My family history tells it as generations back with zero cases of divorce; in the three generations I’ve grown up around, zero divorces still hold strong. It’s a line told not as an achievement, but as the expected, leaving me with an understanding of the power of commitment that binds the profound vow of “I do.”
In our divorce-ridden society — reinforced by Hollywood’s never-ending list of celebrity separation and infidelity — “I do” has somehow transformed into “I do … for now.” And as a 20-year-old with hopeful notions of a happily married future, the lessened value of the wedding vow leaves me worried.
While the U.S. divorce rate began its climb to popularity during the Civil War, rates peaked in the 1970s after the passing of California’s Family Law Act and the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. For the first time, restraints on couples seeking to obtain a no-fault divorce were lessened and irreconcilable differences became enough to roll out the certificate of divorce. According to a 2010 National Vitals Statistics study, 44% of marriages end in divorce, with 30-60% of couples admitting to have cheated during the course of their marriage, as reported by the website Truth About Deception.
When did our culture lose the value once placed so heavily behind the sacred bond of marriage? How have we turned from a society that once cherished commitment to one that has transformed the bond of matrimony into a commodity, so easily disposed of?
As a college student, “exclusive” is a rare title seen among the handful of 20-something-year-olds too often satisfied with just a catch for the night. We’re not a generation that dates and we’ve turned into a generation that backs away from the title of relationships, avoidant of the restrictions exclusivity brings about.
The manner in which we, as individuals, conduct ourselves today and the value we place behind our relationships leaks into our futures. If we’re not able to embrace stable relationships now, what points to success by the time we’re gracing the aisle, uttering the statement of acceptance to a union of marriage? Because if we can’t solve that, how can we ever re-instill the value of “I do”?
Marriage should mean security and “I do” should guarantee that a partner won’t stray — that a marriage won’t crumble. “I do” should mean neither partner gives up because it’s a vow that should stretch further than just for now.
I want to believe that a path lit by a couple’s passion remains alive. That the love and promise of commitment that fueled my great-grandparent’s 78 years of marriage, my grandparent’s 54 years of marriage and my own parents’ 22 years of marriage continues somewhere in the mess of our divorce-ridden society.
And I want to believe that one day, when I peer through the sheer of my wedding veil, locking gaze into the eyes of a man who loves and cherishes me — I want to believe that his “I do” will truly mean “I do … forever.”
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