Chapter Five: Never Threaten the Longterm View.

I was getting excited that my second book was so close to being done, when a good friend gave me some suggestions for improvement that are just too good to reject. So while it means I still have much work to do I’m confident the final product will be well worth the extra effort.

For now I thought I would share with you what was to be Chapter Five of PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. It will be some chapter in the new edition, but exactly where remains to be seen – or hopefully read J

Chapter 5: Never Threaten the Long-Term View

“A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but there’s less of you.”

—Margaret Atwood

Marriage can be tricky business. Part of the reason, according to marriage and family expert Dr. Kevin Leman, is that “women are weird and men are strange.” While on our good days we can accept and even appreciate the differences between us, on difficult days these differences pose serious threats to the overall health and wellness of the marriage. It’s ironic that the differences that can so easily upset us at times are very likely the exact qualities which attracted us to each other in the first place.

You did not marry your clone—at least I certainly hope you didn’t. When you first met your spouse, you were likely attracted—either knowingly or unknowingly—by attributes they possessed that you knew you didn’t. You reasoned—again, aware or not—that if you could somehow pair your life with his or hers, you would benefit from his or her strengths. It’s not at all a bad concept. While I’m not a big fan of the phrase “you complete me,” there is certainly a plus for the relationship when each contributes their unique gifts and strengths to the overall good of the whole.

Given that there are major differences between you and your spouse, it’s a tad unrealistic to think there will not be blow-ups and disagreements from time to time in the marriage. So I want to encourage you to adopt a basic rule in your marriage. You and your spouse should agree together that no matter how angry you get, you will never use the “D” word. As the folks from PREP Inc. say, “You should never threaten the long-term view” of the relationship.

At your wedding, you said “for richer, for poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do we part”—or words to that effect. You made a vow to each other, and it seems that vows in our modern society no longer mean very much. When in the heat of an argument you threaten to end the marriage, you send shock waves through your partner. He or she begins to question the worth of your initial promise. Talk of divorce or ending the marriage creates an undercurrent of mistrust and each begins to invest less in, but demand more from, the relationship.

Trust me on this—if divorce is a readily available option, it will be chosen far more often than if the parties have decided it is simply not an acceptable choice. Every couple has arguments, and every spouse feels hurt from time to time. You may find this hard to believe, but over our 36+ years together, my wife has gotten upset with me on a few (extremely rare) occasions. Okay, no lightning bolt? I guess I’ll keep writing.

Seriously, there have been times in our marriage when we just didn’t like each other very much and when each one’s negative features seemed to greatly overshadow their positive. If my wife and I considered divorce an option, we might have gone that route rather than doing whatever it took to fix the situation and the relationship.

And fix it we always have. We’ve always found ways to get back into harmonious love for each other and been glad we didn’t cut and run. I know of several other couples who are so glad they made the same decision.

One such couple from my area has become world famous for that very reason. I refer to Kim and Krickitt Carpenter authors of the New York Times bestseller, The Vow. Their story was the inspiration for a movie of the same name that has now been shown on movie screens across the country and around the world.

I have to warn you that while the story is true, the dramatic portrayal, not so much. You might notice that the movie version went from “based on a true story” to “inspired by a true story” to “inspired by true events.” Fortunately, Kim and Krickett released the updated version of their book on the same day the movie was released.

The subtitle of their book is The True Story Behind the Movie, and it is indeed a story worth reading of how newlyweds experienced a severe and near tragic accident which could easily have separated them from each other. Fortunately, the Carpenters understood then, as they understand now, the importance of a vow.

It wasn’t easy, but with dogged determination and a refusal to quit, they were able to fall back in love with each other and to maintain a successful, joyful, and fulfilling marriage.

Oh, how I wish folks who are planning to marry or those who are in the midst of a troubled marriage would be able to see the big picture and realize that difficulties and challenges and disputes don’t need to be the death knell for the marriage. They as individuals, their children, and we as a nation would all benefit if marital vows were given the importance and relevance they were intended to have when they were first made.

While I stand by every word I have written in this book, and in this chapter in particular, I do feel a need to offer a disclaimer. I have at times been accused of believing that people should stay married no matter what. That simply is not accurate I believe divorce is totally justified in cases of abuse or infidelity—especially when the offensive and hurtful behavior is not going to stop. I’m writing to the vast majority of people who fortunately do not live in those circumstances.

Chapter Challenge: Recognize that every marriage will experience distress, disappointment, and resentment from time to time. This is normal and in no way an indication that you married the wrong person. Covenant together with your spouse that no matter how upset you might be at any given moment, you will never threaten to end the marriage or make any suggestion to that effect. Determine in advance that you will call a time-out (see Chapter 21) whenever such words might come out of your mouth. Review your marriage vows from time to time to make sure you stay aware of the commitment you made to each other.