In this series I have been exploring traditional marriage vows; in this the last installment, I explore the final words uttered before “I do” – ‘Til death do us part’. Like all the other vows we make, we’re usually pretty sure we mean them when we say them, right? Yet, before the big day that promises us ‘forever’, what is supposed to be the very best day of our lives, one of the items on our to-do lists is PRENUP. The words ‘Community of property’ are used in the context of explaining that is absolutely not what we want! Out of community, that’s the way. The other option is too risky…, protect assets…, protect each other from debt… There are many different reasons for this decision to be made, and perhaps it really is the best option in this day and age, for a multitude of perfectly valid reasons. But the reality is that a prenup is preparation for divorce, for in case things go wrong. It’s a pretty sad commentary on what marriage means today, the fact that no one you consult with will recommend community of property.
This post is not a commentary on prenups, though, so let me get to the heart of the matter. Divorce is no longer uncommon. No longer taboo. It’s simply the done thing. Yes it’s hard, it hurts. No one likes getting divorced (Except maybe Ross, from Friends). Yet it is all too common. There are plenty of people who will say if the marriage is tough, if you don’t have feelings for that person anymore, if either of you have changed too much, or even if you’ve met someone else, just get divorced. Move on. Don’t be unhappy. We live in a time of instant gratifiaction, of self-actualisation. Life’s too short to be unhappy. Yes, it is. Life is short. You absolutely should be happy, I’ve even written other posts to that effect: https://www.abbygreen.co.za/always-make-your-own-sunshine/. But your happiness isn’t all that matters in the world, and the day you promise to love someone else forever, you acknowledge that fact.
Having said this, of course there are certain marriages that are simply toxic. A marriage with infidelity or abuse (emotional or physical) should come to an end. No one should have to stay in a marriage characterised by these, and if you are in such a marriage, seek assistance to get out of it https://www.abbygreen.co.za/individual-counselling-in-cape-town/. But most people who get divorced these days are not doing it for these reasons, and for me that is so sad. There are legitmiate reasons for a marriage to end, but in my experience, people throw in the towel when hard work is required to keep it going. A marriage should not constantly be hard work, but it involves effort, especially when times get tough; when one person starts feeling that their partner is not meeting their needs, or that their feelings have changed.
As I’ve explored previously, feelings are fickle – they are wont to change over time, because people change as they grow, age and experience new things and new life stages. But in a marriage, ’til death do us part’ means that when feelings start changing, when you start getting bored or wondering if this is what you really want, don’t just wait for something better to come along, or for something to change; make the change. Put in extra effort with your spouse – plan a romantic weekend away, reconnect, invest time in the relationship, seek counselling, look at yourself and see how you can improve on the relationship from your side. Give it your all, really be able to say that you fought for it. I guarantee your spouse will see the effort and make one of their own.
Sometimes it’s the accumulation of past hurts that leads to the feeling of challenges being insurmountable. Something, or some things, happen that cause us pain, and we battle to release our partner for what transpired, what they said or did, or didn’t say or do. We are, after all, only human. If this is what is causing an emotional disconnect, resolve to express how you feel once and for all, and then DECIDE to forgive, and release your partner. We hold on to things because often we are justified in doing so. But love is not supposed to keep a record of wrong, so let it go. Work on what you did to contribute, change behaviours that were problematic, and ask for forgiveness where you need to. And then extend your own forgiveness freely.
My final word on the matter is this: Marriage can be hard – life is hard, we all know that. But when you commit to someone, really mean it. Be prepared to ride the waves, to weather the storm, to survive, and to thrive, together. It’s tough, but it’s rewarding, and to be able to sit together one day and look back on a life well-lived, a love that survived the test of time, and something worthwhile that exists because you fought for it… Well if you can think of something better, do let me know.
Don’t give up until you have tried absolutely everything. Stop asking why your partner is no longer making you happy, and ask when the last time was that you made your partner feel loved. Don’t look for the easy way out. Be careful not to fall into temptation because someone else seems to offer what you think you need. Fight for it. When you say ’til death do us part’, don’t let it simply be words you repeat. If it was worth loving once, it’s worth fighting for, forever.