top of page
Blue Personal Objects

Couple Science Blog

Confronting the "L-Word": A Wake-Up Call in Conflict

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

"Leaving" often referred to as the "Other L-word," has a way of instantly changing the temperature of a conversation, especially in the midst of a heated argument. While some couples manage to navigate disputes without ever mentioning it, others find themselves facing this verbal detonator. What should you do if your partner brings it up?

Understanding the Underlying Message

More often than not, when the (I'm) Leaving-word is hurled in the heat of a moment, what it's really communicating is a sense of emotional exhaustion. The one uttering it is essentially saying, "I'm overwhelmed and can't envision a way forward other than parting ways." Consider it a distress signal—an admission that the thought of leaving has not only entered their mind but perhaps lingered there.

The Moment to Pause

When the Leaving-word is dropped, it's a glaring sign that the argument has escalated too far and constructive dialogue has come to a standstill. It's indicative of emotional flooding—a concept explored by The Gottman Institute, which describes it as the overtaking of one's rational self by adrenaline and heightened emotions.

Divorce as a Nuclear Option

Using the Leaving-word in an argument is the equivalent of launching a nuclear strike in emotional warfare. It is a dramatic way of saying, "I can't endure this anymore," driven by the acute pain of the disagreement. Sometimes this might even be a learned response, perhaps picked up from how your parents managed their disputes, leading to a self-revelatory moment when you realize you're echoing their words and actions.

Navigating the Turbulent Waters

So how should you handle the situation? The recommendation is simple but significant: steer clear of using the Leaving-word in quarrels. It's a threat of abandonment. Instead, focus on articulating your own emotions and needs. Recognize when it's time for both parties to take a breather, separate, and decompress.

A Catalyst for Positive Change

Rather than interpreting the utterance of the L-word as a threat or ultimatum, view it as a call for urgent intervention. Understand that it signifies not just that the argument has spiraled out of control, but that the current mode of communication is damaging rather than healing. Every couple faces conflict, but it's how you manage those trials that defines the longevity and health of your relationship.

2023: All rights reserved.


bottom of page