When Life Puts the “Ow” in Wedding Vows: A Look at Real Marriage

by Lydia Gard

A man in his mid-60’s drives a Cadillac down the road. In the passenger seat is a woman of similar age. They’re married, members of the credit union I worked at this summer and last summer. What you can’t tell from the first observation is that the woman has Alzheimer’s, and her husband is her constant care-taker. She is slowly losing her mind, but he stays by her side.

This is what marriage is supposed to look like.

Today’s society often portrays romantic relationships, including marriage, as dispensable: “Oh, he/she doesn’t make you happy anymore? That’s okay, just leave.” “You had a really bad disagreement last night? Maybe you should just break up.” It’s like society has forgotten the weight and meaning of wedding vows said at the altar where the bride and the groom each promise to love and stick with one another, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health … till death do us part.”

Saying these vows means a person cannot and should not ever leave his or her spouse when life and relationships aren’t all butterflies and roses.

Seeing this man and the kind, steady way he cares for his ailing wife broke my heart. That is the kind of love society should emphasize: marriage that will still be strong even after years and years of life and even through years of sickness and overall challenges, marriage that says, “I don’t care how bad you get, how bad situations get, how bad things look for us; I WILL STAY WITH YOU.”

When this man married this woman, he surely did not realize he was signing up to take care of her after she developed dementia and declines more and more every day. No one plans for this to happen; but he chooses to stay and sacrificially serve his wife. He is not giving up on her. He is the epitome of a “for better, for worse …  in sickness and in health” kind of marriage and love.

Oh, that society would have more of this – especially Christian society.