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Marriage Vows

Further to my post of yesterday I find that all marriage vows appear to contain more or less the following formats:

I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

I, (name), vow to love you, (name), and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all your faults and your strengths, as I offer myself to you with my faults and my strengths. I will help you when you need help, and will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.

All contain a promise to stay together "until death do us part" or "with whom I will spend my life" or similar, inspite of all difficulties.


Trouble is, promises don't seem to matter any more. Reminds me of the 60s when the hippy weddings included something like "as long as it feels good".
I have added you as a friend solely on the basis of this post.

Oaths are made and broken very lightly, it seems to me. It's not the only thing wrong with the world, but I am prepared at no notice to argue that it contributes to everything that is.
Added you as well.
Marriage is a two pronged fork
One is legal the other sacramental, if that is your fancy.
A legal partnership can be dissolved if the parties no longer wish to continue.
Long before marriage was a sacrament, which it became only in the middle ages, it was a bargaining chip in negotiations. The woman was only a pawn in the game.
Even in a sacramental marriage, it is a mutual pledge witnessed by the church. If one of the parties defaults on the pledge is becomes void.
As for annulments, there are almost always grounds that can be found if the scrutiny is close enough.

Marriage is founded in mutuality. The two become one flesh. If that is not the situation then marriage is no longer mutual and no longer exists. Divorce just makes legal the separation which exists in reality.
Further to the above, when athgarvan writes all marriage vows, what he actually means is: all he has come across, which has a heavy bias towards Christian ones, and Christian-derived ones. (I presume the situation in Ireland is similar to in the UK, where civil marriage vows are legally obligated not to deviate too far from the approved wedding.)

In Judaism, no sacramental nature of marriage exists, and no vows of the form given above. Divorce exists because the religion recognises that we're all only human; sometimes marriages don't work out; and its importance is shown by the fact that the tractate on divorce in the Talmud comes before that on marriage. Of all the reforms of Jesus of Nazareth, the abolition of divorce is the one I have the least sympathy with; it traps people into failed marriages.

The whole concept of "until death do us part" should be an ideal to strive for, not graven in stone. And even then, that's reflecting our cultural stance. In Shiite Islam, as I understand, there is even such a concept as a temporary marriage.

Edited at 2013-09-10 13:00 (UTC)
For some time past in Ireland, a non-believer has been permitted to "affirm". That is, to state solemnly and before witnesses that what you are about to say is the truth. God is not called upon, but the affirmation has the same standing as the oath.

In July last our Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) although a professed atheist swore: "In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties". And if anyone is not sobered by the awesome implications of that declaration, then there is no understanding of morality in our society.

To swear a false oath in court proceedings is to commit perjury, one of the most serious criminal offences on the statute book. To swear an oath in which you do not believe creates an ethical mire.
I was startled to read this when you posted it, and was going to ask how from an atheist this could possibly be anything other than an empty oath. However, on consulting Wikipedia I see Eamon Gilmore identifies not as an atheist but as an agnostic, a description which includes a variety of viewpoints, including some for which the above oath could just about be accommodated.

To swear a false oath in court proceedings is to commit perjury, one of the most serious criminal offences on the statute book. To swear an oath in which you do not believe creates an ethical mire.

They are vows everyone hopes to strive to keep but do all difficulties include physical, emotional or sexual abuse of spouse and children? Like many things in religion it's as though it was never thought through fully before engraving it in stone and leading people to believe it's what they must do come what may. No fair minded, caring God ever meant that.
Nobody I know goes into a marriage expecting a divorce to happen. But I have to agree with all who say that some marriages are not sustainable because the true character of those involved was not apparent (as in violence, abuse) before the marriage took place. Most abusers are not open to counseling. Nobody should have to live in fear of being attacked or even of being killed.
Not if you turn into a violent and abusive person, it's not until death do us part. Because in this situation, it's likely my death at your hands that parts us, and why should I allow that?

Why should a society, a culture, a religion allow that?

I took those vows once. I was 18 at the time, and had not yet graduated high school.

What had happened was, I spent my whole life until that point preparing for college. Then, in April before the June I was to graduate high school, my mother took from me all the money that I had saved and successfully sabotaged my plans. This caused and ENORMOUS fight between us that ended in her throwing me out of the house. This, I knew, was supposed to "teach me a lesson." So rather than submit to her lesson, I chose to move in with my boyfriend.... which was fine, until his parents, whom he still lived with... demanded that we get married.

I got married for all the wrong reasons. I was, essentially, forced into it. I also didn't know yet that I was gay.

My mom wasn't a bad person, she was, however, mentally ill. Even so, she had power over me and my life, which, in turn, put me into a position to make some choices that did not make sense in a not-mentally-ill world.
Some of the commenters here make the pooint of what to do if the marriage becomes abusive.

Well, to this (married) catholic the point is that in that case one can possibly decide for her/his personal safety not to live together anymore (and do his/her best to try to get the partner the professional care they need), but that doesn't mean that the marriage doesn't exist and that either one is free to remarry.

One thing is coabitation and another to ignore/break/declare finished from some point on the marriage itself (unless it was null from the start, but those are rather specific cases).
i'm not going to go into the "bringing deity into the vows or not" issue of it...

but people change. and if you do not work TOGETHER to change along the same path, you grow apart. i'm on my third marriage. it was not almighty passion, but it was caring about and for each other, and love sprang forth. we were 50 and 45 and while set in our ways, we're also carving out new ways...together.

marriage is not "take two reasonable people with affection towards one another, add vows, stir, and you end up with a viable relationship!" it's WORK. jobs happen and are lost, children happen then leave the nest, age sets in and so does illness. that's life. it's WORK, with pleasure mixed in.

however, as domestic violence is now uncovered rather than hidden, people (more women than not, but men are victims also) understand that they do NOT have to live like that. and in cases where children are concerned, they don't have to stay and teach the next generation that this is acceptable behavior. adultery does not have to be tolerated in a marriage any longer...the injured party can leave.

and the WORK part of it...even if both parties are good to one another, if you aren't working TOGETHER in it, you can drift apart, entirely too easily. then what happens, if counseling is not sought on how to come back together? either the couple separates, or they stay together till they're angry and horrid to one another. then separate.

and still, in this day of "hand everything to me right now!!", relationships are "supposed to" be no work at all! if we love each other, we don't have to work at it! and that's another thing adding to the divorce statistics.

like i said...third marriage. my first husband broke my wrist, broke ribs, and it took my daughter telling me "why is daddy angry at you all the time?" and me trying to kill myself...then a "marriage counselor" telling me that if i would only submit and do EVERYTHING MY HUSBAND TOLD ME TO DO, the marriage would be perfect and i would be happy to get me to wake up and realize how UNhappy i was, and that the divorce needed to happen.

second husband and i are friends again, now that we are no longer married. we consider each other family...but we divorced before we could start hating each other. physical illness, money issues, bankruptcy, two different house reposessions...it broke the back of the marriage.

obviously, this isn't the only way...my parents are 52 years married now, despite the literal years of marriage that were lived in different countries due to my dad being in the military, despite the hardships with money (most enlisted men's families qualify for food stamps, that's how low military pay is. even WHEN they factor in the "free" housing.), despite the fact that my father was abusive (including sexually) towards me when i was a child, and yelled too much at both of us children. but i wouldn't say their marriage is particularly happy, either, despite mama being a devout christian.

i don't think that there is any *one* thing that can be pointed to and say "THIS is the reason for the rising divorce rate". the reasons are legion.
ALL marriage vows?

The non-religious (but certainly spiritual!) vows my husband and I exchanged when we got married very deliberately did not demand life-long union; we recognized that people grow and change, and that the compatibility which brought us together in the first place might not last for our lifetimes. We didn't want to make promises we might not be able to keep, so instead we promised to try to stay together. Each of us has changed over time, but (so far) neither of us has changed enough to damage the bond between us. We celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary this past June.

As a Wiccan Priestess, I have, under New Jersey state law, the same "clerical" privilege to perform marriages as a priest, rabbi, or minister. I half-jokingly came up with "the world's shortest wedding ceremony", which has since been actually used:

Officiant (O): Do you, X, love Y?
Respondant (R): Yes.
O: Do you want to marry her/him?
R: Yes.
O: Do you know what you're getting yourselves into?
R: (any response will do)
(repeat with other member of the couple)
O: Okay, you're married! Kiss each other, and let's start the party!

If the responses to the first two questions are anything other than some version of "yes", I won't marry them. The third question is there to make them think. (Also, note that there are no religious or theistic references at all; this isn't a Wiccan ceremony, it's applicable to any two human beings.)

In reading all of this I thought
It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks
It doesn't matter what supposed vows say or mean
Each person must work out their life for themselves - only they know what is best
No one individual or institution has the right to tell a person how they must live
Counsel can be offered but the decision, the how, is for the individual to chose
All the rest is just words
And who is to judge the wisdom of another's choice?