Professor's House

What to Do When a Spouse Threatens Divorce

Sure, arguments among married people can get pretty heated even over some of the silly things in life. But what happens when the person you are married to constantly resorts to threatening divorce whenever the two of you have a problem? At some point, you may realize that this person is all bark and no bite, but the emotional damage in the meantime can certainly destroy a marriage. Even more important, is the fact that if someone is constantly threatening to divorce you, eventually you may be compelled to take him or her up on the offer. So, what should you do when a spouse threatens divorce?

Many schools of thought about marriage seem to indicate that couples should see divorce as a consequence in a marriage. If you are constantly aware that there could be some reactions from your actions, divorce being one of them, you will be less likely to stray from the straight and arrow path, right? And by realizing the possibility of divorce, you will always be able to negotiate through the muddy waters of marriage with some clarity. The problem with this line of thinking is that it creates quite a bit of insecurity in a marriage. If you are constantly worrying or thinking about the fact that you could end up divorced, or that your partner could ultimately leave you you will proceed with such caution that you will fail to be authentic. This is no way to be married. (At least no good way to be). And the bottom line is that marriage should be about security and stability, not insecurity and sporadic behavior.

Most people, use the threat of divorce for the sheer ‘shut-up’ factor. They know that when things aren’t going their way or that there is a problem looming; they can avoid confrontation and argument by simply saying they want a divorce. This works especially well if the person using the threat realizes that the spouse they are threatening will shrivel at the mere mention of the ‘D’ word. Suffice it to say, if threatening divorce works’.and you always back down from your position or from the argument when the word is hailed, you have a part in teaching your partner this behavior. And no, this doesn’t make it any more right. It actually indicates that there is a major problem in your relationship that has much more to do with respect and compassion than it does the ‘issue’ at hand.

Essentially, many people use the divorce card as a succinct way to ‘win’ or end an argument.

Yet, there is another factor as well. Often, when people are unhappy in a marriage they displace their feelings on the other person. For instance, when someone is cheating, they often accuse the partner of cheating. When it comes to threatening divorce, it very well could be that your partner is trying to plant ideas in YOUR head, because the divorce is what they really want. Lots of people are unhappy in their relationships, and even with no valid reasons would be happier without the ring and ties of marriage. So by constantly threatening divorce, they are looking for ways to justify how they feel, or hopefully set the wheels in motion (in your head) with the hopes that they wont be the bad guy.

Unfortunately, it is difficult at best to understand or decide which motive your partner has in threatening divorce.

The best advice that you can be given is to understand this. First of all, idle threats and intimidation WILL NOT work in a marriage. You might as well be divorced. The emotional ramifications of being treated like this will stymie your happiness and your growth as a person. So what you need to do if you are on the receiving end of these threats is to just once say, ‘Okay!’ ‘Move out!’ ‘Let’s do it!’ And mean it. Perhaps a trial separation will help you realize that the marriage isn’t healthy. But more important by calling this person on their threats, you force them to pay attention to what THEY are saying, and stand up for yourself in the process. Sure, it could be scary to respond in this manner, however if you are never able to move past the issues at hand or discuss problems in your marriage to the point of resolution, you really have nothing to lose.

Depending on your partners personality set, they may react in numerous ways. They may try to cast blame on you, or they may back peddle a little (or a lot) realizing that they have threatened divorce one too many times. Either way, it could be a positive changing point in your relationship.

Yet, you should realize that what you have to say, discuss and what you feel should be heralded as important. When someone loves you, they shouldn’t have to resort to childish tactics of making threats to get their way. And just as divorce is a consequence for improper actions in a marriage, calling his or her bluff is an appropriate consequence for dealing with a spouse who constantly threatens divorce.

The bottom line is this! Threatening divorce is not the way to deal with issues in the marriage. Eventually the person on the receiving end of these threats will tire of them, and will lose their fear of being divorced in lieu of being free from this sort of treatment from someone they love. Yes, there are certain issues within your marriage that may warrant divorce, or the threat of divorce. But it isn’t something that healthy couples say every time they argue. The best advice is to get help as a couple or simply get out of the relationship.

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32 comments

Dixie S. Bigmouth April 27, 2016 at 2:11 AM

That’s perfect crap. Everyone threatens divorce for all kinds of things, from the most trivial to more serious. There’s a big difference between voicing your discontent and actually filing papers. Or actually leaving the home.

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Atlas June 2, 2016 at 9:33 PM

Dixie, I wonder why you have read through this… It isn’t ‘crap’. Brinkmanship in a marriage is disastrous to stability. If it is all bluff the person making the threat is, likely, very immature in some serious way. In any case, something is off if one/both partners are saying this often. That you seem to find it normal makes me wonder.

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Rachel October 29, 2017 at 1:21 AM

It’s actually disfunctional and won’t end well. Plenty of people have relationships without needing to resort to that. Of course it happens, but if you don’t address the underlying issues your doing yourself a disservice

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Jason September 23, 2018 at 10:14 PM

Well I see Dixie is one of these women that uses the D word as a tool. Hope you fill like a big woman. Yeah, you are so tough.

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MICHELLE October 18, 2016 at 2:07 PM

My husband threatens divorce all the time. Even as far as telling me he filled out the ppwk, and I have three months to get out of the house. I am always talking him out of it, but it usually comes with rules such as you can never bring it up again (even if it isn’t discussed), and as usual it’s shoved under the rug. Well, there is no more room under the rug, and I’m emotionally taxed. Any apology I receive, which is rare to begin with, requires that I also apologize even if I did nothing but share my feelings. It’s sickening, it’s unhealthy, and I no longer feel like myself. My daughter has observed most arguement and seen them as well. The threats of divorce usually include the silent treatment for days, and sometimes longer. This includes my daughter, meaning she is also ignored as punishment although she was never involved, but just overheard it.

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Megan October 21, 2016 at 2:31 PM

My husband is doing the same thing and things are shoved under the rug. Any argument happens he threatens me and then a few days later he is fine. I am also sick and tired. Worse part is he says I am not worthy of being a mother and that he wont have children with me. 4 years in marriage and this is what i get.

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Jane August 23, 2017 at 2:05 PM

I see the responses here are from Oct 2016, I wish I could talk to you.
I have been married for 5 months. Only weeks after we were married he said he wanted a divorce. 3 months later he says it again…and same on our 4th month.
I sold my home that I loved to marry and live in HIS place. A planned on using the money from the sale of my place for our retirement and add in to the house. My security that I thought I had is GONE. Money sits in the bank as I may need it for a new place if we get divorced. He has no clue as to the amount of damaged he has caused. My walls are up and I’m deeply hurt and have regret. My 3rd marriage and knew it would be my last..or so I thought.

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Jim October 7, 2017 at 2:01 AM

Hey Jane.. I am Jim…
I am married since 9 years.
I am German..my wife American.
After living 5 years in Germany
.. And 6 years in the USA together..
Leaving all behind I had.
She started threatning me with police for no reasons and telling me to mive out every time she gets upset.. Knowing I have nowhere to go.. Nothing but bills to pay.. Low income…
Its 4 am right now and In in the same insane situation right now… She told me to move out by tomm. Or she calls police.
I already went yo jail twice because her kids causing trouble.. Went all beat up to the hospital 3 times by her kids incl. one big surgery on my hand and 4 months being out of work because of the insury….
Most of the arguments even the kids moved out are still because of them..
No she claming that she hates me and my voice..
Left a secure job in Germany .. My 3 kids and everything..
Now after all she controls me with the fear of police who does not care about men at all…
One wrong word.. And she drinks .. Gosh.. I better run..
I live in Florida and surviving outside is hardly possible..
God bless

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Lauren October 27, 2017 at 2:37 PM

So sad to hear about this Jim. You should pull yourself together and get out.

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Rachel October 29, 2017 at 1:35 AM

It’s actually emotional abuse. You need to find the resources in yourself for self love. That fact that he is threatening you with homelessness is alarming. You have rights and are entitled to half of everything, even super splitting if You are married or have lived as a defacto for more than 3 years. Especially if you have a child together. He will have to pay spousal and child support. If i were you I would put aside some money and find a safe place away from the house from which you can negotiate with him safely. You don’t deserve to be treated like that no matter how great he is. Maybe he will agree to councelling and learn some communication skills. Maybe he will dig in deeper, but you are entitled to feel safe and loved. Don’t dismiss your feelings, you can’t change them, and everyone has a right to feel heard

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Battered Hubby February 23, 2018 at 4:04 AM

My wife does this all the time. Usually at the end of a 30 minute rant in front of the kids running me down & telling me what a loser I am.

I am sufficiently sick of it that once the kids are out of school I am going to walk

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Ali June 14, 2018 at 5:16 AM

Hey hope you are well I am a male and started to look at this stuff cause lately I been dropping the d word down .

The truth is that I don’t want it , but for some reason when wife doesn’t perform or neglects my daughter I get really pissed , and say I did say do you want a divorce , hoping that she respond and say don’t mention stuff like that , and just once her to say it hurts when you say that , yes i it’s a argument breaker and a winging way out that both no it’s silly to do so with 4 kids .
Him doing the paper work is bit steep and the terms and conditions but truth is husband and wife need to snap out of it , the reason he don’t want to speak and bring it up ever again is that he feel very guilty. I feel ugly even if I win the argument but if o drop
That’s word some were in the argument it does mentally and heart break you . I have to be careful I put my wife through some nasty words ect but what burns me the most these days it seems that if the man doesn’t want to make a move then women doesn’t make it either resulting in more doubt if his wife actually even cares
It’s hard but time to time just break the ice your self and make him happy , defuse the situation by looking at that person a bit sick , give that close re assurance that you love that person then man needs tlc as well

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Annie September 30, 2017 at 10:41 AM

I too deal with these same threats from my husband. ALL our arguments are my fault, all our disagreements (which lease to fights) are my fault. He always is pointing out my flaws and telling me I’m immature, I’m unintelligent, judging me for decisions I made in my past, (b4 HIM), etc. I often ask him…what does he like or love about me? His words are like razor blades and venum he has coming out his mouth is terrible. I’m tired but only been married for 2 1/2 years been together for 5 years tho. He told me yesterday he wanted a divorce over the phone and I hung up in his face and no words have been spoken to each other since and he has slept in our spare bedroom also. I’m at a loss

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Julia October 29, 2017 at 8:07 AM

husband and tell him how I feel about it. He backed out right away and told me he never wanted a divorce. What a jerk. Good luck to you. Stand up for yourself, we are stronger than we think.

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Julia October 29, 2017 at 8:44 AM

I think my previous comment posted incomplete, so I am reposting it:

Annie,
My husband has been threatening me with divorce for about a year almost every time we argue. (Married for 7 years, together for 10, 3 children.)Everything is always my fault, I “destroyed his love, and everything that was good in our relationship”. Yesterday after another threat I told him that I am not afraid of him leaving me, divorcing me, and that I will not stop him if he chooses to do so. I refuse to live in a constant fear him leaving. I finally realized that I can not control what he thinks, what he says or what he does. Finally I realize I can not do anything about it. And believe it or not it gave me peace. It also gave me strength to speak up to my husband and tell him how I feel about it. He backed out right away and told me he never wanted a divorce. What a jerk. Good luck to you. Stand up for yourself, we are stronger than we think.

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Logan October 9, 2017 at 5:29 PM

My wife threatens me with divorce every time we argue. We’ve have only been married a year and she started this at only 4 months of marriage. We have a 7 month old daughter together and she is always using her as leverage saying “Im divorcing you and taking our daughter and you will never see her again. I will leave you with absolutely nothing.” I know she can’t do that but it makes me sick to think that she would if she could. I have never once brought up divorce when arguing with her and never once threatned to take our daughter from her. I’m on here to see if anyone could give me any advise on what I should do and before anyone brings it up she doesn’t want to go to counseling because in her eyes I’m the only one that needs it.

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miserable man October 27, 2017 at 6:34 AM

I too, would like an answer, My wife and my parents are fighting and I am stuck smack dab in the middle. She wants a divorce because I will not call and cuss out my father. She thinks I am taking their side by not responding to their nasty texts or rude voicemails. Which is so totally not the case. I just don’t think you handle situations like that with violence. I am now on anxiety medication and fear that if she does leave, she will take our son and lie to the courts about me being abusive. The state I live in is ANTI-MAN. I need answers too!

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Rachel October 29, 2017 at 1:06 AM

Ask her to understand you. She needs to understand that she can’t be disrespectful to your parents. Your love for her is not contingent on that. Try a reasoned conversation without anger and see if she can understand. She may need reassurance. But if it doesn’t work. You have to walk away. Everyone deserves happiness.

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Rachel October 29, 2017 at 1:44 AM

If I were you I would get legal advice regarding your child. Make a statement about her threats. Keep in contact with your daughter. It’ a long hard road in the family Court, but it’s worth the fight. Especially in your daughter’s eyes. Don’t give up on that and the law will be on your side. It’s so unfair to use a child as leverage. She is thinking of herself and not your daughter. Try to take the higher ground and be reasonable. Tell your wife how you feel, even if she doesn’t feel the same. Your feelings are your own and they don’t belong to her. And your a better person for it. If you want a better relationship, you have to start with yourself.

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Ricks October 12, 2017 at 11:06 PM

Hello People … I got married to my wife in a rush without quite understanding of me digging my own grave in the process. She is a perfect example of feminazi (super strong headed woman) .. at the time of our marriage she earned more than me .. and I’ve been intimidated ever since. We worked side by side as colleagues and the entire Office knew her character, I knew it somewhat too. However, I was so blinded in love, assumed she would change after marriage. Within the first few weeks of living together in a different city (on job) realised we are way too different from one another .. Been asking her to call off the marriage since, she denied to budge. It’s been on that way till date.
We have a 9 year old daughter who unlike her mother is soft at heart currently staying with my wife along with her grandparents (who are somewhat wealthy). I’ve been living away from my wife for over an year now ..

I feel I’ve taken too much shit in life. I’ve known other women and realised not all women are as strong headed. women do things to make a relationship work not break them. She will always compare me with her friends’ husbands and their lifestyle to intimidate me more.

My wife isn’t up for giving me a divorce. My issue is a little different it’s a threat other way round.

Clueless at the moment, how it would all end.

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Rachel October 29, 2017 at 1:15 AM

Why keep someone just to make them unhappy. Real love is selfless. Anything’ else is not love. It is loneliness and fear. Of course, people do that though. So it’s up to you to decide if you want to try and break through the wall and see someone as the flawed human that we all are. Your happiness is your own responsibility and not someone else’s

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Kelli November 19, 2017 at 11:44 AM

6 years in 5 months into the marriage yes we are newly weds… my husband starts (picks) the fights and of course if or when i defend myself he says I’m running my mouth and he’s sick of my BS and threatens Divorce… i do love him which is why it’s so hard to let go we do have a daughter together and i have 2 from a previous marriage i really don’t want another broken family i really want to have a happy marriage! But with the threat of divorce every 2 to 3 weeks I’m at my breaking point idk what do do anymore… a part of me wants to just end it and the other part of me wants to stick it out but these threats are narcissistic and manipulative behaviour it’s got to stop! A i don’t know how to stop it! Advice please

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David Beart November 19, 2017 at 11:59 AM

I am sorry to hear about your situation… unfortunately its not uncommon. I think a lot of people share your pain; hoping things will get better, staying for the kids.

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Melissa January 11, 2018 at 6:22 PM

My husband threatens divorce all the time. We both argue a lot it seems, but when things are good they’re great. And when they’re bad they’re horrible. He swears I’m the one that needs to change. And I when I try to communicate how I feel he overshadows it with how much worse he feels. I feel we both need to change. I don’t know what to do. I’ve known him since I was 11yrs old and after all we’ve been through I really would like advice on how to make things work. We’ve been married for over 3yrs and dated for 5yrs. Help!

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Bb January 12, 2018 at 3:19 AM

My wife loves kids and wants lots of them. I work 6 days a week and evenings for a little extra when I can. My wife is upset I am never home. She very angerly tells me I need to look after our 2 boys more than coming home and playing for half an hour till supper then snuggling on the couch together(with my 3 year old) assisting in carrying out 4 month old, walking with him. I try and hold him as much as possible because it seems my wife just leaves him on his Matt until he squats so she can do something on her own. She tells me I’m on thin ice, she temper that jumps out often. It seems I am the one at fault and whatever I do is not enough.

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Bb January 12, 2018 at 3:22 AM

I think about what I need to do to make it work but my biggest concern is for my boys

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Leo January 31, 2018 at 8:25 AM

Ok -everyone understand this life is too short to put up w the BS on a constant basis . Having kids is one thing ( old enough say 14 they get it – you can be a better parent and a separate household ) divorce is not the end of the world it’s better than being sick . Live your life -peacefully
cause marriage isn’t forever being a parent is .. Best luck to all .
This too shall pass ..

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Joker11 February 28, 2018 at 10:33 PM

This is all sad. Verbal abuse is never the answer for the recipient to receive when it comes down to those threats. Especially when nothing is your fault. Telling someone they want a divorce sets an emotional empass that questions the true love of the relationship. I also encounter this from my wife and I simply counter with… then get it started. And of course it never happens and I’m over it. It’s a weakness in ones own mind that gives the other pleasure for their own insecurities. I wish you all the best.

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JJM March 21, 2018 at 9:48 AM

Wow I love this feed makes me feel like I am not alone. Since day one my husband – who was my boyfriend at that time – have been on the ‘break up to makeup’ cycle. I do own the first year as that was my fault and my part 100%. It gets more complicated though- he is a sober alcoholic who was addicted to cocaine in NYC which moved him to California 10 years ago for rehab. Having rebuilt his life I thought he was a pretty good guy. Low and behold something was off very off and sensed it in the befinning and same thing – always my fault. Finally after me breaking up so much he broke up with me for good for 6 months always coming back every two -6 weeks. We finally got back together, I saw my part and wanted to change and I did. He did not. He got worse… always blaming it on me. He started breaking up with me more than ever ! Only to come back a few days later. This went on and on and on. Now we are married. And just before we got married I found out he wa addicted to porn and there were all these problems in his childhood causing him a lot of issuea wirh intimacy today. So everything that was my fault – was him. Now 5 months into marriage I needed space and came home to my dad. Guess what! During this time he has decided he wants divorce. 6 days of me being gone. I’m so hurt. I’m so tired of this. I can’t tell if he is being serious, and like one person said- it’s one thing the threaten divorce and another to actually file. He’s so manipulative and so good at playing games with me and I fall for it everytime. I want to say ok and let him leave me but I am afraid he really will. And I don’t want him to go. I do see this is more about him than me but I want to stay married. He’s supposed to call me here shortly. My anxiety is through the roof.

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Dawn June 3, 2018 at 10:00 PM

This sounds like something I’m going through. My current boyfriend and I have been living together off and on for a few years. After every arguement he always says it’s over and leaves. Countless times. I keep letting him back hoping this behaviour will change. But another month goes by and he’s gone again. It’s all arguements over “sharing” the housework too. He assumes I’ll do everything cuz that’s “what a woman’s job is!” He’s been gone for two days. I know I’ll hear from him in a few more days but in the meantime I’ve already started packing up his stuff. Im tired of this behaviour. And I feel better knowing I’m sticking to my guns this time that when he does come back I’m telling him it’s over. This will just continue if I keep letting him come back to me.

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Currx June 9, 2018 at 3:58 AM

The worst your spouse can do to is to kill you emotionally. I have been married just for a year but my wife on every argument tells me she wants a divorce, separation and blah blah, yet she does not know why does she asks for a divorce. But, it has caused a lot damage to our relationship. She does not want to talk about the issues. I am tired of hearing other men are better than I am and that she regrets marrying me. But the truth is that I am thinking about answering her call.

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rachel August 1, 2018 at 11:55 AM

if you do not have kids and are already experiencing this, get out. Im a Christian women and truly believe that marriage is sacred. But Im also emotionally abused with children and wish I would have just walked away from that chapel. I can reassure it is a mental health issue and takes years to get under control, but never goes away.

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