Marriage for Dummies, 2

I’ve wondered over the years, “If Barb were in a devastatingly awful accident of some type which left her maimed for life or, worse, with a severe shift in personality, would I stay with her?”

For nearly 29 years, Barb has made commitment easy for me. God has given to me a wife who is loving and lovable, forgiving and hard to stay mad at. He has given me someone who endures my weakness and supports my strengths. She is fun to be with and given some spare time, I’d rather be with her than with anyone else.

So I know that this question, while academic for me at this point, is a constant companion for some people. “Should I stay with this woman/man? I don’t think I can endure the way he/she has become.” But even though at this point the answer to the question is easy for me, the answer for every married couple must be the same: I will stay.

Putting aside the more severe realities in which divorce may not only be necessary, but preferred (abuse, ongoing sexual infidelity, desertion) and considering the more common and everyday marital struggles (which sometimes precipitate the severe), we have to say and embrace the conviction that divorce is never an option.

Opting out is not an option once one has opted in.

Maybe we were naive, but when Barb and I were engaged we said to each other that upon our marriage, divorce would never be an option. No matter what, we said in our innocence, we would do what is necessary to make the marriage work.

Yes, we were naive. No courting or newly married couple has a clue regarding the kinds of pressures and challenges marriage brings. And yet I am convinced that embracing the conviction that divorce is not an option has forced us to deal with problems earlier and more swiftly than we would have otherwise.

It is like a guy who has a car. If he means to keep that car for a long time, he will deal with every minor repair issue in a hurry to keep the problem from escalating. By contrast, if he intends to trade the car in soon, he’ll put a temporary fix on it. If he’s renting the car, he ignores the problem.

Guys — your marriage is the car you intend to keep.

I am not a fan of couples writing their own marriage vows. I am a fan of couples now and then revisiting the traditional marriage vows and considering what they mean. Reflect on this:

I, __________ take you, __________, to be my wedded wife; and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses; to be thy loving and faithful husband; for better for worse, in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live.

For better or for worse? In sickness and in health? These are not multiple choice options. We vow before God and witnesses to keep one another ‘as long as we both shall live’.

Divorce is not an option. I’m not renting a wife. I’m keeping her for a long time. I suppose my question is already answered for me. I answered it 29 years ago.