As a relationship and couples therapist, one of the biggest mistakes I see are couples who threaten the other with leaving. When conflicts arise, and in the heat of the moment, one person will say to the other, “Well, if that’s how you feel, let’s just split up or get a divorce.”
If you are looking for a definite answer to the question, “how to cope with the threat of divorce, here is the right advice to problem-solve the conflict without losing your mind.
Don’t threaten divorce in your marriage
Understanding why threatening divorce during an argument will harm your marriage is the key to stop the D word from rearing its ugly head during conflicts.
When you and your partner find yourselves in the middle of an argument, do one (or both) of you threaten the “D” word (divorce)? If you find that your default response to conflict is to threaten to leave the relationship, you may be committing one of the cardinal sins to coupledom – the threat to leave.
Many couples have it in their mind that if the relationship doesn’t work out, then they will simply leave/divorce their partner and find another, even better relationship.
“But, why is this attitude so harmful?” you might be asking yourself. The reason is that unless there is a rock-solid belief and understanding that both parties are committed to the relationship, and nothing (no argument, conflict, a difference of opinion, etc.) is ever going to break-up the partnership – it is difficult to feel secure.
Commitment is non-negotiable
Both people need to agree that a commitment to each other is a fixed point – a non-negotiable starting point that “We will agree to work out any differences we may have.” This basic and fundamental assurance in a relationship helps couples to feel secure. This attitude of commitment, determination and a willingness to endure difficult times.
All relationships have some degree of conflict
It is impossible for two individuals to coexist together without minor irritation, and annoyance, up to open hostility. Depending on individual temperament, ability to tolerate individual differences and patience levels, some couples can live in relative harmony while others argue about anything and everything. Living in close proximity to another human means that there will be disagreements.
Abuse is never appropriate in a relationship
If one (or both of you) are being abusive (verbally, physically, sexually, emotionally or any combination of these) then remaining in the relationship is contra-indicated until the abuse stops and the abuser seeks therapy and can demonstrate they are making substantial progress towards changing.
But, for most couples, where abuse is not the issue – simply the two are having trouble co-existing, then learning to “fight fair” and resolve conflict in a healthy manner are important relationship skills.
Also watch: 7 Most Common Reasons for Divorce
There are three main goals for any relationship
Honesty, communication, and commitment. For a relationship to be healthy both people need to have the maturity to be open and honest. Honesty builds trust, and facilitates communication, especially when accompanied by acceptance. The second goal communication implies that each is willing to listen to the other.
The old adage that we have two ears to listen and one mouth to talk (so listen twice as much as you talk) is good advice for any relationship.
The third goal: commitment. Commitment is the understanding that staying together is both a choice and a priority.
Commitment becomes the glue that holds a relationship together when the storms of conflict arise.
What to do if your spouse threatens divorce too often
More often than not threatening to divorce during conflict could be a manipulative or angry way for your spouse to push you into giving into their perceived needs. What is important is to make a judgment call on what is best for your marriage and not for just one of the partners.
So, the next time you and your partner find yourselves embroiled in an argument and you feel your anger rising to the point you can’t remember why, for the life of you, you ever wanted to be with this person in the first place, take a walk, take a time-out, cool off, let your anger die down a bit, but don’t under any circumstances, threaten to leave the relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Cynthia Faulkner is a therapist with 30 (+) years of experience. Cindy has a wide variety of experience with populations that include: children, families, and adults. Her main area of focus is working with couples and families. She employs a System’s Theory approach to help families achieve their maximum level of functioning. Dr. Faulkner has trained with Violet Oaklander (children’ therapy), and is well versed in assessment, treatment modalities and therapeutic techniques for issues such as: trauma resolution, the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and conflict resolution (for couples and families).