Most of us would like to believe “‘Til death do us part…” means love everlasting into old age.
For some of us, that means until an unhealthy relationship ends in the worst case scenario. For a great deal of us, it means an incredibly slow spiritual death with no parting in any near future.
I am NOT against marriage. Let me be very clear about that. I do however, have great reservation about traditional wedding vows. I scoured several wedding sites for wedding vows with an emphasis on traditional. Being raised with traditional notions of the white picket fence and dressing for church each Sunday, these were the vows I took to bind my marriage(s).
No matter how unconventional and forward thinking others may find me or I may think of myself, the vows I took for marriage were not only traditional, but a very serious matter for me. Words like “for better or for worse”, “… so I too happily give you my life, and in confidence submit myself to your headship as to the Lord…”, “..to have and to hold, ’til death do us part…” would play in my mind as I went about my business of being married.
In both of my marriages I loved as best I knew how. After a while, I felt like my partners were enjoying more patience, love, compassion, support, understanding, and being cherished more than they were willing to give. In short, I would do my level best to meet their needs, thinking, that once their needs were satisfied, I would have mine met. Except, I never could seem to satisfy them for long before they were upset, unhappy, emotionally wanting, or simply in a place where they couldn’t give.
In the first couple of years this was only confusing for me. I concluded that if my partner was not going to meet my needs they way I met his, then I would just meet my own needs. I have never been one to sit around and wait for long. Yet, as time went on, between the constant need for care and attention, as well as having children who rightfully also needed time and attention, I was left with no time to attend to my self. Slowly, what started out as a fulfilled woman brimming with optimism, love, and dreams became a slow draining vessel. This love thing was turning out to be a one way street and I was growing deficient in what was being demanded of me.
I can not give what I do not have.
But I hung in there longer still. I was dying that slow personal spiritual death and no one seemed to notice because withdraws were being made with no sense of consequence to the source from which they were drawing. It was mine to suffer, “for better or for worse…’til death do us part”. Does spiritual death count? Or, must my I be deader than that with no hope of recouping the soul?
There is not just one thing that keeps us in unhealthy relationships. Often times, some of the ties that bind are not just unhealthy habits, which are often at the core of a poor choice in partner. Those ties that bind us can be particularly strong because they are socially acceptable and well intended beliefs and values. It is up to each of us to determine when these values and beliefs are being exploited at our expense for the benefit of someone else. At what point do we use our values and beliefs as justification to maintain an addiction to an unhealthy relationship? At what point should the words “But you promised! For better or for worse! ‘Til death do us part! You can’t leave me, you’re obligated!”, have no effect on survival.
At what point is spiritual survival just as important as physical survival? What do we have to offer anyone; children, family, friends, or your spouse…if there is nothing left to give?
Live Your Life…Don’t Just Survive It
(click here to listen to Part III of the four part Addictive Love series by Tamara Bess LMFT)