Friday, December 16, 2011

Until death do us part

I, (name), take you (name), 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, cherish, and obey; from this day forward until death do us part.

Bullshit—I call shenanigans, at least on the last five words.

We learn these vows, or some version of them, when we are very young. We see them in countless television shows and movies, and little girls act them out hundreds of times with their friends and Barbies, and just accept that this is how their lives are supposed to go.

Again, I say bullshit.

I think these vows are one of the cruelest tricks our society plays on us because they create a misguided idea of perfection that too many people feel compelled to try and attain. There are many things that make a relationship successful—the most important of which is that the relationship is beneficial to all involved, regardless of how long it lasts—but when “until death do us part” does not happen a sense of guilt and failure is often added that mars that success.

Do I think it is possible for two people (or three, or four) to meet, spend the rest of their lives together, and do so happily and without reservation? Of course—but I also think that swearing to do that is completely unrealistic. I am not anti-commitment, but I refuse to make a promise that I may not be able to deliver on. Here is what I can promise:

I can promise to be in love with you only until I am no longer in love with you, but if I have fallen in love I can promise that some part of me will always love you. I can promise to do my best to always remember this love, no matter what happens, and no matter how angry I get, and I can promise to always treat you with respect regardless of whether or not the actual state of being in love still exists. I can promise to communicate, to negotiate, and to compromise, and I can promise to let you know if I feel that this relationship is no longer mutually beneficial, and to be open to the idea that I might be wrong. And I can promise that no matter how in love with you I am, no matter how compatible we are, no matter how good the thought of growing old with you feels, you will never hear me say the words ‘til death do us part, even if it looks like death will indeed be the only thing that parts us.

I have loved many people in my life. I have loved deeply, completely, and honestly—and I know that each and every love that I have had will be a part of me until I die, but my undying love is not something I feel the need to vow to anyone, at any time. To do so would feel deeply, and completely, dishonest—and I don’t do bullshit.


N. said...

I totally agree. In fact, I was shocked, about four years ago, to learn that my wife and I had included words to that effect ("for the rest of our lives") in the self-penned words of our vows. Not that I don't aspire to it, or hope it will be so, or think it will be so, or plan for it to be so. But it seems sort of like promising never to sneeze again, or never to get a specific ailment.

Life will bring what life will bring. But... so far so good.

K. Bruce said...

Perfectly stated