Let's talk about the "D word" in marriages. (Divorce)
While it's true that some couples can resolve conflict without every bringing up the D word, others aren't so fortunate.
What do you do if your partner brings up the D word?
Let's take a look at what that word usually really means during active conflict in a relationship.
In the vast majority of cases, when the D word is first brought up it's in the heat of an intense argument, and the person that says it is really saying "I can't take this anymore. I am completely overwhelmed and can't figure out a solution other than possibly to leave each other."
You can think of the D word as your partner waving a white flag and letting you know that this thought has now crossed their mind, and may have actually been on their mind for awhile.
It's definitely a show stopper, or at least it should be.
If your partner brings up the D word in the heat of an argument, recognize that things have gone too far and productive communication is not taking place. Saying that word in anger is a
good sign that your partner is flooded. The Gottman Institute of Seattle Washington describes this as being physically and emotionally upset. They refer to it as a "highjacking of one's nervous system" to the point that adrenaline is now driving the person's reactions as opposed to logical, rational thought.
The D bomb is akin to a nuclear attack in an argument. It's appearing to say "I quit. I won't live like this." because the pain of the conflict has become so intense that the D bomber feels like they have no other choice but to throw this out there.
It can also be a learned behavior, if for example, you observed your parents tossing that word around on a regular basis. You may have opened your mouth and "found yourself talking just like your mother or father" and that in itself can be a sobering moment.
Our recommendation is to avoid the D word in arguments, and express your own feelings and needs instead. Recognize that you or your partner need to go to your separate corners and give yourselves time to calm down.
Also pay attention to this cry for help. It's easy to perceive your partner as threatening you with abandonment when this word is said. Instead of allowing it to trigger a fear reaction in you, use the opportunity to realize that not only have things gotten out of hand, the current communication has to cease because it's destructive, not constructive.
Every couple will experience conflict. It's the way it's handled that makes the difference.
Kathleen Anderson, LMHC LLC
copyright 2022 all rights reserved