Last year, when I attended the Lab School Gala, the award recipient talked about her experience overcoming learning difficulties, and at the end of her speech she said, “all our children want are love and acceptance.” So true, but I would venture to say even as adults that is all we truly seek in life.

I have heard so many people mention in dating that they are seeking “unconditional love,” and with my clients I often hear them complain that their spouses clearly did not mean their vows when they said, “for better or worse.” Here is the problem as I see it: most people (in a healthy environment) grow up with unconditional love from their parents and other relatives. As they get older, once in a committed relationship, they many mistakenly equate this with a familial bond like the one they experiend as children. Unfortunately, adult relationships are entirely conditional– it is completely unrealistic to expect unconditional love from a non-relative.

Every relationship we form outside of our family bonds are based on a pact– some understanding of what we expect from each other. In a life partner, most of us are seeking someone who will not only share our goals, interests, and enjoy adventures and celebrations with us, but also someone that will walk the line– share in the financial and household responsibilities, work with us to tackle the challenges in life, and coordinate efforts to provide a happy and safe home life. When those pacts are broken, it jeapordizes the whole relationship.

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to insert into marriage vows the line “for better or worse,” but I would like to lobby for its removal. In a marriage, or any adult relationship really, you need to be cognizant of each other’s wants and needs, and not take each other for granted if you want it to last. The only relationships that I have seen last “for better or worse” 99% of the time are through blood ties.