If rumors are true—and with this couple, it’s only ever 50:50—then Kate Middleton will not promise to obey her husband in next week’s ceremony. When even the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks it’s a bit old-fashioned, you know it’s a tradition worth discarding.
In a 2006 report about domestic abuse, the Archbishop’s Council stated that the inclusion of obedience in wedding vows was out-of-date and offensive: “A promise to obey was in the past part of different standards and expectations of women and men within marriage.” It underlined the fact that traditional concepts of marriage are mired in deep inequality, and that the idea of a husband’s innate authority is outmoded.
Obedience has no place in the modern marriage—the idea that one partner is subservient to the other is horrifying. Any serious relationship should be about give and take rather than the dominant will of one partner. Whilst critics have argued that, as William will eventually be King, Kate should promise to obey him as her superior in rank, they forget that with the royal family as little more than decorative figureheads, deference to the monarchy has more to do with tradition and etiquette than power.
Speaking as an opinionated woman engaged to another opinionated woman, I’ve seen a lot of arguments over both the trivial stuff, and the important things. But I’d much rather have had those heated debates than have had her back down immediately based on some archaic notion of my authority—even when I’m right. Obedience is for family pets, not marriage. When we can agree long enough to finally tie the knot, the word “obey” won’t be heard anywhere near our ceremony, and our relationship will be better off for it.
There’s no one right way to start your life together, whether it’s a global spectacle in Westminster Abbey or a Pagan handfasting in a field in Norfolk—or even agreeing that this whole marriage thing just isn’t up your mutual alley. But beginning with a promise that one of you will obey the other is a recipe for disaster.