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Marriage is a promise and a commitment you make to each other. When a marriage doesn't work out, though — I refuse to say "when a marriage fails" — what then? Have you broken a promise? Have you not upheld your end of the bargain? Is your word still honorable? Can you be trusted to say the truth?

These thoughts and more wash through the minds of women facing a relationship that is ending. They feel the burden of guilt and the twisted self-doubts of broken vows. Some women even decide to stay in an unhealthy relationship, all for the sake of a promise they made.

Here's my take on that. You promise to love, cherish, and support your husband. You do not promise to suffer. You do not promise to become someone you are not. You do not promise to live in an emotionally threatening situation. You do not promise to continually live under the same roof as someone who has abused of the privilege of marriage you offered.

The vows of marriage — as we perceive them — are a myth. They hold no more weight than the words we spoke. We can love while living apart. We can cherish without being a one-unit family. We can support without being in the same room.

The vow of marriage never includes promising not to separate or live apart. It never has, and it never will. Even God understands life changes.

Deciding on a divorce does not mean that you take your marriage vows lightly. It means that you've discovered that the verbal contract you made — your wedding vows — no longer apply to a situation that has changed and to the lives of two people who have changed as well.

Face the world knowing that you do indeed take vows seriously. Your word is good. Your wedding vows meant something to you when you spoke them, and they still do. The situation has changed, you've changed, your life is changing, too. That doesn't mean you tell lies.

That means you understand that nothing in life is final — and that words only hold the meaning we give them.

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4 comments

  • Comment Link Paul Wednesday, 04 September 2013 18:03 posted by Paul

    It's incredible how people can justify anything to themselves. The whole point of wedding vows ARE that they cover an entire life, EVEN WHEN THAT LIFE DOES CHANGE! Nobody forced you to make the promise. "I meant it when I said it..." What a beautiful world we live in when that is an adequate excuse for breaking your word. Marriage vows are "until DEATH do us part" not "until life changes and I don't want to anymore". If you don't want until death do you part, then don't say it. But if you do say, then mean it and live up to it.

  • Comment Link lauree Thursday, 13 June 2013 21:27 posted by lauree

    Vows are very special and important l m wkth a man that when we meet him l just adoored himhe was everything l had been looking for then we both were goin thur divorces mine wasn't as bad as his and whenhis wasn't going wright be woulf
    Just call me name horrible names and l woukd think its because he is goin thur it well when that ended the abuse keep up then I would make another excuse why he was doing this not inly is my husand abuser but he lives of of drugs and l can always tell when he s not hight cause hes mean and on edge then when hes hight he says he sorry. I so confused ...

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 14 October 2011 22:18 posted by Guest

    Just another reason...: not to get married. Both spouses change with time and after awhile things are not what they were. There is more to life than marriage. You can be happy without it or you can be happy within it, or you can be unhappy out of one or unhappy in one. That's life, and a few words that you spill to some dude (priest) standing in front of you really means nothing, seriously... think about it. Happiness is what you should seek, forget everything else. Steve

  • Comment Link Jessica Friday, 14 October 2011 12:32 posted by Jessica

    Thank you: I totally needed to read this right now. I know that I am making the right decision to leave and have only just begun my journey this week, but I am totally struggling with guilt and shame and feeling like not only have I failed in marriage, but in my ability to trust my own promises. Thank you.