I just want to point out that both of the most recent personal postings--both by men with wives who are not just very overweight but severely grossly obese--mention their committment to their vows and their desire to keep their word.
First, I just want to say: whatever misery you suffer, whatever frustration you endure, whatever futility you feel, your sense of integrity and seriousness is admirable. And anyone who thinks that modernity is just going to hell in a handbasket is wrong. There are good men out there--transcending political, religious, cultural boundaries--who struggle mightily with doing the right thing.
That said, I also think that leaving a marriage if a situation is truly toxic for children, or for one's own sheer sanity, takes some courage. I am also not sure that every "vow" is always just and right.
At the beginning of Plato's Republic, which asks the question "What is justice?", someone suggests that justice consists of 'giving back what is owed' (i.e., one adheres to a sort of vow that one has made about what belongs to whom). Socrates challenges this answer by pointing out that if someone loans you his weapon and then goes pathologically insane, it is not "just" to give back the weapon, since he'll use it to kill someone. In other words, conditions do change and not all promises are wise, nor is adhering to them necessarily just. Morality must be judged by wisdom, not the other way around.
Of course, this is a rational, not a religious point of view, where promises become absolute (although it seems to me that the great religions are not antithetical to reason).
But I do think about it. What exactly is it the wisdom by which we assess a vow? Can one justly leave the "marital" part of a relationship and still care about the good of the other person? What exactly justifies the letter of the vow's claim upon us?
And is it wisdom or fear that prevents us from asking that question?
Bear in mind that my vows were taken nearly 40 years ago, so my views are antiquated and have been subject to pointed criticism by some younger folks.
My view of a vow is a promise that is unbreakable. It is a promise that the other person can count on, always. That means putting the other person and marriage first before my own needs and wants. It is an absolute, and being such, is easier to uphold when things get tough and it makes it easier to live with a glad heart rather than resentment. I do not think of divorce as a solution to any problem. I look to finding the solution for the problem rather than leaving the marriage.
My H and I have gone through some horrendous problems over the years, mostly perpetrated by him. I persevered even though it meant personal and financial dreams of mine would not come to pass and I carried 90% of the marriage for years and years now .
Given recent events (the "ultimatum" and realization that he did not take his vows as seriously as I had been led to believe) I am tentatively considering separation and divorce. I guess times change and I need to keep up with the times. It is somewhat upsetting to see that there is nothing that can be counted on absolutely, so if H can leave because my physique is not pleasing to his concept of feminine beauty, I can certainly leave him because he does not possess the integrity and intestinal fortitude (which were important character traits to me) he represented he had at the time we married.
On the contrary, I think that the times do not change, for the fundamental things.
I am not actually advocating divorce here. I am only questioning what the force is of a vow--especially if the vow is taken in partial ignorance. For example, once children are involved, I do think that it is quite obvious that one owes them most--since they depend entirely upon one for their existence. If my husband truly were going to harm our children, I would have no moral compunction whatsoever in leaving: I would feel very badly, it would be difficult, but it would be my duty. I hope he feels the same way about me. I would want him to do what is best for our children because I believe that is a higher duty--indeed, the very end to which the marriage looks.
The idea of marriage as sacrifice ("putting the marriage before one's own needs and wants") makes no logical sense because it implies that one's spouse is also putting the marriage before his needs and wants and hence "no one's" needs and wants are being met. But surely, "marriage" implies the "needs and wants" of both people together. I am not advocating base self-interest. I am only saying that what is truly good does involve context--and that taking complex contexts and the good of several people into account is morally higher than an abstract "vow" that might be based on one's own imagined perfectionism. Abstractions are morally suspect to me. It's like saying that "lying is always wrong." Yes, it is usually wrong. But if a Nazi knocks on my door looking for Jewish children and I am harboring some in my basement, you can bet that I am going to lie.
I think it makes more sense to speak of what is truly "good" than what is "vowed"--and that "good" here entails the good of one's spouse and children, and that it might be complicated thing (unlike vows, which are simple and so you don't have to think about them). (By the way, rallen, I don't think that a "broken" home is necessarily bad for children. All that children need is to be loved, loved with every ounce and every fibre of one's being!, and many people find they can do that much better if they are not at one another's throats in an unhappy marriage. It's the ugly divorces that are hardest on children--but an ugly marriage is worse than an amicable divorce).
Maybe what I am also saying is that we should avoid making vows in the first place, since they set up standards sometimes not only impossible--but in fact undesirable--in this life.
Thanks for your honesty, Rosie. (And thank you also a while back for the inner weigh tip--and sharing the experience of being on the receiving end of the talk). I respect the integrity of those who take vows seriously, but even more I respect and am grateful to those who face life and all its complex conditions with honesty, with openness, and with a view to the good.
I am not saying that one should 'go back on one's word.' I'm asking: do you have any idea what 'keeping one's word actually means? If one's spouse has a stroke, then 'keeping one's word' means making sure that the spouse is somewhere where the spouse gets proper care. By all means, visit! But just embracing "home medicine" would be a nice way to neglect the spouse. Similarly, if one's spouse is an alcoholic and there are children around, then surely 'keeping one's word' means moving the kids out of there, while still "loving the person forever." If one's spouse physically beats one, then one can love them "forever" from a distance.
I am not, repeat not, just advocating casually waltzing out of there and abandonning one's spouse and kids. I am just saying that any vow that is not connected with doing what is truly good for the spouse runs the risk of just enabling the spouse to continue destructive and manipulative behavior.
And I strongly disagree that "every day it gets worse" in terms of "society accepting the fact that we don't have to keep our word." I think that it is agonizingly hard for most people (or maybe just the few I've encountered in my own experience who've done it, including a few on this site) to go through a separation or any radical change in the marriage. (Mind you, I don't watch television. Occasionally at a doctor's appointment I spy a bit of daytime television and it blows my mind that anyone would watch that stuff.)
Surely integrity (the idea that keeps me going, too) involves figuring out what is best and truly good, and acting upon it with compassion and understanding, not anger. And might it not also involve physical separation so as not to continue tolerating toxic behavior? That separation need not involve sleeping with other people. One need not go back on the vow. But in other cases, a full-fledged divorce might indeed be the best thing for everyone involved.
It pains me to see the notion of a 'vow' either held up by one person to manipulate another, or clung to in order to justify not leaving a situation, after everything else has been tried, because doing so might be too hard--and might even requiring courage.
[I think I'd like to dedicate this post to MT and Mojo, who both seem to me to epitomize honesty, integrity, and human excellence--and who both, after serious moral deliberation and after trying everything else, arrived at the difficult decision to leave. Thank you both for all you've done for this site and for sharing your experiences. And good luck wherever life takes you.]
I don't mean to make excuses for her, Rallen.I just can't think of any reason besides addiction that someone would give up so much for food and TV. Vacations must be so hard for your family . Do the rest of you go out and do things while she eats in her hotel room?
The friends that she talks to on the phone- are they shocked by the way she acts, or just tolerate her as "that's the way she is" ?
M2 and Fish :If this it what it was like for you, I'm sorry. I think I get how you must have felt about it, hearing what it's like from Rallen.
I did watch some of the Inner Weigh clips on Youtube, although I did not purchase the DVD. I do think that a book form would work better for my husband. There's just no way that he'd get past the talking head format--little ADD clips of people wearing way, way too much makeup while talking about how to visualize oneself. Is that just an advertizement, or is the video like that? The people talking look like real estate agents. I know that real estate agent are all trained to do that to their faces, and that one day, I'll have to interact with one if we ever sell our house, but--yikes!--the ugly phoniness of it, the hideous lip-liner-ish-ness of it, the tattoo-like eyeshadow of it, the sheer cakey grossness of it! Why would anyone ever trust anyone who looked that way? Sorry for the rant. I'm really just making a pitch for the printed word... and less makeup, at least from anyone who is trying to be serious.
Anyhow, hubby and I still haven't managed to go to a counsellor, so something like offering him the Inner Weigh is far down the road. What I wanted to offer him the other day was just your compassionate and insightful description of the catch-22 that comes with being on the receiving end of a weight talk. And also your summary of the concept. But we didn't get that far, either.
Things move slowly around here.
A long time ago, his mother sent him a copy of the book, Visualization for Change, which I think is saying pretty much the same thing, but geared at life in general and not just weight. He was open to that, but it didn't really work for him. His negative images are so deeply rooted.
[Edit later in evening: O.K., after writing that, I feel very catty and petty. So let me clarify... (a) I think that the message of Inner Weigh is really good, and I wish that more people could apply it to all sorts of parts of their lives in order to become happier, more flourishing people, and (b) my bad (as my six year-old says) for being so judgmental about make-up or for saying anything negative about a project with such a good heart. It's my own issue. I had a make-over a few years back at a very upscale place and at the end, when the cosmetic guy held up the mirror to show me what he'd done, I laughed so hard I shrieked and said, "Happy Hallowe-en!," which was not a nice thing to do.
Please just chalk it up to my being a frustrated spouse. But thanks for asking.]
Can we go back to the question of religion? You are devout. Is she? Does she have any sense that she is a walking (or lumbering) caricature of gluttony? By the way, I'm not asking that in order to suggest that you throw the bible at her. (Oh, the insufferable pride of people who do that!) But I'm just curious if she has any sensibility of the moral dimension of her actions. She seems to flaunt them so. And that's the part I don't get. The addiction side I get.
In fact, I don't have any sense of her interiority, her issues, her mind. Beyond the caricature, the picture of her still doesn't cohere for me.
Now it's making sense Rallen. Sounds like she's given up on ever mastering her appetite and decided to go with it. I'd be lying if I said I'd never thought of that. If my husband were the fat admirer I originally thought he was, I'd probably be headed in the same direction.
Quick e -- only a minute here. I do feel heartbroken thinking of your situation. Free-associating here, I am about to write something that I almost don't write, because I don't want to encourage you just to encourage her bad habits or to make things easier for her... On the other hand, given that you love her and want to stay in the marriage and nothing has worked, what if you tried writing out all that you love about her? All her best points? What moment most made you in love with her? What is her deepest human quality? Picture her being created in this universe: what is the very ultimate good that you can imagine in her? What is her special uniqueness?
I've been thinking of Rosie's Inner Weigh, and what if you applied it to your spouse, envisioning not what you want (i.e., not just projecting your own fantasy) but actually envisioning the best of what you see in her.
Then share it with us. Or her.
It will probably do nothing but make her keep eating. But it will remind you (and her?) of her being, her essence, which you can't perceive anymore due to her fat. And maybe she can't see it either. And if she can't see it, how can she get back to it?