How Government is Like Marriage – and Divorce

Once again I’ve been thinking about change, all change – the change of a baby to an adult, the change of a single person into part of a pair, even the change of the seasons and the tides. But what really began this rumination was the inauguration. How like a marriage ceremony this highest of swearing-ins was! There was even the flub most likely caused by nerves (If you don’t know what I mean, you have been living under a rock the last 24 hours).


So, how is government like a marriage and a divorce?


Marriage begins with faith, hope, trust and dreams. It is invested with ceremony and sanctioned (some say regimented) by laws. Both parties promise to work hard, to take each other’s needs and desires into consideration and to be faithful to the bond.


If both parties stay the course and remain true to these commitments, the marriage will last and, possibly, flourish. But if either party falters, the marriage will spiral into recrimination, anger and, perhaps, divorce.


Now divorcing parties are not known for their geniality. True, there are some that sever the marital cord with gentle scissors. But, in general, this is not so. There is pain. This pain causes a lashing out in all directions. It can become vicious and needlessly hurtful, the more so if mine-yours becomes an issue. The more so if one of the pair has been flagrant in disregard of the initial promise. The more so if the dream dies hard. Divorce, at its most basic, is the death of a dream.


Hence, we come to government. When a government fails its people, where does the blame lie? Which partner was the first to betray the trust? Often it’s not easy to tell. Occasionally it is. And the divorce becomes all the more painful, acrimonious and laden with long remembered grievance.


Some of you may wonder what this could possibly have to do with health and wellness. Given that, statistically, happily married people live longer and are healthier than single or unhappily married people, I’d say it is at least tangentially relevant. For if we are half of the marital pair in this union of government (and here I mean our duly elected officials) and the people, our well-being depends upon the functioning of the bond.


So, “change”. We, the people, are part of this bond with the government of President Obama. He has promised us and we have promised him. I do have faith and trust and hope and dreams. I believe that Barack Obama does also. But, like a marriage, neither party must falter.


For, if either of us falters, we risk losing ourselves. And that helicopter that did not move fast enough will, next time, be carrying us all.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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