For Better, For Worse

When my daughter Megan got married, I don’t know who was happier…me or Megan! The day of the wedding was rainy, which was bad since the plan was to have the ceremony outside. But all of a sudden (I think it was because of the prayers of me and my network of praying friends!) the sky cleared, and it was beautifully calm and sunny. As the ceremony progressed, birds chirped in the trees and the breeze gently blew Megan’s veil around her face. It felt like a little piece of heaven.

In the middle of all of that beauty, Megan and Hampton confidently vowed to each other their lives, “for better, for worse.” Before God and the people she loves most, my daughter said these words:

I take thee // To be my wedded husband
My constant friend//My faithful partner//
And my love from this day forward//
To have and to hold//For better, for worse//
For richer, for poorer//In sickness and in health//
To love and to cherish//Till death do us part//
I will love God and faithfully serve Him//
I will love you and faithfully pursue you//
In the presence of God, our family and friends//
I pledge to you my faithfulness.

As we prepared for Megan’s wedding, I reflected a lot about the early days of my marriage. Before Mark and I got married, I was so naïve. I truly thought that you got married and just lived happily ever after! I didn’t think about my vows, and I am sure I never considered what the “worse” I pledged to might be. My expectation, like that of nearly all nearlyweds and newlyweds, was that our lives would be all of the “better” and none of the “worse.”

So let me ask you something: if you are married, what did you expect from marriage? Have you been disappointed? If you aren’t married but want to be, what expectations do you have for that relationship? In nearly every traditional wedding I have attended, which is A LOT, the couple vows to each other their love for better or for worse. But I get the feeling that many of us never expected the worse to come! And that is a huge problem. When polled, 45% of divorcees say that unrealistic expectations played a role in their divorce, and 41% believe they were unprepared for marriage. 

A big part of being prepared for marriage is setting realistic expectations and understanding that bad things happen even in the very best of marriages. Vowing “for better, for worse,” means expecting both good and bad, appreciating the better and preparing for the worse.

“For worse” looks different in every marriage, but there are some common situations that come up as couples walk through life together.

Financial Pressures

While it’s not the number one cause for divorce, “money issues” consistently polls in the top three reasons for divorce, and a 2009 Utah State University study found that financial disagreements are a leading cause of marital problems. Many couples are afraid to talk about finances before getting married, and that only causes bigger issues down the road. If you and your spouse argue about money, figure out how to live within your means, make sure financial priorities are in order, and remember that you can be a team to face financial challenges together. If this isn’t a problem in your marriage, communicate before it becomes one! And remember that you vowed, for richer, for poorer.

Challenging Children

We adopted our son, Grant, from a Russian orphanage when he was 8 years old. He wasn’t used to a normal way of life after surviving on his own for so long, and almost every day he ran away to our neighbors’ houses. Mark, along with worrying about Grant’s safety, was concerned that people who didn’t understand Grant’s background would think, “Wow! The President of Family First can’t even control his own child.” On top of that, I was stressed trying to reach Grant’s heart and give our other four children enough attention. If you’re in the middle of marital struggles because of a challenging child, stay united with you husband in how to deal with the situation. Go through the better, and worse, together.

Health Issues

As many of you know, I have struggled with a specific health issue since I was a teenager. My heart cannot sustain me on its own, and I rely on a pacemaker. But that’s not a fail-proof solution, and my 14 surgeries have taken a toll on both me and Mark. I obviously suffer when it comes to the physical side of things, but Mark has to handle the logistics of taking care of me (while being worried about me!) and managing everything at home that I would normally handle. In sickness and in health can be a hard promise to keep if the painful reality of caring for someone with a chronic illness was never really understood. I’m so thankful Mark has loved me just as well through the health scares and surgeries as he does when I am at my healthiest.

Depression and Mental Illness

Even a mild depression can impact a marriage. A friend of mine endured much worse. His wife suffered terrible postpartum depression after the birth of their first child. He eventually had to commit her for psychiatric help, and until she came home, he had to be both mother and father to their newborn. If you or your husband have mental health issues, get the help you need so that you can be fully present for each other and your family. And try to be patient as you deal with each other and remain true to your vow to love and cherish—even through this. 

Other marriages face job loss, lengthy separations for work, addictions, infidelity, the loss of a child, and the list goes on. This is not meant to depress anyone, but it is sobering. Marriage is not something to enter lightly. You and your spouse will face hard times, but expecting the trials of life and being prepared to face them makes weathering the “for worse” far easier.

Read more of Pastor Denny Helberg’s wedding script here, and be sure to download the Marriage Messages by subscribing here

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