How telling is it that marriage ceremonies always include the phrase for better or worse’ just a few seconds before the big kiss. Perhaps they are hoping that you are so anxious to kiss your bride or groom that you wont hear the tiny little word, ‘worse’ that seems to sneak its way in as quietly as a tornado. Worse, means that something bad could happen or that something unexpected, undesirable or unhappy may make its way into your perfect union and completely destroy the dream of marital bliss, picket white fences and the double rocking chairs on your front porch in 75 years. Couldn’t they have just left that word out of the equation? It is the first clue that new couples should notice that marriage is not always all it is cracked up to be.
And what does it mean? And who put the statement ‘for better or worse’ in traditional marriage vows? Before you get married, you might want to spend some time reviewing the Patterson family in the classic comic strip dubbed the same name so you can get a realistic vision of what marriage is all about.
For better or worse is one of those catch-all phrases that basically encompass all things. There is the better. Meaning the initial love and passion, the plans and the dreams that the two of you have. The better is loving your in laws and always having free money at your disposal. The better is your husband and wife come home on time every day and they help with the chores no matter how gender specific one might seem. The better is daily massages from the love of your life, grass that is always cut and pipes that never freeze in the winter. The better is winning the lottery and realizing morning after morning, no matter how stagnant your spouse’s breath is, you are certain the snoring person beside you is your soul mate and you wouldn’t change one single thing about them. The better is also having the boy and girl (in that order) that get along perfectly and who never think of back talking or manipulating their parents. It is a pre-marital sex life that doesn’t change and becomes increasingly hot and heavy as the years pass by and not aging one single bit. In the better of marriage there is no such thing as thunder thighs or beer bellies, losing hair or sagging breasts or any hint that either of you will ever turn into your own mother or father. Aahhh, the better of marriage must be what makes so many people take the long walk down the aisle time and time again hoping that one day they will get it right. And maybe they will because when things are better, there is nothing like being married to the person of your dreams.
Then, there is the worse. Yes, really – worse things can happen. The worse is the culmination of all the unexpected feelings and tendencies you will have once you get married. It is the’ nagging wife and the stereotypical lazy husband who would rather watch football than crank the lawn mower. It is the sweatpants that never have a chance to be washed because your spouse is always wearing them and the infiltration of all the silent expectations that being a husband or wife brings. It is realizing that your wife is not just a sex kitten and is more of a maternal machine in the making: and that your husband who was the greatest lover of all time before, can barely last 5 minutes in the sheets sewn with vows and rings of gold. It doesn’t matter, because those 5 minutes will produce your children who will be the exact opposite of everything you thought they would. They will soak up your money, tear the two of you apart and manipulate both of you to get what they want. Then, the worse becomes those’ in-laws that you adored so much before (and who adored you too) that constantly bother you and make life difficult now. The worse is getting laid off, not being able to afford everything you want, when you want it, making a decent living but still living paycheck to paycheck and realizing that the price of milk and gas now keeps you awake at night. And that’s just the beginning.
Isn’t Marriage Grand?
For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. All three serve as a forewarning of the shattered innocent dreams of new couples. It’s as if there is a crystal ball and the future although not seen, can be predicted fairly well. The funny thing is that no matter how many people warn you against marriage, encourage you to wait, or share their horror husband and wife stories, love wins out and people still take the greatest risk abound a leap of faith and walk down the aisle with the hopeful enthusiasm that they will be the exception. And hopefully they will be. If not, you can’t say no one warned you.
In the eyes of those who have been married, it certainly is about for better or worse. The trick is always trying to cling to the feelings you have in the beginning, to remember why you married this person and to leave enough room in your dreams for new ones that may be something different (and better) than what you ever imagined possible. Some days will be better and some days will be worse. But it is all the days in the middle that truly defines your marriage.