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.