For better or for worse, until…

We all know the words.

For better or for worse
For richer or for poorer
In sickness and in health
so long as we both shall live

But as we stand there during the ceremony all doe-eyed and full of anticipation, do we really, truly, honestly, deep down in our hearts believe those words?

Statistics say…maybe not. While there are many reasons why couples divorce these days, statistics tell us:

41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
60% of second marriages in the U.S. end in divorce
73% of third marriages in the U.S. end in divorce

I find this very disturbing. As one who is going on 32 years of marriage, I can tell you there’s a definite reason why the very first line is for better or for worse. It’s because everything…and I do mean ev.er.y.thing that comes after those words will either be better or worse than it was before.

Oh yes, we’re 100% all in for the better part. Bring it on! But let the worse rear its ugly head and all of a sudden, we begin rethinking the fairytale ending. Deep down we don’t really think that part will ever really seriously happen…not to us anyway.

And just to be perfectly clear, what does for better or for worse mean……..exactly?

Does it mean…..
Until you hurt me
Until you make me sad

Until you make me mad
Until I get bored with you
Until you do something wrong
Until you act like a flaming @$$
Until you do something I don’t agree with
Until I choose to flip a switch and decide I don’t love you anymore

Really? I wasn’t aware these vows were conditional. But to many people, they are just that. Conditional. Very conditional.

But what about extenuating circumstances, you ask? Obviously each situation is different, and I certainly don’t support staying in dangerous, physically- or emotionally-abusive relationships. But, I strongly believe no relationship is too far gone if the couple sincerely wants to address the issues within themselves and the marriage, and fix what broke. It may take all their strength to humble themselves to each other and repair the damage they’ve done. But if the vows meant anything at all when spoken, they will move heaven and earth to do that, regardless of the situation.

We all drag carts overflowing with baggage along with us into our relationships. But, whatever bad stuff happened…whether it’s from our childhood or yesterday…we don’t need to allow it to negatively impact our future. We can choose whether…or not…to be victims and forever chained to fearful emotions. In our almost 32 years of marriage, Entrepreneur and I have weathered many, many hurricane-force storms. We know a thing or two about baggage and marital hardships, firsthand.

For followers of JC, we believe God instituted marriage and prefers to keep families together rather than see them torn apart. Yes, there are “circumstances” where God may permit divorce, but that doesn’t mean He wants that to happen. In fact, he’s pretty darn clear and insistent on love and forgiveness in all areas of our lives. But, we humans do have that pesky thing called free will. We can choose to ignore that clause in God’s contract and walk away from our marriages…or stay, heal and emerge stronger for the challenges.

But, this kind of spiritual and emotional healing takes time. Lots of time. And patience. And endless prayer. And that’s hard for us to accept in our I-want-it-now culture. Most of the time, healing is done God’s way and on God’s schedule, which is even harder for us to accept when it doesn’t match our timetable. We also seem to have issues with His methods as well.

For better or for worse.

But at the end of the day, this vow means you promise to stick beside the other, no matter how tough it gets; through financial crisis and unexpected windfalls; new baby sleeplessness and empty nest depression; through the highest highs and the deepest valleys where you temporarily lose sense of who you are. You’re promising to accept and love the other person unconditionally, flaws and all.

Emotions go up and down on this roller coaster we call life. By saying these five words to another person, you are making a decision to love in spite of as well as because of.

Unless, of course, you’re okay becoming one of those sad statistics.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “For better or for worse, until…

  1. Hi there, I wrote about this too….your post reminds me of a wedding we went to, probably 20 years ago. This was a college friend and his girlfriend, who already had two kids. I was upset about the wedding and frustrated that I had to go through the ritual with someone who already had toddlers for goodness sake. I think at one point I even told him that I wouldn’t buy another baby present unless I bought a wedding present first. But something interesting happened. As my friend and his bride were walking town the aisle, escorted by their children (one with a teddy bear), I thought, “wow, these two actually know what they are getting into, and they are still choosing marriage.” Watching them at the alter, with their toddlers (who were now restless), I was even MORE inspired. Oh, and the oldest broke out in Chicken Pox during the reception…postponing their honeymoon. They have four beautiful kids now, including one with special needs, and I suspect they will be married forever. It just took them a while.

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    • Kim, thank you for sharing. But I wonder if anyone really knows what they are getting into! I think it’s a tribute to them that they did choose to take the vows…even though it was a bit out of order. 🙂

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  2. Reading your post has given me goose bumps (and not for the first time) – I didn’t know the value of ‘for better or worse’ – or rather I didn’t give it the value it needed and deserved. I am ashamed to say that I am one of those statitstics (as you know) but with Robert and because of Robert I have learned to value what those words mean – we have had our difficulties and hand on heart I am glad that we have – I needed to see that we too could weather them. We have so many friends around us who are just letting their marriages slip away from them and I just want to scream – I admire you and Entrepreneur for your 32 years together and apart from the obvious health and happiness for my children I can honestly say that my only ambition in life now is to be like you and your husband. Thank you for this post.

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    • You’re welcome Kathryn. I know many people who have had a second shot at happiness. I’m so glad you and Robert have discovered how to weather the storms and build a strong marriage. 🙂

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