Until Death Do Us Part
"I am Happy My Husband
By Barrington H. Brennen, 2005,
Barrington H. Brennen
Question: Dear Sir:
Marriage is serious and a life time commitment. Why do some people enter
marriage only to "see" if they can make it? When the first sign of
trouble comes along the first thing they think about is divorce.
Answer: Marriage is a sacred institution created by God in the
beginning. It is designed to bring a man and a woman together in a permanent
relationship. It is the blending of hearts, minds and bodies in a mutual,
equalitarian relationship. It is ideal to enter into marriage with the
philosophy and belief never to breakup under any circumstances. However, God
never intended marriage to be just a matter of endurance. Endurance in marriage
occurs usually when a spouse just grits the teeth, accepts the pain, and does
nothing to improve the relationship.
There are many couples in our country who
are just enduring the relationship. Some are enduring because they feel
powerless to change the situation. Others are just willing to accept and live
with a marital relationship that is tolerable though unfulfilling. There are yet
others who remain in a marriage that is destructive to their well-being. "A
woman wrote to columnist Ann Landers about the relief and joy she felt when her
husband died. She stayed in the marriage for only one reason. She said she
needed the financial support of her husband in order to raise their children.
After 40 years of marriage, her alcoholic husband died and she was ‘free at
I AM HAPPY HE DIED
A woman in tears asked me: "Is it wrong to be happy when your husband
dies?" Her husband had severely physically and emotional abused for more
than ten years. He had used knives, guns, a street sign, broken bottles, wood,
and even a car as weapons to hurt her. Yet, she returned after leaving five
times and being hospitalized for more than three months from a serious wound to
the head that left her deaf in the left ear. They had two small children that
did not know all of the tension and fear that existed in the heart of mom.
Finally, with support of friends and professionals, she mustered up the courage
to leave her cocaine addicted, power-crazed
husband for the last time. She had
filed for a divorce, but this time he was determined to get her back.
court sessions, which she had to attend, his mere presence and his subtle body
language were sufficient to coerce her back. This time she had support from dear
friends who sat beside her as she trembled just when he looked at her. She loved
him and was afraid of him at the same time. It was obvious that he did not have
any willingness to change. She was a valuable piece of property he used to
satisfy his own needs. She endured the pain. Almost daily she fell beneath his
strong tactics of control. Now the ordeal was coming to an end.
One day, between court sessions, her husband was driving on the highway at
full speed and the car got out of control, crashed into a light pole where he
died instantly. The next day she came to see me and asked the question almost in
tears: "Is there anything wrong in being happy when someone dies?"
What could I say? I was never asked that question before. I knew of her pain. I
knew of her suffering and abuse. I assured her that feelings of relief were
healthy and normal and she needed not feel guilty about it.
Why do some marriages end this way? Could it be that some people
misunderstand the meaning of "until death do us part?" Or could it be
that others are truly trapped and caught in a relationship where one feels
powerless to change or move out? Usually it is a combination of both points. God
never intended for a spouse to suffer in a marriage to the point of death.
"Until death do us part" simply means that each partner is committed
to do all in his or her part to enrich the relationship, learn to resolve
conflicts, and be willing to work on the weaknesses and faults that hinder
growth in the relationship.
This brings us to the positive endurance qualities in a relationship. Knowing
that your spouse is committed to you is to have a sense of security in a
turbulent world. There are various kinds of security, all of which are
important. The security I am speaking about is emotional security when one knows
that the spouse is committed totally to the relationship. "I can count on
him," one wife said. Another wife said "It is good to know that I can
depend on my husband, know that he sincerely cares for me in spite of my faults
and shortcoming..." Such security is liberating. "An individual who
always lives at the edge of financial problems may get fixated on money and find
his or her life consumed by an effort to gain some measure of security.
Similarly, an individual who feels that his or her relationship is held together
by fragile bonds may get fixated on continually seeking reassurance. Security,
on the other hand, liberates the individual to not only enjoy the relationship
at a level otherwise impossible, but also to pursue other meaningful
activities" (Lauer, & Lauer 1986).
". . . God never intended marriage to be
just a matter of endurance. Endurance in
marriage occurs usually when a spouse
just grits the teeth, accepts the pain,
and does nothing to improve the
Another positive endurance quality is support. Research consistently reveals
that supportive interpersonal relationships can reduce the damaging effects of
stress. On the other hand the lack of such relationship means
"vulnerability to the consequences of stress" (Ibid). Interestingly, a
research was done on Israeli men over a five-year period to try and determine
how angina pectoris, a heart problem, develops. The results were that one of the
better predictors of those men who were at risk was the answer to a question:
"Does your wife show you her love?" Those answered "no" were
more likely to develop the heart disorder" (Psychology Today, December
1982). To know that someone supports you can certainly relive undue stress and
prevent all sorts of emotional and physical problems.
Commitment to provide support and an environment of security
are a few of the qualities to produce marital happiness. A happy marriage, then, in which both
partners are committed, provides a known source of support in the face of
various problems. "Commitment means that each spouse has the interpersonal
support necessary to deal with the stresses of life" (Lauer).
These are some of the qualities that move marriages from just survival and
toleration to satisfying as well as long-lasting relationships. "Until
death do us part" then is an eternal covenant to marital enrichment, and
not a survival-of-the-fittest program. It is an eternal covenant to work through
all problems and difficulties to bring healing in a relationship. "Until
death do us part" is not the ignoring of pain, but the eternal vow to
prevent and avoid pain-producing behaviors in a relationship.
Barrington H. Brennen is
a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
USA. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002