Tip #39: Banish the D-word
Are there some words that you try to keep out of your vocabulary? In our family, from the time our kids were little they knew we just didn’t say certain words in our family. Not just the usual four-letter swear words, but any word that could become a weapon used against someone else. Any word that was likely to cause hurt to someone we love, and for which any apology might be inadequate. Because once out there, certain words can’t easily be taken back.
For example, a couple of years ago, after I used a choice word in traffic, my then-8-year-old son solemnly informed me from the backseat, “Mom, we don’t say ‘stupid’ in this family.”
Well, it turns out there’s another choice word we have to keep out of our marriage vocabulary; a word that could become a weapon; a word that is likely to cause hurt, and for which any apology might be inadequate.
You can probably guess what word that is.
We hear the D-word all the time in our media and culture. Whether on a magazine cover about the latest five-minute Hollywood marriage, or the sad news about our neighbors splitting up, talking about and considering divorce has become common. So it is all too easy, in the heat of the moment, to blurt that word out. And cause an insecurity that, once out there, can’t easily be taken back.
One of the clearest threads I’ve seen in my research is that thriving in life and relationships depends on knowing that your spouse will be there no matter what. (Or, if you’re a kid, that your parents will remain together no matter what.)
By contrast, keeping your options open, even just a little bit, only leads to pain. It creates a wall. Or it leads to the poisonous thought that maybe the grass might be greener over there because surely some other man or woman wouldn’t do this thing that hurts me. When you start going down that trail of thinking, it only leads to a trap. The more you mention the D-word, the more likely it is to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Many of the couples that I interviewed for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages had gone from troubled marriages to terrific ones – and one of the most common reasons why was that at some point or another they decided, as one man put it, “To lock ourselves in the marriage and throw away the key.”
One lady told me that she used to say things in hurt and anger like, “Maybe we should just get divorced” or “Fine, divorce me, then.” But one day, after watching friends go through an excruciating divorce – and how their kids were so much more hurt and wounded than their friends had anticipated — she decided that she couldn’t make that an option. She went to her husband and apologized, saying, “I will never mention the D-word again.” He told me that when they decided to never say that word again, it changed everything about their ability to work things through. They were able to have an argument without fear that if they said just the wrong thing, their spouse might consider that the proverbial straw. As they dealt with some difficult issues, they were able to give the process time to work.
They were able to recognize, “Yes, this is a bad patch, but we’ll get through it.”
And they did. But they saw something else emerging as well.
With divorce removed as an option, with no other option other than working things through, they began to realize that they were building a deep sense of security in an insecure world. They started to be able to trust one another in a way they hadn’t before. And eventually, they had a delightful, rich enjoyment and happiness in each other in a way they never would have thought possible before.
For some, I know it can seem scary to eliminate that escape hatch. It can be so easy to throw the D-word word out there when you are hurt or upset. But once you remove that word from your vocabulary, once there is no “just in case,” you will find that it changes everything. Most importantly, it will change the way you feel about your spouse and your marriage, because now you know you will be able to work things through and come out the other side. You will know you are on the same team. Permanently.
Join us next week for the next post in our Marriage Monday series!
The post originally ran at the Christian Post for Marriage Mondays. Each Monday, join me as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on the surprising truths that men and women tend not to know about each other–and which change everything once we do.