Is Marriage Really ‘For Better Or Worse?’

“Why all the struggle to make things work? Marriage shouldn’t be years and years of gruelling awfulness. For what? To say you’ve been married for many miserable years? Life is short. If you’ve done all you can do, if you’ve tried your hardest and stuff just isn’t working because human beings naturally grow and change, then do something to fix that situation and if that something is divorce, so be it” ….…Monica Bielanko

Let’s think about the meaning of the words in our wedding vows; “In richness and poor, in sickness and health, for better or for worse, for as long as you both shall live?” But, is Marriage really for better or worse? Should marriage be for better or worse?

I recently read on social media a story about a Pregnant woman in Nigeria, and her unborn child who died as a result of domestic abuse. She was being abused by her husband but chose to stay because she didn’t believe in divorce.

I read another story where the woman was also being abused physically and emotionally by her husband but she didn’t want to leave, because she believed she took a vow in the presence to God, to be with this person for better or worse, no matter the circumstance. She was scared that she might go to hell if she goes against God’s words as he hates divorce. I have read many other stories like this.

Malachi 2:16 is the often-quoted passage that tells how God feels about divorce. “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel”, this is the reason why a lot of Nigerian women stay in Abusive and toxic marriages.

The counsel most women receive from their pastor, was to keep praying and to reunite with their husbands, reminding them of God’s command to forgive and love unconditionally because God hates divorce. Adultery, was the only biblical grounds for divorce, according to many religious leaders in Nigeria.

I once had a discussion with a Nigerian Pastor over the issues of domestic violence. I asked him that if a woman came to him that her husband was violent towards her and abusing her, what advice would he give to the woman. His response was no different from the above; Pray and stay in the marriage because God hates divorce. And then I asked, what if she died? “At least she will go to heaven because she had obeyed Gods words”, he said. I was gobsmacked and could only just think of the number of vulnerable women he had given such advice to.

Now, I am an irreligious person but what I understand from the whole God hates divorce debacle is that, he hates divorce, not the people who divorced. Besides if he permits divorce on the grounds of adultery, how and why would he not permit it when your life is being threatened?

So, I asked, why do we still have “for better or worse” in the traditional marriage vows? Because clearly marriage is not and should never be for better or worse. A lot of people have been messed up silly because of that line and a lot of people have died in marriages holding on to that line. I found the responses i received contradictory; A lot of people said they believed that marriage is for better or worse but you can always walk away from it if it gets too bad. But then, doesn’t that mean it is not for better or worse?

And then someone says, “there are many millions of marriages that are good? Respect the ones who have done 40 years so far…. and they are many.”  While I understand that point, however if that line is skipped, will it stop the millions of people who have successful and beautiful marriages from having great marriages? Probably not.

Will it help, to make some people realise that marriage is truly not for better or worse and it’s okay to end a marriage that is damaging, abusive, or otherwise harming you or your children? Just maybe.

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