Denise Limongello, a Manhattan licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert concurs. She says “the threat of divorce during an argument can be devastating to hear.” In her opinion, the happy couples she sees “avoid using that word during arguments, as it can make it seem that divorce is a possibility.” She has some tips for what couples should do instead such as, “creating a ground-rule with your spouse that bans the D-word from your vocabulary can be a great way to contract safety with your partner.” Limongello also says, “making ground-rules, of any kind, that you can both stick to, can be useful in building trust within your relationship.” She also advises “Don’t ever threaten as research shows that this leads to heightened levels of depression and anxiety, and can even affect blood pressure levels.” She believes that making threats is not a healthy behavior in a loving relationship, and there are more constructive ways to get your needs met.
“Whenever you use the D-word in an argument you are removing safety, security, and trust from a relationship, which are basic human needs.” ~Chris Armstrong, relationship coach
There are serious reasons that a spouse should not use the D-word during an argument according to certified relationship coach, Chris Armstrong. First and foremost, the message gets lost. “When a spouse utters the dreaded D-word, whatever was said before or after can very often fade into the background.” He discusses how the spouse hearing this can get overwhelmed. After this happens, Armstrong says “whatever outcome that was desired by the spouse who uttered it will likely not be achieved.” He also believes that if you get the spouse angry enough, he or she might even “call your bluff.”
Alternatively, Armstrong recommends a coaching strategy called the “WAIT Principle” that helps the partner wishing to throw out the D-word stay on track with what is really trying to be communicated. These spouses should ask themselves: Why am I talking? What is the desired outcome of putting the dreaded D-word on the table? Will it help me get to my desired outcome? Have I looked at how it will land on my spouse? He emphasizes this approach because “Whenever you use the D-word in an argument you are removing safety, security, and trust from a relationship, which are basic human needs. Otherwise stated, you are telling your spouse the relationship is not a safe place to be or that the relationship is fragile and cannot withstand any stress or pressure.”
Dr. Heather M Ehinger, a Marriage and Family therapist specializing in high conflict relationships also believes that these couples are trying to get their needs met in an ineffective way. “It feels like a way to get the other person to pay attention to how serious you are. Unfortunately, just like the story of Peter and the Wolf, all threats eventually land on deaf ears.” She advised couples to “take responsibility for yourself and examine what it is you need that you are not getting.” She goes on to say that if you are not prepared to make good on the divorce threat, then stop making them as “divorce will get you divorced, threats will get you ignored. Peter found out the hard way, don’t be like Peter!”