Why You Should Not Threaten With Divorce


I’ve found that the firmness and steadfast nature of your commitment to your relationship, communicated directly to your spouse in a loving way, is a crucial ingredient to a long, fulfilling marriage.

Words have power. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (ESV). The writer of this proverb provided a beautiful word picture to illustrate the power of words. This is especially true in marriage, a relationship of deep intimacy and vulnerability, a relationship in which we have been given the responsibility to protect our spouse and nurture their love, feelings, and future.

This is true—even in the heat of conflict and disunity. When we throw out the word “divorce” or “I want a divorce,” “maybe we should get a divorce,” or any other choice of words suggesting an end to the marriage, we are tossing a massive, emotionally laden bomb in our spouse’s lap. Those words unleash serious power.

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What kind of feeling or action are we trying to elicit when we throw out those words? Sometimes, the phrase is used to manipulate our spouse: “Do this, or we need to divorce!” In other circumstances, someone might lob that verbal bomb out of frustration or an inability to resolve conflicts: “We are getting nowhere! We might as well get a divorce!” And sometimes, divorce seems like the only answer—it may be the go-to, default solution from your past. No matter the context, speaking about divorce is a dangerous path to undertake and will most certainly damage your marriage.

Imagine what could happen if you or your spouse used a different approach during a heated argument: “I love you. We’re not getting along right now, but I’m committed to our marriage. We will work this out.” Wow, talk about words bringing the power! These words speak commitment, covenant, and a forever, always-going-to-stick-it-out love to your spouse. How many arguments would be settled, and how many conflicts could be resolved if this were the mindset you both choose? In my time as a marriage counselor (and even in my own marriage), I’ve found that the firmness and steadfast nature of your commitment to your relationship, communicated directly to your spouse in a loving way, is a crucial ingredient to a long, fulfilling marriage.

If you’re struggling in this area and words seem to be your weapons of choice, I want to encourage you to take the following actions.

  1. Ultimately, you need to discuss your feelings with the One who created and blessed marriage. Ask His forgiveness for how you’ve acted in anger, frustration, or selfishness.
  2. Apologize and ask for forgiveness from your spouse. Your words created not only a wound but also a barrier to their heart, and apologizing is the first step in healing that hurt. It may take time for your spouse to lower their guard again, so demonstrate your love by being patient.
  3. Ask God to strengthen your resolve and commitment to your spouse and relationship. Those heartfelt emotions can and will ebb and flow, but that does not mean you are less committed to your marriage.
  4. When you go through difficult seasons in your marriage, reaffirm your commitment to your spouse. Communicate your desire to find the best solution to strengthen and deepen that relationship. Every marriage will face its share of challenges, but those times can improve your marriage if you submit and surrender to the work of God in your life.

The Book of Proverbs also gives us insight into the healing power of words. In chapter 16, verse 24, the writer says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.” The word “divorce” has no place in your marriage. It is not sweet to the soul. In another chapter, the writer said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). You have the power to bring forth life, vitality, health, and healing with your words. Speak life to your spouse, reaffirming your choice to marry them and remaining steadfast in your commitment together. Affirm with each other daily.

Because words do have power.

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