Since Elizabeth Taylor married several times, does that mean she believes in the institution of marriage but does not believe in the words “till death do us part?” We’ve heard of serial lovers but we read about “serial marriers” for the first time from a Canadian government web site. The phrase seemed odd to us. It was an article published online by Statistics Canada that said, “Serial marriers are significantly less likely to claim that being married is important or very important to their happiness, at 69% versus 82% of people who married only once (including those divorced or widowed as well as those still married).”
So if people earn the title of “serial marriers”, does that make them believers or non-believers in marriage? At first glance, people who marry frequently are announcing to the world that they’re the marrying type and hence have a deep respect for the institution of marriage, regardless of whether it’s floundering or not. But, if we look closer, getting married often also indicates that the “till death do us part” is an idea that is losing its hold in the collective psyche.
Till Death Do Us Part: Realistic or Idealistic?
Looking at divorce rates in North America, the answer is obvious. Till death do us part is more idealistic than realistic, and does not seem to hold water these days. If we seriously analyse the situation, it even looks like marriage itself is going out of fashion. An increasing number of North Americans prefer to live together, so that when things no longer look that rosy, they can pack their bags and say “hasta la vista.”
Then you have the factor of childbearing. These days, men and women produce children in the relationship without benefit of marriage. Also, women are bearing and raising children on their own, or adopt a baby even when there’s no father around to share the responsibility.
Everything has changed. Traditions are not as strong. People are approaching life in…well…loosey-goosey fashion. “Relax, baby, don’t want to get married? Then don’t.”
Rare are those who will stay in a bad, undignified marriage until the death of one spouse, because frankly speaking, till death do us part is a tall order. It’s like putting your signature for a future jail sentence you don’t deserve.
If you were being physically and verbally abused by your husband, or if your wife repeatedly plays around and makes a mockery of your marriage, is till death do us part a realistic concept? Are we supposed to continue in a loveless union and be the unwilling victims of a crumbling institution that insists that one of you has to die before the other can find happiness and start all over again?
You could be very religious and be a stickler for vows, but when there are extenuating circumstances such that your sanity is at stake, we say, forget the till death do us part commitment, get out and start living. Why even include death in the equation?
In sickness and in health is a belief we can live with and embrace wholeheartedly, but till death do us part is a more difficult buy-in. Even when there are children involved.
Till Death Do Us Part: When Does It Become a Voodoo Phrase?
We’ll list the following circumstances where till death do us part is no longer viable and a radical switcheroo is called for:
- physical and verbal abuse
- mental torture
- infidelity (the repetitive kind)
- alcohol and drug dependence
- not providing sufficient material support for the children
- a criminal record that was not previously disclosed
- contagious and terminal illness
- uncontrollable debt load because of one overspending spouse
These are extenuating circumstances. When husband and wife cannot resolve their differences, then throw till death do us part out of the window. We only have one life to live; for some of us that life is too short.
Before you misunderstand us, we’ll say this straight off: if husband and wife have an ounce of doubt about their desire to divorce, and if there are children involved, then each must muster herculean efforts to remain in the marriage. If a spouse’s or the children’s safety are jeopardized, they check out. Plain common sense, no?
If the couple’s differences have the potential to be reconciled, then the marriage should be saved. At all costs. We tend to put a premium on the old-fashioned “commitment.” We think it’s a beautiful word, and it’s even more beautiful when it’s practiced. It connotes responsibility, determination and courage. Not everyone can deliver on a commitment. You are a rare species – and an admirable one - if you make good on your commitments.
Marriage and Till Death Do Us Part: Still in Vogue
We talk of personal fulfillment as though we are entitled to it. We are. All human beings have the inherent and inevitable right to personal fulfillment. However, when you walk down the aisle and recite your vows, you have to be prepared to accept the reality that it will not always be possible for you to achieve it. By agreeing to get married to the person you love and promise to cherish, you’ll have to develop the art of compromise (another beautiful word). And if compromising means postponing your personal fulfillment goals, then so be it.
That’s why people still do march down the aisle. They’re willing to forego the dictates of their ego so they can accommodate the demands of married life. Marriage has retained its aura for many people in love. It turns hedonists into responsible citizens, turns selfish individuals into generous souls who have a lot of love to share.
The Canadian government says that majority of Canadians marry once, while less than 1% marry twice. Statistics also show that married couples enjoy a higher quality in their relationships and are significantly more committed than men and women in common law unions.
Sociologists also observe that people who marry in their 30s and who did not live with their partner prior to marriage, practice a religion actively and have a university education are those who tend to regard marriage as an essential ingredient for personal happiness.
So yes, till death do us part is still very much in vogue. It has a noble essence about it. It also mirrors the willingness of two people to declare their love for each other in a proper ceremony with witnesses, reciting their vows with the fervent hope that those vows never have to be broken. Ever.