In Good Faith
Mug - Ahriana Platten

Ahriana Platten

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and it’s one of the most popular days of the year to get engaged. Before you say yes, consider this: Research indicates that somewhere between 41 and 50 percent of marriages will fail, with infidelity being the primary cause. Financial difficulty and poor communications round out the top three reasons marriage is likely to end in divorce. It appears that, contrary to the opinion of The Beatles, love is not “all you need.”

Dr. Walli Carranza is the Rabbi of Chesed, a Jewish community in Auch, France. She’s a professional mediator and marriage and family life coach, specializing in serving couples and individuals who are survivors of domestic abuse/domestic violence through infidelity. A former Colorado Springs resident, Dr. Carranza had her own experience with infidelity and has made a great effort to heal from its trauma. I asked her to share what her faith tradition teaches about the permanence of marriage and whether there are times when she counsels that divorce is acceptable. 

Walli Carranza

Walli Carranza

Walli Carranza: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs)

With these simple words brides and grooms each declare publicly their new identity as the partner in life of one, and only one, person on Earth. Regardless of the legal form by which their union is created — a ceremonial marriage or a civil union — both people have the right to trust that these promises of mutual fidelity, support and commitment will be kept perpetually.

Judaism cites three essential elements for an authentic marriage, which Progressive Judaism extends to legal domestic unions as well: permanence, the mutual exclusivity of the couple’s relationship and of their sexual union, and the couple’s commitment to stand with and support each other at all times and in all circumstances.

However, there is an exception to the binding nature of marriage vows that is openly addressed in marriage preparation. We insist that this be acknowledged in writing in the couple’s ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract. It’s a reality that the one you love and trust can develop mental illness or an existing personality disorder will come to light later. Either, if not successfully treated, can lead to infidelity, domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Marriage vows are broken by infidelity and domestic abuse as these make trust impossible, and never should anyone allow themselves or their children to live in physical or emotional danger. Neither is it right for a victim of infidelity or abuse to be forced to choose between the stability of their home and being safe. The Castle Doctrine in American law, which says no one must flee their home to prevent abuse, arose from Judaic law.

Unlike in other faith traditions, the Nedarim (vows) of marriage aren’t shared at a Jewish wedding. These intimate promises are Kodesh (sacred) and we consider them to be very intimate matters. Our congregation uses a year-long, sponsor couple program for marriage preparation, and the vows couples write during this year are shared only with their Rabbi, normally during the last Shabbat before the wedding.

At each wedding I officiate, it’s my honor to pronounce the Rabbinical Blessings and recently I partnered with a beloved Christian theologian to recraft these beautiful prayers, making them relevant for couples of many faiths today.

My favorite: “May you love each other in such a way that witnessing your marriage, the reality of G-d’s existence makes sense.” 

Ever wanted straightforward answers to hard questions about religion and spirituality? Don’t we all?! Send your questions to