Til death do us part - divorce

by Lady Lee 35 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Wedding vows

    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

  • onacruse
    Without the love the vows are broken.

    And in spite of the vows the marriage is broken.

    LadyLee, like you said, this cuts both ways, and either way it cuts just as deeply.


  • Kismet

    Thank you.

    I was, in my own awkward way, trying to explain this very point to someone who has left an abusive marriage.

    Thank you for explaining it so well.

    You are a gem!!


  • plmkrzy

    Well I can honestly say that my ex-husband took at least one part of those vows very seriously. He said "Till death do us part" and he meant it.

  • Utopian_Raindrops

    Dear Lady Lee,

    Did you know how you would touch me with this post?

    I read your words and cried and cried.

    I lasted in an abusive marriage for 12 years because I did not want to betray Jehovah.

    Some of the time it was WT Dogma on marriage that kept me there as before I was a JW I wouldnt have put up with so much violence and neglect.

    As a JW wife you have the extra burden that you could save your spouses eternal life. Before the provision of being able to divorce without remarriage you were to stay married or be disciplined.

    Many would council me on how brother so and sos wife beat him and he stayed and now she is a JW and saved for eternity. Another story I was given was of a sister whos unbelieving mate would put her and the children to sleep in the garage every night. This went on for 30 years and then one day he came into The Truth and how happy she was he was saved.

    There was an extra pressure in The Truth to remain in an abusive marriage. If I divorced I could be killing my husband. Plus, I would bring reproach on Jehovahs Name!

    I spent many days, weeks, months, and years crying. Always praying and calling out to Jehovah God.

    I will be honest. If my husband had become a JW and turned into a loving caring father and husband to the children and me it would have been worth all the suffering. To save my family is worth any pain.

    But, this man never loved me as your post brought out. He broke our vows.

    Do you know even 5 plus years later I have felt guilty for divorce?

    You wrote, 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.

    What I have learned are most men who behave this way ALREADY committed adultery but do not want to admit it. For some odd reason even though they have done such atrocities to their families they dont want to admit adultery as that would make them a bad guy.

    In the case of my ex he said if he told me Id leave. I guess the whole world knew about him and his women. I was such a good co-dependant.

    It is not that long since I have been out of The Org. So feeling guilty of divorce is an on going battle.

    Thank you so much for your post sweet Lady Lee



  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Utopian Raindrops I suffered like this too - in an abusive relationship that I was told I had to stay in. After the first two weeks I knew it was a huge mistake but stayed for 15 years of misery. During those years he became an elder and the abuse just got worse. Becoming a JW does not turn them into something they are not - nice guys. It just gives them a biblical reason to treat their wives like crap. Glad you got out

    Plm Sadly many women don't get out. Glad you did too cuz I'm glad to know you

    Kismet I have had to explain this to so many women. I am not sure why it suprises me because I beleived all this crap about the vows too. it took me a while to realize that the vows were so much more and to find the words for it. Glad if this was helpful.

    Craig - yup it hurts

  • A Paduan
    A Paduan

    "Whoever looks at a woman with lust etc."

    Likewise, whoever denegrates / oppresses another's life is already killing them.

  • Cassiline

    Lee that was great you hit the areas so many of my clients always worry about, their vows and breaking a rule of Gods by filing for divorce.

    I have a workshop and then training of new advocates coming up the end of this month. I would be honored if you would allow me to copy this and add it to our handouts and our training manuals. Of course full credit where credit it due!

    Please let me know ASAP if I can use a copyright with your full name. This would be incorporated into our Army wide program.

  • LittleToe

    This may sound like it's going off on a tangent, but it isn't, so please bear with me...

    We break God's laws daily - take white lies, petty thievery, and "adultery of the heart", as a few examples. Strangely, no-one takes these so heavily. We have almost a priority list as to what construes bad crimes, such as murder, grand theft and adultery.

    No imperfect human has kept the ten commandments, far less the other 600 or so. However that's understandable, since the law was the tutor to Christ. That's no excuse, but our conscience bears testimony to our shortfall in our own sight, far less God's (and for those who are of a Christian disposition, our need of Christ). We stand condemned, in our own boots, so it's no surprise that breaking the marriage vows hits so badly.

    Hence, divorce is as bad as lies, as there are direct statements that God hates both.

    I don't know what the solution is, from a human-only perspective, but that's my 2p, anyway.

  • Cassiline

    Hi Littletoe

    I agree with you to an extent. When dealing with a woman (or man) one of the principal problems I face when trying to have her see how vital she is as a human and that she is indeed human after years of oppression. That she deserves to be treated with respect and love and may never know what real love is, because for 20 years she has been beaten and emotionally raped.

    That she does not have to be as her mother, who stayed because of those marriage vows, thus it is ingrained as a young child she must stay because it is the correct thing to do. Mom says so, Dad was like this so it fully acceptable, you must not break those vows. Religion universally teaches the same about divorce being immoral, as I see this cycle continue and the pain passed from one generation to the next, because it was a learned acceptance pattern it becomes infuriating to try and get her to see it is acceptable in society for her to be safe and leave her abuser.

    When she finally is able to see she deserves better and can leave, which in some cases leads to divorce its something that is hard for her to accept. She feels responsible for the failing of the marriage and to advocate to her, divorce is okay is one of the hardest things to do because of her learned behavior. So as you put it lying is just as wrong in everyday society but when dealing with a abused partner, its something that must be shown then believed and not as simple to define as right or wrong in terms of religious beliefs.

    Edited by - cassiline on 5 January 2003 10:4:1

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