“When are you getting married?” is a common question to young couples. Marriage is often considered the peak of adulthood and a requirement to grow the position of a family, a clan, an ethnicity and a community. Most people strongly believe in the notion of marriage and its permanence and will not only desire but ensure that their sons and daughters go through the procedure. The solemnization vows from The Book of Common Prayer cement the belief even further:
“I, _____, take thee, _____, to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.”
But how are these vows working in our time?
- To have and to hold…
In property terms, this phrase simply means a statement of ownership but in marriage, the meaning takes a slightly different twist, to indicate a promise of unconditional emotional acceptance and the physical embrace between husband and wife. This has been misinterpreted and sadly used to perpetuate inequality in marital relationships. In marriage, several women have undergone marital rape, just because they are now considered as one, giving the husband powers to overrule the wife’s right to consensual sex. Since marital rape is considered a private issue, it does not receive befitting public limelight and condemnation, despite international acknowledgement as a legal and human rights issue. It is reported that “globally, 35 per cent of women have ever experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence.
- For Better, For Worse, For Richer, For Poorer, In Sickness and in Health…
In the context of marriage, this simply means that the two individuals have decided to stay together, despite the good and challenging times that may face them. Interestingly, there is no standard guidance on what is better or worse or richer or poorer or sickness and health. It could depend on the background and emotional makeup of the two individuals. Generally, it is presumed that by entering into a marital relationship, a couple commits to jointly handle negative issues and celebrate positive achievements.
However, the reverse is also true as one of the spouses may be responsible for perpetuating violence in the relationship. Most spouses remain in violent relationships and are unable to leave for several reasons, including the commitment they made to remain together notwithstanding pressure from society to stay married. The number of intimate partner violence cases has been soaring over the years and women have borne the brunt compared to their male counterparts. WHO reports that “globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime”. Sadly, these numbers are only the few who have reported and is a stark reminder that several others are yet to reveal what they are going through.
- Till Death Do Us Part
Yes, the holy book is clear that what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. It is believed that one will be set free to engage in other marital relationships upon the death of their spouse, maybe as a result of sickness or an accident or even a natural disaster. However, there is evidence to indicate the contrary. Some spouses have remained in their unions just because they are not willing to separate from them, despite the despicable things they are going through, to the extent of death. There is overwhelming evidence to indicate that some spouses have taken the lives of their partners in the course of their relationships. According to UN data, six women are killed every hour by men around the world, most by men in their own family or their partners. According to UN Women, 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day.
Is it proper to wait for a spouse to take away another’s life? should one be subjected to physical violence in the marriage, sustain injuries and die? should one undergo emotional and psychological torture from their partner until they suffer mentally, deteriorate and lose their life?
This is a sad reality of what people are willing to go through just to fulfil a certain vow, or to gain approval from family and society about their marital status.
In any kind of [marital] relationship, it is important to remember that:
- You are a human being first, then a spouse. You had a life before getting married and you enjoyed fundamental human rights like any other human being, including your spouse. Your spouse has no right to take away these rights.
- You are in charge of your happiness. While two are considered as “one” in marriage, each individual should prioritize their emotional and psychological self-care and not depend on their spouses to complete them.
- You are better off alive and healthy. If the relationship turns violent, it is best to leave rather than get emotionally hurt, physically maimed or even killed in your quest to fulfil societal expectations. It is advisable to assess the situation as soon as it presents itself to avoid getting stuck in the cycle of violence noting that there is always a way out and there are people ready to help out.
Indeed, marriages and love relationships do present a wide array of challenges and some have managed to work through them. As the statistics show, several others have faced worse situations including death but that should not be your journey.
~Choose to live, by Choosing to leave. If it disturbs your peace. It is not working out if it ruins your happiness, character, behaviour, reputation and drains your energy. If it gives you pain, wounds, sorrow, heartbreak, headache, stress, grief, sleepless night and discomfort-De Philosopher DJ Kyos~
If you are stuck in a violent relationship and need help in Kenya, please dial the National GBV Helpline 1195 or the Kenya Police Help Line 999/112.
5 self-care tips in an unhappy marriage. (2021, January 20). Marriage Advice – Expert Marriage Tips & Advice. https://www.marriage.com/advice/relationship/5-self-care-tips-in-an-unhappy-marriage/
Femicide watch platform prototype launched at 2017 UN crime commission. (n.d.). United Nations: Office on Drugs and Crime. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2017/May/femicide-watch-platform-prototype-launched-at-2017-un-crime-commission.html
III. The cycle of violence and power and control — Peace over violence. (n.d.). Peace Over Violence. https://www.peaceoverviolence.org/iii-the-cycle-of-violence-and-power-and-control
Law prohibits marital rape — MEASURE evaluation. (n.d.). MEASURE Evaluation. https://www.measureevaluation.org/prh/rh_indicators/womens-health/sgbv/law-prohibits-marital-rape