Until Death Do Us Part


Given our contemporary fascination with ‘dead that moves,’ like walking death, warm corpses, and an assortment of living zombies, I thought it only fitting to write about ‘dead love.’

Paying close attention to the title of this post, you’ll recognize the phrase as an excerpt from traditional marriage vows. The literal meaning is, you’re making a love commitment to someone for life.

It’s a contract that is supposed to be in effect, if everything works out, until you both die. After that, it’s null and void, right? I guess. How about, if you’re lucky enough to meet and marry your ‘soulmate’ in the course of your life, your relationship continues in the hereafter?

Interesting, but this line of thinking will no doubt take us too far afield from what I’m trying to focus on, the role of ‘death in love.’ So we won’t do ‘love after death’ this time around.

If we stick with the literal meaning of ‘until death do us part,’ who ever came up with this phrase simply intended to point out that marriage is a lifetime commitment. No doubt this is the source of a lot of anxiety when it comes to making a decision to get married.

Years ago, the forces in society, culture, and religion were firmly behind this commitment and its fulfillment for people who took the marital plunge. In other words, it wasn’t so easy to breakup a marriage.

If you haven’t noticed, separating and getting a divorce is a lot easier to do these days. Question is, is this a good thing or bad thing for the institution of marriage?

The people who say it’s a bad thing will be quick to remind you that easy divorcing represents a deterioration of the institution of marriage. They’ll say if getting a divorce is easy to do, people won’t respect their marriage.

Married couples won’t be motivated to work on their relationship when things get difficult between them. They will simply separate or divorce. Plus, these advocates of the traditional marriage also warn us that our children are the real losers in the long run. They tell us that when parents get divorced their ability to parent their children is impaired.

These proponents of traditional marriage suggest that it’s better to stay married for the kids even if you hate your spouse. Do it for the kids. When they grow up and leave you leave, not before.

The people who say it’s a good thing will tell you that an easier time separating and divorcing these days represents progress for the institution of marriage. They’ll say that a real marriage can only be dictated by real love, not the institutions of society, culture, and religion.

Some of them point out that the ending of some marriages is like ‘practice’ before the real game. That people should not get married so early. Instead they should live together, get to know each other’s domestic habits before tying the knot.

They say that people shouldn’t have to marry in order to have sex. That sex has very little to do with whether or not a marriage can last.

Proponents of this looser vision of marriage suggest that in the long run people should be able to live together or marry until they have found the ‘right one.’ If you’re lucky enough to find this person early, you get to avoid the stresses and legal problems that come with multiple marriages and divorces.

If not, at least you get a chance to find your soulmate instead of being locked up in a marriage that has no love in it. By the way, they also suggest that kids have a better chance of growing up right if they don’t have to grow up in a home with warring parents who are staying together for them.

What do you think?

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.


  1. Rgl on February 19, 2013 at 11:28 am

    That is a very hard question to answer, which is right. My personal views have changed over the years. I used to believe people should stay married and they could work it out, I was forced to look hard at that idea when I became divorced. Looking back I understand that while my wife and I could have stayed married, the marriage was not working for her, and she would have had to change who she was by giving up her career dreams to stay in a marriage, with me or anyone else, married life was not for her, but I think she had to try it to figure that out.
    Then I think about my current situation, having been in an affair with a married woman, I am single, this has brought many other questions up for me. I posted about this on one of your other articles recently. Currently she is going to marriage counciling trying to figure out if her marriage will work or not. I guess this brings me to my question for you, Dr Jordan. My attraction to this married woman was for me very complicated. I have know her for years and always felt an a connection to her. About four months ago, she told me that she had always felt a connection to me as well, she brought this up without me saying anything about how I felt. I have never felt as close to another person as I do to her. Just to sit with her, or hold her hand, the way it felt when we kissed, it was almost like I could feel her love for me. She expressed many of the same feelings. She told me that she could sit quietly with me, just being in the same room and feel so loved, cared for and safe. My reason for sharing all of this is to ask you this, what is this feeling, this connection we share? It is far more than just love, or any love I have ever felt. Does whatever this is last? Even though she is married? Will she leave her marriage because of these feelings? Should she leave? And can I ever experience this with someone else if she decides to stay where she is?
    I know these comments and questions may be a little off your intended subject, but I appreciate any light you can shed on this for me.


    • Dr. Jordan on February 20, 2013 at 1:56 am

      Thank you Rgl for your comment back. I think it is entirely possible to fall in love with the right person at the wrong time. Lets say you have strong chemistry with this woman. Lets say she is fundamentally unhappy in her marriage. Probably unfulfilled would be a better description of what she feels. The relationship she is able to enjoy with you as part of the love triangle with her and her husband, probably gives her more emotionally than she gets from her husband. The problem is she is married. Unless she is making a bee line for a divorce court you will probably settle into a triangular love-life. The extent to which you will be able to emotionally have her will be dictated by the degree of commitment she hangs onto in her marriage. (Unfortunately, some people stay committed in a marriage to someone they don’t like). In order for love to thrive you have to be able to form an exclusive relationship that is committed and growing. When you are in love with a married woman you are part of her defense against fully realizing and feeling the extent of her marital problems. The third party (that’s you) is also subject to the most pain because he has the most to lose. By the way, I do believe you have a good chance of finding an available partner once you’ve gently but firmly sent her back to her marriage. If she leaves her husband and you see the evidence for this, that’s a game-changer. Hope this helps. (If you’d like to ratchet this up a bit and talk, let me know.) Dr.J.

  2. Clorinda Turkowski on June 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    It is not easy to keep the relationships alive; it needs a lot of effort. You may require a lot of patience and you need to convince yourself that I need to save my marriage for the sake of all the good times and for the children. There are always some hope and ways to resolve the problems your marriage. The conflicts in married life may be because of ego or some misunderstandings…-‘-

    • Dr. Jordan on June 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Thanks Clorinda for your comment. I’m in 100% agreement. It takes ‘work’ to keep a marriage growing and healthy. I think the rewards are worth it. Too many people don’t accept or know how to work on their marriage. I think it is best to think of a marriage as having 2 parts to it: the love you have for each other and your relationship. I think the love is either there or its not. No one can make love happen. If it’s there, two people can work on the relationship, keeping it healthy. I have tried to write in this blog about the things that a couple can do to ‘work on’ the relationship part of the marriage. In fact I think this topic is so important I wrote a book about it that I just finished and will probably be available at the end of the year. The book title is, “The Healthy Love Relationship: Learning To Have One.” Thanks again for your comment. Dr.J.

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