Til death do us part
(NOTE: Although I speak about women here this can easily be reversed)
I work with battered women who are leaving their husbands and ending their marriages. I have spoken with hundreds of women over the last few years who have chosen to end their marriages for good reasons. Inevitably they feel they have broken the vows they took when they married. And they feel guilty as a result of breaking those vows.
Few women enter marriage with the idea of it being a temporary arrangement. Most times the hope is that the bond will last and together the couple will start a family and eventually grow old together.
The vows that are taken are serious and most of the women I have spoken with took great effort to make sure the words they spoke rang true for them and formed a promise worthy of being kept. Many had written their own vows, writing words that came from the heart.
But eventually life with the chosen partner became too difficult to endure and a different path was chosen. It hurt. It often felt like failure. Many women continued in the marriage long after there was any hope of improving the quality of life in the relationship.
For women who marry and firmly believe in the sanctity of marriage there seems to be a sense of failure on the spiritual level as well as the personal one. This in part comes form the belief that the marriage vows are made in the "face of God" and therefore carry a further weight. They are then accountable to God for the failure of the marriage.
One issue that I hear repeatedly is that the vows specifically address the issue of fidelity. And the women who choose to divorce when there has been no act of infidelity believe that they had no right to end the marriage at least not in the eyes of God.
What most of these women seem to have not realized is that the marriage vow is more than just a vow of fidelity. It is a vow to love one another, to treat one another with honor and to care for one another. These three things are contained in most standard vows. And most often they come before the mention of fidelity.
One standard vow is as follows:
(Grooms Name) will you take (Brides Name) to be your lawful wife, will you love her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health and forsaking all others keep only unto her so long as you both shall live.
(Brides Name) will you take (Grooms Name) to be your lawful husband, will you love him, honor and keep him in sickness and in health and forsaking all others keep only unto him so long as you both shall live
Love, honor and caring for each other come before fidelity. Perhaps they come first because if one loves and honors and truly cares for each other then the desire to be with someone else is not a consideration.
Many of the women I have spoken with about this issue were abused in the marriage by their partner. Many have spoken with other people about the possibility of divorce and many were told that it was their duty to remain faithful to their vows.
But no one seems to realize that the abusive husband has already broken the vows. Through the abuse he has shown he has no love for his wife. He does not honor her when he hits her. Her does not cherish her when he screams and yells in her face. Or calls her names. He does not care for her when he controls her or uses her as a servant. He does not need to commit adultery to break the marriage vows. Abusers break the vows through their actions of hurt and pain they inflict on the one they made the vow to.
And if he has broken his vow then the marriage is in effect over. It is over in her heart. And it is over in the eyes of God. The vow was about loving one another.
I think in their hearts, deep down women know this. But they dont have the words for it.
The marriage vow is about loving one another. And caring for one another. It is about honoring and cherishing each other. And being there for each other. And yes it is about fidelity.
But without the love there is no marriage. No woman needs to feel guilty for leaving an abuser. Without the love the vows are broken.
Edited by - Lady Lee on 5 January 2003 4:13:35