The Role of Marriage Vows in Divorce

G.K. Chesterton in his Essay on Love and Marriage Vows says this:

The man who makes a vow makes an appointment with himself at some distant time or place. The danger of it is that himself should not keep the appointment. And in modern times this terror of one’s self, of the weakness and mutability of one’s self, has perilously increased, and is the real basis of the objection to vows of any kind.

Do we really make vows anymore? I feel like in times past people were not afraid to vow an allegiance, to vow to perform a service, to vow eternal love, or to even vow revenge. I further feel like attached to that solemn promise was the true conviction that would not waiver. I will not say it would never waiver but I will say that if you heard someone make a vow, implicit in it was a testament to the moment or event and to the conviction of that person’s word which reflected his/her strength and character. And it is this “transfiguring self-discipline” that elevates the vow and the sentiment behind it.

I do not know if a modern man really cares about vows or knows when he is making one – or whether the concept of the vow is steeped in the past and only carries on like some half-baked holiday or is it even just something to reserve for fantasy. In our reality, I am not sure we try and live up to vows anymore and instead find our security in knowing that we can, with great ease, simply change our mind and still salvage our self-respect because we are being “courageous” enough to let go of the silly vow. It is like a back door. You get to sneak out the back from yourself and still retain your dignity and even be praised for it.

We refrain these days from making or standing by our vows. I submit because we no longer make profound convictions. We temper our convictions by giving in to our every weakness and calling it FREEDOM. So we are free to fall victim to our own worst weaknesses whether that be lust or drugs or alcohol or laziness or power-hunger or whatever. But that is not freedom but slavery to ourselves that is far worse than the original commitment implicit in the vow.

The marriage vow is a good example of a watered-down vow because of the prevalence of divorce but for the most part, I think that people still and will always associate love with eternal undying commitment. For this reason, the marriage vow lives on and I think will continue to live on. For once we find true love we must “give natural expression to the greatness of that great moment by pledging ourselves forever.” That pledge is not phony. That pledge is not a product of emotion. That pledge is coming from the heart and is real but instead of that conviction owning the heart, our fears soon surface under pressure and we run to become someone new…someone who does not have to live up to that commitment and our higher self is pushed right out of our heart and replaced with a weak version who will allow himself/herself anything to protect the fragile ego.

When divorce happens it does so in a great many cases because people have given in to their own weaknesses by breaking their vow – their commitment to themselves FIRST and then to the other. In so doing they turn on the other to blame because they will not and cannot blame themselves. This carries with it much vitriol and that is carried into the divorce proceedings. The adversarial system is the perfect catalyst to further build up the anger because it separates people and in so doing gives validity to the weakness(es) that started the whole process. This hurts the family, especially the children, and hurts the spouses involved especially as it applies to their future relations with members of the opposite sex.

Bypassing the adversarial divorce process can help to divorce couples protect themselves and their family. Court-ordered mediation in Florida developed for several reasons. One reason is the fact that families and couples do better in handling divorces with a facilitator than in a courtroom because the courtroom cannot offer a setting conducive to working through the intricacies and complexities associated with parenting arrangements and timesharing schedules and dividing up “stuff” that has been accumulated together and dealing with the fact that this family is not just going away because a piece of paper has been filed with the court. Open yourself to the preservation and a building up of your family under a new template rather than a tearing down and shattering of it that only leaves permanent scars and continuous negativity which will continue to impact your life even after the divorce is over. Consider mediation.

A special thank you to the G.K Chesterton article sighted above. It is with great respect and admiration that I try and incorporate his thoughts into this post. To me, he is an amazing thinker, logician, and most beautiful of all, an adorer of Jesus Christ. Peace be with all of you.