‘For Better Or Worse’
What does that line mean in marriage vows? Because I have reasons to believe it has a kind of complicated meanings for different people, but I’m gonna use ideas from movies to explain my observation.
I’ve watched a China movie where this beautiful young lady had a boyfriend who guided her through college, which was where they met, he was hardworking and pushed her hard to be just as ambitious and stand her ground doing what she should be doing. She finished her studies and started working. Her mother sees her as the savior of the family, her family loved her, she kept working hard for a promotion in her job, and she was really getting there. Her boyfriend was a lawyer, from a rich family.
Now it had been six years since they started dating.
The guy called her one day and told her he’d be in China the next day, just to see her. He lived and worked in the United States. When the girl came home from work the next day it was a big surprise in her home; everyone was there screaming, “Surprise! Surprise!!” The guy knelt on a knee and gave this beautiful speech about how they’ve been dating for six years and how for each day of those years he had loved her and now he cannot think of spending the rest of his life without her. “Will you marry me Gabriella?”
She shifted her eyes back to the crowd, her mother was nodding, every member was nodding, “Yes, yes.”
And so she said yes. There! Ring on the finger!
Later on, her mother was dancing in her room, “Oh. It’s a beautiful ring. Darling do you know your father never bought anything like this for me?” Her parents were separated.
On dinner that night, the boyfriend announced his plans; the date of their wedding, how Gabriella would move to the States after their wedding. The girl said, “Eh Bud, my boss said something about this promotion…” She couldn’t finish that sentence, because her boyfriend interrupted, “Bud, I’m sure you can find a job anytime in New York.” She nodded, sadly, but no one noticed the sad part.
During her wedding preparation she went swimming with friends, and when her boyfriend found out he was furious on their video call, “What were you thinking Bud? Those things are dangerous!” He yelled, and she apologized. I would say he’s caring.
But not everyone thought so. Her friend asked her why her boyfriend always tells her exactly what to do all the time? And she said, “It’s just how he is. He’s always pushing me to get better.” The girlfriend said, “Okay. But what happens if you make mistakes? Don’t you make mistakes? Marriage is ‘for better or worse’ remember? Whatever happened to the worse?”
So there you have it. This girl had a guy who loved her, pushed her to become better in everything, including her career. Except he always made it an order. He made her decisions for her, they were good intentioned though but.
She seeks his permission before she could do anything, those things are extremely her businesses, and not couple oriented. She felt she had to be better each day, to please her boyfriend, to please her mother, never pleasing herself, because most times she did what she didn’t want to do. She had to become better. Funny thing is, she never seemed better enough to be able to make her own decisions. And her girlfriend was implying that she could become better, but marriage is not only for better, it gives room for worse too, to be able to understand that neither of you are perfect, and forgive each other’s mistakes, and make up, and stay together until death you do part. “… Whatever happened to worse?”
Now, I’ve also watched this Nigeria movie where this young couple were hitting in hot kisses, the woman was heavily pregnant. After the kissing, her husband carefully put her to bed, very carefully, you wouldn’t believe how careful he was, and all the while he kept saying, “I don’t want anything to happen to my son.”
The woman was all smiles and like, “It’s okay! I’m only pregnant, I’m not paralyzed.” She smiled. Her husband said, “Yes, but it’s not any kind of pregnancy. You’re pregnant with my son, so you have to be careful. Don’t hurt my boy. Are you sure your neck is okay like this? Your legs kwanu?” The woman kept laughing and said, “How do you even know it’s a boy?” He said “Because I’m the one that put it there.”
“Did you see it when you were putting it there? What if it’s a girl?” The man was genuinely shocked! “What? How can you say such a thing? Biko don’t say something like that again o. It’s a boy. Don’t bring a girl into this house o.” He was very serious.
It was labour and she gave birth to a baby girl. Her husband never made it into her ward to see them, he left the moment he learnt it was a girl. She had to bail herself from the hospital and took her daughter home. Her mother in-law was already there, very unhappily there, she might as well cry out her tears, she was disappointed, oh, it’s a girl, this could as well be a funeral of a very young man. The new mother and child was, I could have said coldly welcomed, but no, because no one had the time to break through their sadness to welcome them. Her husband hasn’t even come downstairs to start with. Her mother in-law said the “thing” she gave birth to was a disappointment and shame to their family. She never touched the child, nor at least, looked at her. She said her daughter in-law would have to cook for the family and take care of the house, because that thing she gave birth to is not an excuse not to do so. So the girl invited her own mother over for omugwo so she could help her out. By the way, isn’t it the tradition that it’s rightly the woman’s mother who should go for omugwo?
The husband and his mother disagreed to her mother coming for omugwo. But she said she already told her to come. They were very furious, “How could you make such decision without our permission?”
Eventually her mother came, took care of cooking and the baby. But the other mother vowed to make her leave her son’s house, she told her how shameless she was to be there for omugwo when her daughter had only brought shame and disappointment and liability to them. At nights, and all day the new mother would cry. Her mother would come to her and hold her. She would say, “Mom, I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Her mother would say, “Darling, marriage is ‘for better or worse’ you have to understand there are women who live with a lot worse than you, so you have to sit up and protect your home. You know it doesn’t take long until men started acting single.”
She took the bullets and again she was pregnant with yet another girl. Yes, this time they had to scan the baby to find out what it was. The husband said to her, “Abort that thing.” It wasn’t a prompt for discussion, it was an order.
This actually called for a family meeting, his mother supported him, “She should remove that thing in her stomach.” The woman’s mother supported her, she shouldn’t kill her own child. The man’s brother didn’t think this was even up for a debate, “I’ve been married for years, begging God to please bless me with even half a child, and you’re here trying to destroy what God has given you in a platter of gold.” The brother’s wife supported her husband.
The man of the house said his wife would either abort the child or leave his house. Funny thing is, he was so sure the woman would choose his matrimony over her child. But she didn’t. She was ready to leave. That was when her husband stood up against his mother, and made his wife stay, in the end they had three girls. But the girls weren’t “theirs” they were “hers”
Her husband would say, “The presence of your girls irritates me.” At a point, when the oldest of them all was only twelve, the man said he had done enough for “her” daughters and she should continue paying their school fees and other bills from where he stopped. She accepted but first she had to start working. But her husband said to her, “I have told you many times in the past, and I’m going to tell you again, you’re not going to work in this house.” His mother supported him. Everything. Yes, she lived with them now.
“For better or worse”?
Then there was this third movie of my analysis, where a woman lived with her husband who always beat the crap out of her. She would cry indoors, and they would come out in public play the role of best couple in town. Then she’d go back home, can I call that home please? So they’d go back home and he’d find a reason to hit her again, any slight reason would do. Hell, my one room and tiny bed, and my writing make a better home than that.
But she stayed, “For better or worse” until death did her part when he finally killed her over an argument.
There is yet this Nigeria film again with a young woman who owned her own business, it was booming, she was educated and smart, and always so occupied with her work running the business. She loved what she was doing and was fully satisfied within it, so she was happy with her life.
Her mother was concerned she wasn’t married yet, and she doesn’t seemed worried about not having even a boyfriend. Her mother’s worry grew even more when her younger daughter got engaged and was set to marry. Her father too was a bit concerned that she didn’t make room for a relationship in her life, she was all work. So giving in to her father’s wish, she agreed to go on ten dates set by her father. The plan was simple: she meet these men each at a time and in the end, she could make a choice to settle with one, and then get to go out on more dates with the chosen one and get to know him better, or she could decide she didn’t like any of them.
On one of her dates there was this guy that said her mother left him with his dad when he was little. The lady said she was sorry about that but maybe his mother had good reasons to leave? He said, “What reasons? Just because my Dad used to beat her, is that enough reason to leave her matrimonial home? A woman should stay in her marriage no matter what happens, marriage is ‘for better or worse’ remember?”
Yes, the lady was as shocked as you are right now. He went on to say, “She left and went on to live her life, she has her own business and is wealthy now.” His date smiled and said, “Wow. That’s good for her.” He rolled his eyes at her and said, “Good for her? A woman is nothing without a husband and children. She may be educated, rich, successful in a career, but she is nothing without marriage. I am ready to settle down and I need a woman who would do anything to keep her home and not run away from a few bunches, and I hope you’re that woman.” His date was dumbfounded. As was I.
When she got home and met her father to tell him how the day’s date had gone, she was crazy, she said, “Dad? He was sitting there practically condemning his own mother. Looking for a woman who would take his bunches! Seriously? Who are raising these men?!”
Now that’s the real question. These men are whatever you bring them up to be. They’re reap of the seeds implanted in them from childhood. If you are a man, what does ‘for better or worse’ mean for you? If you’re a parent how are you raising your son? and daughter even. Do you tell your son that being a real man is by showing off his muscles hitting his wife? And teach the daughter that a real woman stays in marriage for better or worse?
What do they mean by “for better or worse”?
Wait, what do they mean by “for better”? Is it better as in when they say, “I’ll marry him, he will change with time, he will become better.” Or better like when couple say to each other, “Darling don’t worry, things will get better, have faith.”
But most importantly, what do they mean by “For worse”?