"To have and to hold for better or worse": a sacred commitment or a litany of empty promises?
Declaring these vows, as a 21-year-old bride, although nervous, I was confident in the knowledge that I was making an unbreakable, enduring promise that in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, I would be united, everlasting to my husband from that day forward till death do us part.
A glance at our current, modern dating landscape reveals that something in our attitudes towards commitment and relationships has radically changed. Men and women alike are increasingly postponing or avoiding marriage and serious, lasting relationships. It's now all about dating apps, casual flings and no strings attached relationships. Among those who do commit and marry, roughly half ultimately break that vow and sadly, divorce. Casual relationships, from "friends with benefits" to cohabitation, are increasingly more common: "try-before-you-buy" seems to be the accepted norm.
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's recent announcement of her divorce to Jean Bernard after only 18 months is still making headline news, she's just one of many celebrities whose marriage breakup is publicised in the news at any given time, is this celebrity-divorce-culture symbolic of the declining state of marriage? Realistically, I don't think that anyone in their right mind walks down the aisle on their wedding day with the intent of leaving their future spouse and going through the ordeals of a divorce. However, our high rates of divorce (some even before the wedding is paid for) makes me think are we treating marriage too flippantly - a disposable commodity?
Why are so many of us commitment-phobic? Prenups, high divorce rates and casual dating - are they symptoms of our world's collective incapability to make binding promises, ones that commit us into the future? But for me marriage is an everlasting bond. My vows were not light, fluffy words: they were unconditional and irrevocable pledges.
This week, I will have the joy of celebrating my third year wedding anniversary. As Christians, both my husband and I decided not to live together before our wedding day - our wedding night was actually the first night we shared alone. We had dated for just over a year before he proposed and planned a wedding within five months during my second year of university. Attending a five-week marriage preparation course seemed a sensible thing to do and we hoped it would cover everything we would need to know about one another! Little did I know, that the course did not expose the fact that he never puts the toilet seat down and has a memory like a gold fish. Many of our friends at the time were shocked at our counter cultural marriage decision: why we didn't live together first; spend a night with one another; or go on holiday? On our wedding day we made a commitment that our marriage would work, before knowing the ins and outs of each other's lives, being aware of each other's flaws, and without listening to that voice which said what if someone else comes along, who is more suited, better, compatible?
Was I being risky, radical? - Definitely not; rather I think my generation has just become a little too comfortable and accustomed to throwaway relationships. I don't believe in love at first sight or in the idea that there is only one soul mate that we are destined to find. I believe that love is a decision. Marriage is a commitment to waking up every day and loving someone for who they are and not what they could or should be. Inevitably we will change, not just in age (wrinkles, receding hair lines and missing hair and teeth will happen to us all) but economically, career-wise, children, friendship circles; life is not static, it's unpredictable and dynamic, shaping our character and altering our perspective.
Undeniably marriage hasn't always been smooth rolling - it's had its difficulties; but it's been exhilarating, beautiful and more importantly we have stayed committed and connected in marriage. We've experienced highs and lows together, from moving into our first home, holidays, graduation, internships and first jobs to trying desperately every month to find the money to pay for bills, supporting one another through tough decisions, sickness and merging our independent, single lives. As a recovering anorexic, I have spent many months of our newly wedded life living in inpatient wards. It was undeniably, heart-breaking to be apart from one another, but remaining faithful and hopeful in our future has kept us together.
And that's all in three years- I wonder what our rest of our lives will bring? Life is challenging and at times frightening: the love and support of a marriage partner is empowering and the marriage journey sensational. Whatever life throws at me, I know that I have the commitment and love of my best friend with me the whole way and he has mine.