A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a heated debate with friends over the subject of marriage, or more specifically, the definition of it. It amazed me as to how easily we all got ourselves wound up over such a seemingly innocent subject.
I really think the main reason for the conversation getting so out of hand had far more to do with the fact that none of us were really listening to one another. We were all too busy trying to make our own points known to listen to what everyone else thought.
There was one woman who made a statement that stuck with me. “What’s wrong with divorce? Why should I force my husband to stay with me if he decides he wants out?”
Sadly, I did not have an answer for her. I had no response to such a seemingly normal question. But the more I thought about it, the more it rubbed me the wrong way, both the simplicity of the question and my lack of a response. Then finally one night, it hit me.
Why should I force my husband to stay with me if he decides he wants out?
Because — He gave you his word that he wouldn’t leave until death parted one from the other.
It’s that simple. It may not be a simple thing to stick to, but the concept itself is indeed extremely simple.
For those of us that are “married” in the conventional sense, we stood before family and friends and said: for better OR worse, in good AND bad, rich OR poor, in sickness AND health, until DEATH parted one from the other.
If you don’t plan on holding yourself or your spouse accountable to those words then you should have said:
“Until I just don’t freaking feel like it anymore.”
Otherwise, why did you bother in the first place?
I don’t see it as forcing my spouse to stay when they are “unhappy”. I see it as expecting this person who gave me their word that they would do something, to do it. It’s that simple. What kind of husband/wife do I want to be? The kind that walks out and throws in the towel? Or the one that stands his/her ground and fights for what is mine? Even when it hurts, I want to know that I didn’t give up; I want to let my spouse know that I think they are worth it. They were worth it “x” number of years ago when I said the words; they are worth it still even today. I want to hold myself to a standard that I hold them to. I will not simply let them out of the bond they knowingly and willingly committed themselves to, just because they don’t want it anymore.
That is where the degradation of marriage has come from. It used to be that a word was spoken, and it was so. There didn’t need to be a vow, or a promise or a binding contract. Your simple spoken word was your bond, end of story.
It goes so much deeper than that though. It not only means that yes you expect your spouse to stay and work things out, it also means that you expect your spouse to stay faithful to the vows in other ways as well. Yet, it goes even deeper than that. It means processing and working through the pain and finding a way to forgive when they have broken their word. It means setting boundaries for yourself to protect yourself from their lack of care for you, but without walking away from the promise you made. Forgiveness is an undercurrent to the AND’s and OR’s of the vows we made. They are unspoken, but they are there nonetheless.
Whether it “feels” right or not, one would hope that in the face of a grave mistake and true remorse, that they could be forgiven. Forgiveness has become such a nasty word for us. It carries with it all kinds of lies and deceptions.
It does not mean that you allow a person to continue to hurt you. It does not mean that you deny their act was wrong. It does not mean you hand them flimsy justifications to base their actions on. It does not mean that you place the blame on yourself.
It means that you recognize the ability for every person on this planet to really muck it up, including yourself. Then you take the yardstick you have been using and burn it. It means allowing yourself to see that people in pain, instinctively and subconsciously cause pain tenfold for those around them as a way to ignore the pain in themselves. It means you allow yourself to see that you do the same thing, just in different ways.
In the midst of the pain and mistakes, how could we be so cruel as to walk out? What kind of message are we sending to each other when the ONE person who made the CHOICE to say: for better OR worse, rich OR poor, sickness AND health, good OR bad also chooses to deny those same words and walk away?