angry she is at her spouse), she would never mention the D-word. “Throwing out the word ‘divorce’ puts a crack in the secure foundation of a marriage. My husband needs to know that even when things aren’t rosy, I’ll still choose him and we will fight for our future together.”
While it’s natural to say something you don’t necessarily mean in the heat of the moment (“you are the messiest human being on the planet!”), threatening divorce in the middle of an argument is a big deal. It signals to your partner that any misstep won’t just lead to a fight, but it could lead to the dissolution of your marriage.
If you’re going to blurt out the word “divorce” with your spouse, then you better make sure you mean it. Because if you’re using it as an empty threat to just blow off steam, it’s only going to backfire (think: make your spouse question your bond and make your relationship weaker, not stronger).
“Clearly, the idea of divorce is the ultimate abandonment and goes to the core of people's attachment issues,” psychologist and author Dr. Karen Sherman told VeryWell. “So, even though it is only at the moment and not really meant, the threat has been put out there and is frightening,” she adds.
Instead, try taking a deep breath before using “I feel” statements with your partner, while focusing on the facts. Think: “I feel angry that I have had to unload the dishwasher every morning this week” (and not “If you don’t unload the freakin’ dishwasher tomorrow, I’m going to file for divorce!”)
When in doubt, remember these words of wisdom from Kevin Bacon who has been married to Kyra Sedgwick for 31 years: “The secret to a happy partnership? Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty.” Duly noted.