For better or for worse

for better or for worse

Did you swear to love him/her forever; in good times, and in bad; for better or for worse… and now you feel you can’t keep that promise?

Do you want to leave your partner because you feel you don’t love them anymore? Because all the love you once felt for them is all gone?

Well here’s the thing. Love is not just a feeling. If it were, there would be very few people staying for decades together. Love, it turns out, is a decision; a choice to stand by one, for better or for worse. I’m anything but a love guru, but one thing I’ve learned from experience/observation is that love is not the only feeling that binds a couple.

In most cases, love sought of takes a back seat, especially if the two people in the relationship have been together for long and virtues like tolerance, acceptance and understanding keep the relationship going.

My parents for instance; it’s been eighteen years since they officially said, “I do,” swearing to love each other for better or for worse, but have been in a relationship for more than two decades. Is it love that has seen them this far? I would strongly disagree. In my opinion, love only pops every once in a while, but most of the time it’s the vow they made that keeps them together.

If they weren’t legally married, sometimes I get the feeling mom would have left dad a long time ago. She constantly says he is not the man she hoped he would turn out to be. Dad, as I’ve constantly said in previous posts, isn’t the most generous man I know. When my sisters and I were small he would leave home for the office early in the morning and would return after midnight.

Normally that wouldn’t be too big an issue if we were all fed. Problem is he hardly bought food and mom didn’t have a job at the time. His behaviour was the root cause of most of the arguments he and mom used to have. Mom usually blames herself for her failure to read the writings on the wall when they started going out.

“There were very many red lights,” she says in retrospect, “it’s just that I was too in love to take notice. There were tell-tale signs everywhere. If only I hadn’t ignored them. Even when we were dating, he neither took me out to nice places nor bought me gifts.”

Years later, she is still the one who buys him gifts and he never feels the need to reciprocate. On special days like valentine’s days, he doesn’t do anything special for her.

I always find it ironic that on such days, she gets hit on by other men, like those from her workplace and all, with some even confessing they have been secretly in love with her for long. Even some of our neighbours hit on her. Still, mom has never cheated on dad.

The way I see it, the only reasons that prevent her from having extra-marital affairs are the vows she made on their wedding day; ‘for better or for worse, in good times and in bad, till death do us part’. It’s a choice she keeps reinforcing, to stay with dad, as flawed as he might be.

When my sisters and I were growing up she stayed because she didn’t want us to grow up in a broken family; she weathered the storm for us. Now we’re old enough, and the solemn vows are what keep her by his side.

Everytime mom laughs when I tell her I pray that God will give me a husband I will never be tempted to cheat on. The last time I told her that, about a fortnight ago, she asked me, “What makes you say that. Is it because you feel you might cheat on your husband?”

“It’s because I’m almost sure if I get someone who behaves like dad, I will cheat on him,” I paused before continuing, “It’s true what they say, when God gives you a difficult situation He also gives you the strength to deal with it. You’re strong woman mom, not many can live the life you live. It’s difficult.”

I admire her for her resilience. She knows she deserves much better from dad, yet she wakes up each morning, determined to stay faithful to him; to ward off any suitors who promise her all the things dad doesn’t do for her. He hardly makes any effort to make her feel special, only buying her gifts when we ask him to, and everytime he spends his money on her, one can feel the obvious reluctance.

Looking at my parent’s relationship, I can confidently say, it’s not always love that makes two people- married or just friends- stick together. It’s a choice we make, to accept people as they are, and to put up with their shortcomings.

So if you’re afraid you have fallen out of love with someone, just remember, love alone can’t sustain a relationship. Love may pop in every once in a while, but most importantly, it’s tolerance that makes it work and most importantly, the personal decision to stay by one’s side, for better or for worse.

Still, this shouldn’t be reason enough for one to stay in an abusive relationship; one could end up dead while trying to salvage a dead relationship.

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