view of a beach with couple
I’ve been blogging about our devotion to our wedding vows in recent weeks. We promise to be married “in sickness and in health… till death do us part,” but what happens when the “illness” arrives? Is it still the same marriage?
Many of you have written e-mails and comments in reaction to these pieces, and the debate has been highly personal to several of you. You’ve shared tales of the difficulties you’ve faced in your marriage when one partner suffers from a chronic illness. “I think people romanticize ’til death do us part’ until something happens to put this relationship to the test,” one wife commented. “We say, ‘I would be there for you no matter what.’ What if that ‘what’ means that your life and your partner will never be the same again?”
What does marriage mean?
She was speaking from personal experience: Soon after her wedding, she had a significant back injury. In less than seven years of marriage, she has undergone five operations and cannot work. “Things are turning out far differently than either my spouse or I imagined. My husband is still with me, even though I know there was a moment when he considered leaving me (maybe more than one). Through prayer and God’s mercy, he has remained faithful to his word.”
I value e-mails like this because they inspire me to stay true amid the inevitable difficulties that come with marriage. Here are three of the common threads in your comments:
You and your partner will both change. You will experience both immense delight and severe sadness. And, at some time, you or your partner will almost certainly be required to care for the other.
It is at these trying moments that I am reminded that our commitment is eternal. I recall my God, who keeps His promises. Obey Him and keep my promise to my spouse. I can do so because of His grace.”
This decision will most likely be challenging because you will need to give up some of your favorite activities. It implies a loss of freedom and a reduction in personal time. It entails accepting the life that God has bestowed upon you.
Readers believe that if you do make this option, you will be rewarded in unexpected ways. One of the spouses wrote:
My spouse, who is 57 years old, suffered a stroke last year. He’s transformed mentally and physically, but I know it’s my job as his wife to keep him that way. I’ve had to mourn the loss of the life we had planned, as well as the guy I married. I’m learning to connect with him on the level he can participate in, physically, cognitively, and emotionally. I’m learning to accept him where he is in his rehabilitation right now. There are moments when I feel sad and lonely, but there are other times when I feel close to my spouse. It’s a daily decision, but it’s one I wouldn’t alter for the world. I intend to stick to my marriage beliefs, as I would expect he would if it were me.