Okay all you brides and grooms getting married in the coming months. It's time for a change. And that change is to banish the words "Till Death Do Us Part" from your wedding vows.
The words "Till Death Do Us Part" have defined how we look at marriage for generations. But in fact, they are five of the most polarizing words. "Why?" you may ask. Because if you look at the stats, almost 50 percent of you may not stay married to the person you are lovingly gazing at and with whom you're doing the horizontal tango.
Instead, there is a possibility you may get tangled in a divorce.
As a divorce expert, many have asked me why two people who loved each other, shared so much with each other, knew each other's moles and molars, witnessed the birth of children and saw each other naked both emotionally and physically, would then disintegrate into demonic behavior in break-up battles.
Well, one of the answers can be traced to those five words.
Don't you think it is unrealistic to have the expectation that love will flourish for a lifetime that now runs into our 80's and 90's? It is very hard to fulfill that promise, till death to us part, for such a long time. When a marriage lasts decades, it's a gift, but no longer the norm.
However, when people break up because they have had the expectation of forever, deep inside they feel like they failed. Casino owner Steve Wynn divorced after 30 years, Robin Williams, after almost 20. Morgan Freeman at 24 years. Why have some said that these marriages were then failures?
As a culture, I think it's time to say what a success these marriages were for lasting as long as they did and accumulating memories and milestones.
Just because you're divorced doesn't mean that you and your ex don't have a relationship. It just means that it's changed. You may not stay married, but you will always be parents to your children. You will always carry your histories.
So for those who are getting married, forget about the "Till Death Do Us Part." The term is polarizing and passé. It will always be a success if you had children that you loved or if you shared good times for however long.
In every relationship that ends, there is always a leaver and someone who is left. The person who is left will always be more hurt and angry and will likely enlist the kids and family members into their psychodrama. The person who leaves will blame the spouse who made them want to leave. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Stephanie Coontz, one of the great sages and scholars of relationships and the author of Marriage, A History, discussed with me the delicate balance of holding on or letting go. "By having high expectations that marriage should last, we may work harder," she said. "But studies have also shown that those people who have the strongest sense that marriage is sanctified and should last forever are most likely to see it as a failure and betrayal and have more anger and disappointment."
Dr. William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, argued on Fox News that the "Till Death Do Us Part" vow is unconditional and part of marriage ceremonies for that reason. "If you change it to 'As Long As Love Shall Last' it makes it conditional," he said. Meaning, that you won't try as hard.
In my experience, most people try very hard to keep the marriage together and don't break up cavalierly. But sometimes other issues invade the relationship — drug or alcohol problems, financial irresponsibility, abuse or infidelity — that morph it into something unrecognizable and unfulfilling. Sure, sometimes someone is a narcissist and more interested in themselves than the needs of their loved ones. Or two good people may not be good for each other.
Because divorce is an option, it also has the opportunity to make people accountable. I do believe you try harder.
September is one of the most popular months for marriage. (January is the biggest month for divorce). Hopefully, many who are planning to get married in the coming months will be one of the very lucky ones, who are given one of life's greatest gifts. A marriage that lasts till your last breath. I truly hope so.
For me, my second marriage has now lasted 15 years. "Till Death Do Us Part" were not in our vows. Why has this marriage worked? Luck, compatibility, a commitment to family and each other. One big reason is that I don't feel entitled, I feel grateful. That has helped me manage expectations and not take anything for granted, which I believe is essential for long term marriages to stay alive and thrive.
What do you think will help people stay married? Every couple has their own recipe and it takes some basic ingredients and yes, a little magic.