What Does for Better or For Worse Really Mean Anymore?

When we get married and we say our vows, they almost invariably include the phrase, “For Better or For Worse,” but what do people really mean by this? Often it feels like they assume that things will always be, “For Better or For Better,” and never consider how far they are willing to go if they are really challenged. What if one of you loses your job for an extended length of time and the other must cover all household expenses? What if you cannot have the children naturally that you always assumed you could? What if one of you comes down with a serious or eventually fatal illness, and the image you had for your life and your marriage is changed in an instant? What if there is a case of infidelity, but the partner is genuinely remorseful and wants to work on the marriage?

These are all exceptional stressors and challenges to the marriage that no one planned on. However, you stood and promised, for better OR for worse. What did this really mean to you? Are you committed enough to stay the course and do whatever needs to be done, or are you only able to engage in a relationship when things are going well? There is a portion of the population that the latter is true. With over a 50% divorce rate, it seems clear that many people treat marriage like it is disposable, that when the going gets tough, they get going. They want an idyllic relationship, but the perfect relationship does not exist. Even the best relationship is work. Even the strongest of couples will be tested. However, if the fundamental seed of the marriage is that they will give everything they must make the relationship work, then they can survive even the most difficult of obstacles.

It does not make someone a bad person if they cannot commit to a life that will be full of challenges and sacrifice. As someone with a rare disease, I have experienced people who thought they could handle the ongoing challenges I faced, but learned quickly that they could not. In this case, them being honest with themselves, and me, early on was a blessing and not a curse. I was lucky enough to find someone who lives the true meaning of for better or for worse, and knows that if you truly love and want to be with someone, you will deal with whatever comes your way, together. That togetherness is a key to many of the issues that couples struggle with when faced with some of the challenges I mentioned. Instead of pulling together and supporting each other, they pull away, isolate, and keep their thoughts and feelings in. Sometimes making it through the “For Worse,” is having to, and being able to talk about the hard and uncomfortable things.

In an ideal world, couples would have thought about and discussed how they would handle various situations BEFORE they get married, but people often think they will handle things one way, and it is very different when it becomes a reality. The most important thing to be honest with ourselves about it the question of this person we are considering marrying. When we look past the wedding day, and the excitement of planning the wedding, what does the life look like? A wedding is a day, a marriage is supposed to be for life. Do you know that there is nothing you would not do, no trial you would not endure, no pain you would not suffer to be with this person? Or, have you only imagined the ideal wedding, and the ideal life where nothing goes wrong? If the latter is true, you need to have some deep and hard talks. You need to ask each other the hard questions and the important truths. You need to know what issues are deal breakers, and if they are things that neither of you can come to agreement on, evaluate if you can give this person your everything, no matter what. While no one should stay in a bad marriage, too many people are too quick to leave a difficult one. With love, communication, and willingness, difficulties can be overcome…together. So, before you walk down that aisle, OR before you leave your marriage, ask yourself, “What Does for Better or For Worse,” mean to you? Seriously consider couples counseling. With the convenience of the internet, there are also many online couples counseling options available for you to take advantage of as well.

Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. LCPC, Contributor [Tele-health counselor for www.DrNikkiMartinez.com, Adjunct Professor, Consultant, and Writer]

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