In sickness and in health

I know a lady who said that she had to get divorced from her husband because he was schizophrenic. I know another who said that she had to get divorced because her husband was an alcoholic. Neither husband was these things when they got married. They became this way after. They changed.

These are not acceptable reasons for divorce. What part of the vow that you will stay with each other “in sickness and in health” did they not get? When you marry it is a package deal. You don’t get to choose “health” or “richer”. Sometimes it is “sickness” and “poorer”.

When you marry it is for life. It is not something that is only when everything is working out fine. It means you’re going to stick with that person no matter what. Marriage isn’t easy.

I wonder what those women would have thought if the shoe was on the other foot? What if they were the ones to develop a severe and difficult form of mental illness? What if they were the ones to fall into addiction? Her bad situation would suddenly get worse because her spouse – the person who had sworn to be by her side through thick and thin – had left.

If you are not willing to stay with someone regardless of how things evolve, of how they change (and change is part of life), then do not get married.

Starter marriages

So many people seem to have starter marriages, the same way that people will get starter homes. When you have a starter home, you have it with the idea that when things change, you accumulate too much stuff, or when you have a child, you’ll get a bigger home. It’s what you can handle and afford at the time but you understand that you could always sell it and get another one.

People have marriages in the same way these days. When they get to be too big or too much they get divorced and move on.

What about the marriage vows? What about the idea on ‘till death do us part’? What about ‘for richer or for poorer’? What about ‘in sickness and in health’? Maybe people can’t handle the “poorer and sickness” parts, and were hoping they’d luck out and get the “richer and healthy” part. It is a package deal, and a crapshoot. You get both, in unequal proportions.

These vows – which are made in front of friends and family and sometimes a minister – don’t seem to mean anything anymore. These are legally binding vows. There’s a document that is signed for the state as well. This is a legal contract.

Perhaps what people mean is that they say “I’ll stick with you as long as things are good. I’ll stick with you as long as you suit my purposes. I’ll stick with you as long as I like you.”

Marriages aren’t about convenience or comfort. Marriages are about committing for the long haul. The other person may drive you completely up the wall but that doesn’t mean that you get to get divorced. The bliss that you have at the beginning of your marriage doesn’t last long. What do you do after that fades?

I’m not quite sure about people who get divorces. Now if you’re on the receiving end of a divorce that’s different. If your spouse initiates it and will not reconcile you don’t have much of a choice. But if you initiate then what do your vows really mean? How can you be trusted to say you’ll do anything? If you can’t honor your wedding vow, then why can you be trusted at work? Why trust you with a home loan? What does your word mean?

Marriage is kind of like buying a present with someone and you’re drawn to the pretty wrapping paper. But once you open the box and start looking inside, you realize that it’s a machine that has a bunch of pieces. They are all jumbled loose in the box, and there’s no instruction manual. You have to figure out how to put it together along with the other person. You both are pulling out pieces and you’re wondering how they go together to make this machine work, this machine called marriage. Since you both come from different backgrounds you both have different ideas about what parts go where and what parts are more important than other ones. But you still both have to work on this thing to make it go. You can’t just throw it away once it gets difficult. You can’t just keep looking at the pretty wrapping paper and wondering why it doesn’t match this difficult thing that is on the inside.

On divorce

Jesus left Galilee and went across the Jordan to the region of Judea. Large crowds followed him and he healed and taught them as he normally did. Some Pharisees came up to him to test him. They asked “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

MT 19:1-3, MK 10:1-2

He replied, “Surely you have read that in the beginning, God made people male and female, and God said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two separate people, but one being. What God has put together, we should not separate.”

MT 19:4-6, MK 10:6-9

“Why then,” they asked him, “did Moses tell us that whoever divorces his wife must give her divorce papers and send her away?”

MT 5:31, MT 19:7, MK 10:3-4

Jesus answered “Moses wrote that rule because people have hard hearts. But this is not what God intended.”

MT 19:8, MK 10:5

“I tell you that any man who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And if a person divorces their spouse and marries another person, they commit adultery. Everyone who marries a divorced woman is also guilty of adultery.

LK 16:18, MT 19:9, MT 5:32, MK 10:11

His disciples said “If being married is like this then it’s better not to marry!”

But Jesus said “This teaching is not for everyone but only to those who it is meant for. There are eunuchs who were that way at birth, there are eunuchs who were created by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this teaching who able to.”

MT 19:10-12

Enlightened divorce?

I have read about several women who divorced their husbands when they “found enlightenment”. I don’t think it is very enlightened to divorce your husband. There is something about having gotten married that means you have accepted that person as part of yourself. Remember the idea that “two become one” and “until death do us part”?

Divorce makes sense if there is abuse, but not if there is “enlightenment”.

If you find as you grow older that the person you were married to is not compatible with you it doesn’t necessarily mean you should get a divorce. You should reassess your relationship, definitely. Perhaps get marital counseling or learn how to take care of yourself better. You can establish new boundaries, if you even had any in the first place.

It is important that people learn how to be themselves within a marriage. I’ve read a Rabbi who said that sometimes for the benefit of peace some people need to get divorced. Peace is more important than anything else. And if people cannot achieve peace it is okay to separate.

I still think this is missing something. The person you married is in your life for a reason. You made a commitment before your friends and family (and for some people, God) to stay with this person forever. “Forever” doesn’t mean only when things are good.

People need to acknowledge the shadow sides of themselves. We all have dark parts about ourselves. When we are in therapy we don’t ignore those parts but we look at them and we study them. We learn how to use them in new ways. When we ignore our shadow side we are ignoring part of our selves.

Likewise, when you get married to someone you have incorporated that person into yourself. If you find that they are not strengthening you than they are now your shadow side. It doesn’t mean you get rid of it. It means that you learn what it is. You learn to work with it and through it and because of it. No, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t fun. But that is part of being an adult.

Part of being an adult is being sober, and awake, and conscious about life. Part of that is about learning to handle difficult things. Life is only beautiful and easy if you are a child. Only handling life when it is smooth sailing means that you aren’t an adult yet. So divorcing your husband because you are “enlightened” means that you aren’t.