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I’m an avid Dear Abby reader. I find other people’s lives incredibly interesting, and for the most part, Abby gives solid advice. But there was one letter, where I REALLY disagreed with her answer.

This is the letter:

Old_Couple_(14419320883)DEAR ABBY: I am sure this issue affects many people, but I have not seen it addressed in your column. Oftentimes married partners are separated by many years in age. Eventually the older of them has to enter a long-term care facility due to a mental/physical defect.

Even though the bond and love that kept them together over the years still exists, the younger still has physical and emotional needs that can no longer be met by the older spouse. What are the ethics in the younger one having a “friend with benefits” to address those needs, if it’s done discreetly without causing embarrassment and humiliation to the older spouse? — FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

And Abby’s answer was, go for it! (As long as the older spouse doesn’t find out, isn’t humiliated, and she still gives him proper care and attention.)

And THAT, I heartily disagreed with.

To say that she still loves him as much as ever, but frankly needs to find someone else to “fill her needs,” rings false to me. That isn’t love! Do we let that excuse pass muster when a man’s wife is pregnant and can’t provide sexually? Do we say, “Well, as long as she doesn’t find out, why not?” Of course not–because that is cheating. People get divorced for that sort of thing. Do we shrug it off if a man is working incredibly hard at two or three jobs to provide for his family, and the woman isn’t getting enough personal attention? Never–because we expect her to be faithful. Hard times doesn’t make cheating any more acceptable. So why should it be different at the end of a person’s life?

“‘Til death do us part” should mean just that. And if you don’t love someone enough to stand by them for the entire duration of that lifetime, then don’t sign on! Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart. And I’m going to say something that might sound harsh here, but if you aren’t willing to stand by that person in the worst of times–in sickness, poverty and old age–then you don’t deserve to be married.

You can get married to anyone you like, for whatever reasons you like, and you can dissolve that marriage when it no longer works for you. That’s a legal reality. And if someone hasn’t experienced a soul-deep kind of love, she might think that general, practical affection she’s feeling for her spouse is love. And I suppose it is, of a kind. But so much more is possible between two people!

Til death do us part. For better or for worse. From this day forward and for the rest of my life. 

When I took those vows, I meant every word. As did Mr. Johns. There is no wandering off to “fill our needs” elsewhere. I’m strong enough to stand alone if I need to, and Mr. Johns can count on me to be devoted to him and only him for as long as we live. And that includes hard times.

Because otherwise, it just seems like a civil union that works nicely for tax purposes. And marriage–in my humble opinion–should be so much more.

What do you think? 

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