We’re talking about the “D” word and I don’t mean Dallas. It’s the word that signifies you are Done with marriage. Desire is gone. Damage is done. You know what word it is. Divorce.
In the fire service the divorce rate is high and sadly, many of you have already experienced this in a past marriage. Or maybe you’re in the middle of it right now. Or perhaps you’re just throwing it around in your head. Or you’ve lived through the divorce of parents or other people close in your life.
This message is so important I’m going to share it right away.
Make a commitment to not throw around the word divorce when arguing with your spouse.
Now before you think I’m just getting bossy and mouthy and that I “don’t know your situation”, let me explain some background.
Divorce was the most emotionally difficult situation I’ve ever had to experience in my life. (Thank the Lord I’ve never had to deal with loss of a child or a spouse or cancer and or any of those other challenges that rank right up there in the top 10 but for many, divorce is a big one.)
We know what it means but let me try to do justice with words as to what it feels like. Someone whom you promised and visualized spending the rest of your life with has crushed that promise and your future. It’s over. Your living arrangement changes. “Stuff” that was dear to you stays with your spouse. Friends take sides. You have family members who don’t believe in divorce or don’t understand what you were going through in your marriage. Likely your financial situation changes and you may need to change jobs or re-enter the work force or find a way to navigate your job as a single parent. Your life plans are completely rearranged. Nearly every aspect.
And the kids. They are expected to learn to live in two places. Literally. A bedroom at Dads. A bedroom at Moms. Holiday events are doubled. Two sets of clothes. Possibly two sets of friends. Two sets of family. And the grief of knowing the life that has been shared with them over and over in storybooks of Mommy and Daddy tucking them in, will never happen again.
As their parent, you are somewhat relieved from the burden of the marriage difficulties because it’s officially “over”. There is relief from the day to day challenges. But, when kids are involved, it’s not over. You don’t get what you wanted. To be forever away from that horrific spouse who has hurt you in so many ways. Or if that’s not what you wanted, if you wanted it to workout. You still don’t get a changed person after they leave. Nope. That ex-spouse is still the same person and still the Mom / Dad of your beautiful offspring and you will continue to see them until the end of their life or yours. Birthdays, Weddings, Graduations. Despite divorce, it’s still ’til death do you part.
In case you didn’t already have an insider view into divorce, there’s one. The most difficult experience of my life. A huge valley. And forever with us as I watch my now 15 year old son deal with life in a divorced and now blended family (since he was 2 years old….yes 13 years ago and we still see the impact in a significant way.)
Despite being divorced, I say I am not an advocate of divorce. Here’s what I mean. It was sooooooo difficult and awful and hurtful to the core of my personal commitment, I am first an advocate of encouraging everyone to give your everything trying to work it out. Marriages can heal. There is hope. There are so many tools and rescues to make it possible when both spouses want to try.
*Note: if you are in an abusive relationship – physically or verbally – get away from your abuser and find help. We are not advocating that you physically stay with an abuser.
But the point of this article is not how difficult divorce is. I just wanted to paint that picture vividly. The point is this.
When you use the word “Divorce” in arguments with your spouse, you are saying one of the most damaging words possible.
Trust is broken. Hope is deflated. You are saying “I know I made a forever promise at our wedding but I’ve considered that I never want to be with you again for the rest of my life.”
Divorce is not a word to throw around for impact when you are having an argument. You know about the boy who cried wolf. For awhile, the word is traumatic and extremely hurtful. Does he/she really mean that? How serious should I take that?
But a word with the finality of divorce, when used repeatedly, becomes an empty threat and destroys trust in your relationship every single time. Say divorce, trust needle moves back to zero. If you really don’t want a divorce and you say the word, you start at zero to rebuild trust in your relationship. The ultimate promise you made in your wedding vows, ’til death do us part, now seems have been a complete lie. All that time building up to that moment of committing yourself to each other forever, is ripped apart with the mention of one word. All those prior good times and seasons and love and special moments…feel like they didn’t mean anything. Yes. It’s that dramatic.
I’ve heard this word. I’ve felt the lump in my throat and the sinking pit in my stomach without any ability to reply. Your entire spirit is crushed.
Is that really how you want to make your spouse feel in order to prove your point in an argument?
1. If you are saying it in the heat of the moment. Just stop.[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@wifeonfire”]Learn to fight in your marriage without throwing around damaging words like divorce.[/tweetthis]
Force yourself to think it through and get clarity. Don’t use it in the midst of a fight. Perhaps your parents threw this around when they were arguing and it’s a leftover lesson from childhood. If so, now you know. It’s the least productive way to make things work in your marriage. (This also goes for any name calling. My favorite reference….which has been highly referenced throughout our marriage is Marriage Builders – check out their Guidelines for Successful Negotiation – which includes all the ground rules for discussing (“fighting”) fairly.)
2. If you really do think you want a divorce, then what’s stopping you? Why keep throwing out the threat if you aren’t following through?
Again, I’m not an advocate of divorce but of marriage healing. Something has hurt you enough to throw out the word but something is preventing you from acting. (This is a good thing! Fight for what’s holding you back!) Dig deep and figure that out. There’s healing and growth in those thoughts.
3. What to do if your spouse continues to use the word in fights
1. Forward him / her this article. Sometimes it’s best heard when said by others.
2. Don’t listen to the word. Listen to the fact that there is something painful and hurting in your spouse. No they are not right in throwing that word around. And it’s hurtful to you.
3. If they do it all the time, have the tough conversation and calmly call them out on it. You may say something like. “A divorce is the last thing I want. I want to work on our marriage. But clearly there is something not working here. Can we focus on repairing that and healing these hurts? Can we agree on not using this word when we argue?”
Sometimes these challenges in our marriage are not easy to fight alone. Be sure you are surrounded by a support community, if you are a wife, fiancee or girlfriend of a firefighter, we offer the Rescue My Marriage program as part of our Fire Wife Sisterhood membership. Maybe your marriage doesn’t need rescued but just a little extra pick me up. The Sisterhood is great for that too.
I feel your hearts and I know it’s not as simple as the three steps we describe above. If you are at this point in your relationship, counseling is highly recommended. Even if only one spouse will participate.
We are committed to strengthen and support marriages in the Fire Service with resources such as this.
Marriage Need Rekindling?
Whether you’ve been married for 1 day, 1 year, 10 years or 50 years, marriage requires constant attention. And when work and kids and finances and calendars seem to take over all your discussions and time, it’s easy to forget that you used to be head over heels in love with constant butterflies around your husband / wife. Why does that need to end? Let’s take a break from the busy-ness of life and date each other again!