The following is an excerpt from Mary Doria Russell's novel, The Sparrow. In it, the fictional character Anne Edwards discusses her marriage of four decades with the young and unmarried Jimmy Quinn.
“We all make vows, Jimmy. And there is something very beautiful and touching and noble about wanting good impulses to be permanent and true forever,” she said. “Most of us stand up and vow to love, honour and cherish someone. And we really, truly mean it, at the time. But two or twelve or twenty years down the road, the lawyers are negotiating the property settlement.”
“You and George didn’t go back on your promises.”
She laughed. “Let me tell ya something, sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men.... They’ve all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt. Oh, there are continuities. He has always been fun and he has never been able to budget his time properly and -- well, the rest is none of your business.”
“But people change,” he said quietly.
“Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit! Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we’ve had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people.... Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever.”
For a related thought on the nature of marriage, see this post.