WHEN couples take the oath to be together, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, they consent to what they expect marriage will be. These words go beyond the lips of cult and culture, for every love song echoes the same longing for a sealed love—a long and lasting love.

Even in the ages where gods swapped wives, Aristotle and company already spoke of the indissolubility of marriage. Children need the lifetime perks of their parents, and couples are better together until old age. And while lovebirds are a biological argument for endless companionship, gibbon monkeys are more convincing.

We must be creatures so loving that we keep on using the word “love” even if we don’t really mean it or know what it means. I ask: can you call “love” something that is here now but gone tomorrow? Perhaps you can call it a fling but not love. Love is something beyond emotions or first dates or honeymoons, something you choose to act on because you are mature enough to stand by your commitment, and the height of this commitment is the nuptial vow.

And then there’s the folly of divorce. If in marriage love dies, isn’t the problem lies not in the bond but in our failure to keep our word?

I’m not a love expert and it’s up to the courts, the clinics, and the churches to decide whether there has been marriage—and love—in the first place in cases of shotgun weddings, fraud, and psychological incapacity. These are cases for declaration of nullity, meaning no marriage occurred in the beginning. Surely there are pseudo or voidable marriages. But this is different from divorce where there is a valid marriage.

Maintenance crew caught red-handed

Few are investing much in marriage now because divorce laws are allowing everyone to leave anytime. Lovers cannot simply devote themselves to marriage as an unbreakable union if in the first place they do not believe it has this property. In divorce, belonging to the “innocent” and “guilty” party is a non-issue. It’s simply a matter of who became unfaithful first but in fact both turn out unfaithful in the end.

And do we even need a divorce law as a radical feminist lawmaker and her rally muna allies are now asking?

When a marital dilemma cannot pass as a genuine case for annulment, our laws already provide relative divorce or legal separation (separation in bed and board) for, among others, spousal abuse and infidelity, but again, not absolute or real divorce where the partners can remarry. Legal separation saves the family from staying together in a dangerous marriage, but doesn’t close the door for possible reconciliation. Yes the damage has been done, but there would be more damages if we will let the abuser make another round of abuse, this time with a prospective partner. In fact, an abuser will have more reasons to maltreat his spouse if he thinks replacement can be availed of easily. This is the concern in Macarrubo vs Macarrubo, a 2004 case, where a vicious husband was able to contract one marriage after another—and multiply his victims—by (il)legal remedies.

Legal separation, unlike divorce, also spares children from suffering the high-conflict setting of creating stepfamilies. In the United States, 60% of second marriages wind up in divorce again since partners are psychologically and financially torn between two families. There is now a growing consensus among lawmakers, especially Republicans, to turn down divorce laws there, so why allow divorce here?

To our beloved 2010 Thomasian graduates

There must be wisdom to what former Civil Law dean Antonio Molina said before a 1950s Congress against divorce. Marriage is not an ordinary contract for unlike ordinary contracts, one cannot really abrogate this pact where mutual restitution is impossible. Can one bring back the wife’s treasured virginity? How about the hubby’s tokens of love? How about the gametes turned into children? These are comic insights but then let us be serious with marriage. When one gives the ring that symbolizes eternity, one passes the point of no return.


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