Until Death Do Us Part : The Sacred Oath


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By: Dr. Noah H. Kersey Ph.D.

It's a bit disturbing to talk with engaged couples to hear all the various reasons why they choose to marry.

What many will not admit is that, sometimes, they are more in love with the "idea" of marriage than they are in love with the person they are about to marry.

Let's examine this process from a physiological perspective.

When two people meet and begin their courtship they typically evaluate the relationship from their five senses. They might like how the person looks, how they smell, how they feel when they touch and so on. Then, they evaluate how the other person behaves in a variety of situations.

All this information is first affecting the brain centers that control our emotions. This area is called the "limbic system" and we find ourselves "excited" and "light-headed" and our heart beats faster when we are in the courtship and early stage of marriage. At some point during the first seven years of being together, our perception of the person shifts from the emotional centers of our brain ultimately to the logical, cortical areas.

The cerebral cortex is where reason and logic prevail. We no longer feel the pounding our hearts, and the lightness of our senses, but realize that we have overlooked a lot about our mate because we were so joyous and thrilled about the wedding ceremony and just being "married".

To use a business concept, but still apropos, the couple are in the "marketing phase" of their relationship. Each is trying to get the other person to like them and, eventually, to love them. They are, in effect, putting their "best foot forward" trying to make the "sale", which is the wedding itself.

After the honeymoon is over reality sets in. Dealing with the every day stresses of life is not all the fun that we experienced earlier in the relationship, especially when children come along and the wife is not quite as amorous as she was during the first year of marriage, and the husband decreases being as romantic and attentive.

Now the focus is on careers and the daily routines that tire them. The couple cannot maintain the same level of energy they originally put into the marketing phase of the relationship and now that the "sale" has been made, they find themselves in the "service phase" of the relationship.

In the service phase of marriage, both the husband and wife are still expecting whatever was promised in the marketing phase but they, instead, experience disappointment.

The couple is surprised and disappointed that their mate is not delivering on the promises, whether implied or spoken, they had made during the courtship. This is when marital problems begin to occur, and the arguments increase.

In time, some couples feel like they were duped and experience a great deal of anger in the relationship and even think about divorce. This is when they tend to forget their marriage vows of "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part".

It's not "until we do not feel like doing it any more". It's until death do us part.

As Christians, we need to take our vows seriously to be pleasing to God. A healthy marriage requires mutual respect, genuine commitment, good communication, as well as time and effort.

It takes a realistic assessment of what we promised our mate in the marketing phase of the relationship when all our perceptions of that person was in the emotional centers of our brain and whether we are fulfilling those promises, or the oath we made during the wedding ceremony.

It also requires an evaluation of whether we are making good on those commitments in the service phase when our view of our mate is now in the logical, reason-oriented areas of our brain.

Marital problems and differences are resolved through forgiveness: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" [Ephesians 4:32].

Hopefully, this should be a clear message for those who are in the dating, or marketing, phase of their relationship. Be sure you are willing to deliver the "services" you are promising in the courtship.

Dr. Kersey has been providing mental health services since 1977 and provides services for individuals, couples, families as well as groups. He has a special interest in areas of co-dependent relationships, adoption issues, marital therapy, as well as stress of life issues. Dr. Kersey is a licensed psychologist and has been practicing in Indiana since 1987. You may contact him at his website: www.LifeCareCounselingServices.com

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