I know I’m jaded about marriage because mine didn’t last. But I do believe in taking marriage vows seriously. Sadly, in my own case, my own beliefs were not enough to make it last until death as we promised each other on November 1st, 1986. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m the one who got sick. No, I am a fighter and I don’t think I would have given up if the tables were turned. My parent’s marriage was an example of true commitment. They got married at 18 and 19 years old, and have been married for 65 years. Of course they were tested over so many years, but I guess their generation just didn’t believe in getting divorced. Today, there is a divorce every 36 seconds in the US!
With 41% of first marriages ending in divorce, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marrages ending in divorce, you might think people would stop trying this antiquated mode of building a family. Yet, there are 6,200 weddings per day in the US with 2.3 million couples gettung married per year.
Many, if not most, take some form of traditional vow at their wedding where they promise the other fidelity and love through any challenge forever which means until someone dies. Specific challenges are often mentioned in traditional marriage vows such as sickness, being poor and forsaking others. Current trends in wedding vows are moving away from these traditional types perhaps as a result of many millenials being the products of broken marriages.
Religious ceremonies are on the decline as well with many couples creating their own brand of wedding to reflect their unique relationship.
When religious vows are said, they are often similar to the following examples:
“______, wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wedded wife/husband to live together after God’s ordinance in the Holy Estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her/him? Comfort her/him, honor and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her/him as long as you both shall live?”
“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”
It’s interesting to note that if a man said those vows in the mid 19th century, he was only expected to live until he was 40 years old. Today a man is expected to live until 80 years of age. So the number of years we are expected to stay married has increased dramatically along with life expectancy.
With marriage expected to last much longer, and the stigma of divorce much less than it ever has been in history, do marriage vows even mean anything anymore?
Or, are we basically saying some variant of “I will love you forever, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others until it becomes too difficult?”
If the vows are truly solemn, should they read more like these examples?
I promise to love you as long as any illness that comes along (and they will) is not too burdensome for me to deal with?
I promise to love you forever or as long as we agree on major life decisions such as how many children to have and when?
I promise to forsake all others forever or until I meet someone who is more attractive/younger/thinner?
I promise to love you forever or as long as we have enough money to live comfortably?
I listened to marriage advice from a divorce attorney recently where he said if I told you had a 50% chance of getting hit in the head by a bowling ball if you went outside, you would either stay in or wear a helmet. But people are still getting married in the face of grim statistics.
I’m aware that I may be in the minority today of people who believe a vow is your word. I can only speak from my own perspective.
I would have fought to the death to make my 28 year marriage last until one of us died. The marriage wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think that’s an actual possibility.
I became disabled in year 13 and we muddled along for 16 more years until my husband decided he could break his solemn vow because he didn’t feel up to growing old with someone with my physical challenges. I’ll admit, I’m jaded. I like to believe that had the tables been turned, my own values would have held me fast to my vows about sickness and health, better or worse until one of us died, but there’s no way to know for sure.
Thank you for reading :)