The Word That Should Be Banned From Your Marriage

Using divorce as a threat during an argument is one thing, but have you ever joked about divorce with your spouse? Most of us would say there’s nothing malicious about making a harmless joke, but there’s also no such thing as treating such a serious topic ironically.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read
shutterstock 1433943293
Shutterstock/Kryvenok Anastasiia

Once, divorce was viewed as an extreme only used in the most grave of circumstances; now, it’s being used by self-care advocates as the right option when you just don’t feel invested in your relationship anymore. Some of us might start to wonder how marriages survive multiple decades or how it’s even possible to survive the fallout from everything thrown at us.

But if we want to make our marriages impenetrable, the topic of divorce – even when brought up flippantly or humorously – should be banned in your marriage.

The D Word

When my husband and I married two years ago, we made a pact. Even during our worst arguments, in the times when we couldn’t stand the sight of each other, we would never bring up or even mention the word divorce. Not only that, but we don’t even joke about it.

It’s easier than you think, surprisingly enough. And because we’re not lobbing cheap, easy potshots at each other, even when we’re trying to be funny, we usually get to address the issue in front of us. To be fair, two years of marriage is a drop in the bucket to some, but it’s one of the cardinal rules of our relationship. It dictates how we talk to one another and about one another, and how we communicate when we’re facing difficulty. We’ve even had people tell us we’re being too serious.

But divorce is a serious thing, as anyone who’s divorced will tell you. It’s not just the legal dissolution of a contract. It’s the separation of a family (even if you don’t have kids), and for many, it’s saying to your ex-spouse that you wish you’d never married them in the first place. Not only is divorce mentally draining and emotionally scarring, but it’s also expensive. The average cost of one runs nearly $13,000, and even for an uncontested divorce, you can still expect to pay over $4,000.

What’s more disheartening is that divorce seems to be a recurring issue in many cases. While first marriages have a 41% chance of ending in divorce, remarriage is still common for many divorced people, and third marriages have a 73% rate of ending in divorce. According to research from 2020, a divorce happens in the U.S. every 13 seconds. If you decide not to use the word divorce flippantly, casually, or humorously in your marriage, some would say you’re being too serious. But perhaps we’re not being serious enough.

Words Have More Meaning Than You Think

Those of us who are married know that once words are said, they can’t be unsaid. What’s more, you still have to live with, sleep next to, and interact with your spouse after the fact. This is important to remember in conversation, sure, but even more so during arguments or fights. 

Lately, people seem to be obsessed with the concept of “speaking things into existence,” or what’s known as manifesting. Essentially, this is the idea that we can change our future, whether romantic, professional, or financial, simply through verbalizing our desires. There’s definitely a woo-woo element to this, but some people swear by it.

You don’t have to believe in manifestation, though, to recognize that it’s one thing to think something and another to say it out loud. Looking at your spouse during an argument, you can easily think, “I can’t stand you right now” or “I wish we weren’t married.” That thought can come and go like it was never there. Once it’s been spoken, though, you can’t take it back, and furthermore, it might motivate them to say something equally or more unpleasant.

“I want a divorce” is a thought you might have had before, but do you really? Or do you want to hurt the other person? Forget saying this during an argument or couple’s counseling for a minute. Quipping or joking “I’m divorcing you” when your husband doesn’t put his dishes in the dishwasher or pick up his socks off the floor is not only unfunny, it’s a radical response to what’s likely a small issue. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime, as they say. But similar to manifesting, once it’s been said and the concept has been introduced, you might be subconsciously primed to spend more time thinking about it or even pursuing it. 

If the antithesis of apathy and derision is respect, learn to cultivate reverence in your marriage.

Say that humorously suggesting divorce is your go-to defense when your spouse does something that annoys or irritates you. Not only is this not an equitable response to his actions, but he’ll likely keep doing what irritates you or even shut down altogether, because you haven’t communicated directly that he needs to change his behavior. Relationship coach Suzanne Venker has this to say: “In general, the entire subject of divorce should be off the table when communicating, and joking falls under that category.” Whether you’re bringing up the topic of divorce to hurt your spouse or just to get their attention, there’s likely a bigger problem present that a wisecrack won’t address.

Make Your Marriage Sacred

At this point, we know that attitudes like apathy, lack of respect, derision, and especially contempt are the canary in the marriage coal mine. If these characteristics are directly contributing to divorces, how do we combat them?

If the antithesis of apathy and derision is respect, we learn to cultivate reverence in our marriage. We hold up our marriage not as an idol we worship, but as something precious we maintain and protect. Marriage isn’t like dating, and it isn’t being engaged. It’s unlike any other decision we’ll ever make in our lives, and its rewards are much greater. Because it’s the ultimate commitment, it demands the ultimate amount of effort and energy. 

But it’s not enough to respect the sanctity of marriage – that responsibility goes double for the person we’re married to. We picked them over everyone else for a reason, and we acknowledged this monumental choice in front of other people on our wedding day, whether you were married in front of 500 people or a justice of the peace. Our vows didn’t include “for better or for worse or until we no longer feel like it.” Your vows didn’t include a provision for divorce or an emergency exit. 

Reasons often cited in the event of a divorce include things like financial problems or infidelity – but among the most common reasons for the breakdown of a marriage are issues like poor communication, lack of commitment, and constant arguing. In any situation, it can feel like the simplest solution when walls are put up is to throw in the towel. But in marriage, the wall has to be built around us, not between us. Banning a singular word (and a decision you can’t take back) in your marriage will sound idiotic to some, but it’s a small act that easily helps to construct fortifications around your relationship. 

Closing Thoughts

Respecting your spouse and making your marriage sacred isn’t easily said and done. It’s a daily choice, and some days are harder than others. But dedicating your life to a long-lasting marriage starts with building respect and trust between two people and ends when both realize that they’re better together than they would ever be apart.

Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.