Divorce is an unfortunate reality in modern society that’s become increasingly common over time. The US has the third-highest divorce rate in the world. Yet, in some communities within the country, divorce is still a taboo topic.
Among them are the Amish. The Amish date and get married just like all other people in the country, although their dating and marriage rituals may differ.
They probably have their trials and tribulations, as all people do, but what about separation, divorce, and remarriage? Is there such a thing as Amish divorce?
To understand the answer to that question, we must examine the views of the Amish people on marriage and what influences those views.
What this article covers:
Amish Marriage Beliefs
Like most aspects of Amish life, marriage is influenced by their religious beliefs and the rules they created to support those beliefs.
Amish marriage culture upholds their belief in marriage as a sacred institution. Instituted by God, marriage is the lifelong union of man and woman. Therefore it should be done only after careful consideration.
Marriage also serves a vital role in the community, as it’s the bedrock of the family. The Amish person’s duty is first and foremost to God, followed by their duty to family and the community.
The Ordnung, the Amish code of conduct, regulates almost every facet of an Amish person’s day-to-day existence. It also contains guidelines for marriage, Amish wedding night traditions, and family life.
Although some Amish marriage beliefs aren’t in the Ordnung, they’re understood to uphold the laws it contains.
Here are five Amish beliefs on marriage:
Sexual Purity Before Marriage
During Amish courtship, people may not engage in premarital sex. Sexual union is permitted only within the confines of a marriage. Although some Old Order communities practice the act of ‘bundling’, it’s not a violation of this belief.
During bundling, a courting couple may lie in the same bed and get to know each other through talking into the early hours. But that’s where the intimacy ends. They’re both fully clothed and may not touch each other. It naturally requires self-restraint and builds closeness without breaking the purity law.
This Amish dating practice isn’t Amish in origin. It’s based on an ancient custom that pre-dates the establishment of the Amish people. Bundling is also not practiced by the more progressive New Order Amish congregations.
Marriage Between Believers, Only
Amish marriage is entered into with fellow believers only. That, too, can be traced to the Bible. The book of 2 Corinthians, in chapter 6 verse 14, warns Christians not to be “unequally yoked” with an unbeliever.
Like other devout Christian groups, the Amish believe marriage to people not of the same faith will weaken the community. Worldly or immoral beliefs and teachings may gain entry in this way. Therefore, the Amish will only marry other Amish-born and baptized people.
The same belief drives their commitment to live separately from the rest of society. By limiting contact with outsiders and avoiding worldly trappings, the Amish have managed to preserve their way of life for centuries.
Do Amish have arranged marriages or multiple marriages? No. Amish community members are free to date who they choose and find a life partner. And Amish marriage always involves only one man and one woman. Amish polygamy is just a persistent urban legend with no basis in reality.
No Marriage to ‘Outsiders’
“Can Amish marry outsiders?” is a question often asked by non-Amish people. Marriage to outsiders is generally forbidden. It isn’t impossible, but there’s one rule they have to follow. The outsider must leave their modern ways behind, be baptized into the Amish church, and live as a part of the community.
Marriage between Amish people and outsiders is extremely rare. In the few cases that it has happened, this was always the rule: convert and get baptized.
Few people have converted for non-marriage purposes, as the Amish don’t proselytize nor convert people. They aren’t an evangelical organization. That said, they’ll happily welcome any serious convert convinced by the Amish faith.
Faithfulness During Marriage
Faithfulness during the marriage is a must for all Amish married people. They take their marriage vows very seriously and try to live as modestly and faithfully as possible.
Getting divorced is a violation of more than just the marriage vows. It’s also a violation of the vow Amish people make during their baptism into the community. It usually takes place between the ages of 18 and 22. Breaking this vow is punishable by shunning. That means they will no longer be active members of the community.
Coincidentally, this is also the usual Amish marriage age. Amish people often get married soon after baptism. They may enter into marriage only after being baptized. It may seem too young to get married by Western standards, but Amish youth do get a taste of life before settling down.
In the late teen years, a period called ‘rumspringa’ allows youth to leave the settlement to experience outside life. Upon their return, they’re expected to be baptized and follow Amish Ordnung implicitly.
Amish marriage, as well as family and community life in general, fall under a patriarchal system. The men are the heads of their households. They must care for their families as the breadwinners. While some married women work, they usually do so in the home or on their property.
Amish women are the caregivers in the community. They’re expected to care for their children and support their husbands. Most Amish couples have large families, so the women have a lot to do in the home. But they often help their husbands gather in the harvest, carrying handwoven vegetable harvest baskets.
Older married women whose children have left the nest may work outside the home. The same is true of widows who need an ongoing income stream. Amish do not believe in insurance, so the death of a spouse leaves a financial gap to fill. The community also helps widows in need.
But even younger married women have interests outside the home. It usually takes the form of social gatherings and hobbies. Amish people practice many traditional crafts handed down through the generations.
Amish Traditions: Passed Down From Father To Son, And Mother To Daughter
While the men are often involved with farming, animal husbandry, and carpentry, the women usually enjoy cooking, baking, quiltmaking, and basket weaving.
Their skill in these endeavors has brought them much acclaim from the outside community. This is particularly true of the Amish Baskets initiative. The beautifully crafted wicker storage baskets for shelves will make a wonderful heirloom gift for you to pass on to your daughters.
Such gorgeous handmade creations are great gifts. The rustic bread box will delight your friend who has a farmhouse kitchen. And your family pet won’t feel left out in his rattan dog basket. So get some Amish Baskets today and support the livelihood of an Amish family.
Can the Amish Get Divorced?
In some US states, adultery, desertion, or abandonment are plausible grounds for divorce. However, the Amish live by their own set of laws.
Bearing their marriage beliefs in mind, let’s examine the question of Amish divorce. The Amish don’t believe in divorce. It’s prohibited within their communities and goes against their core beliefs. Should an Amish couple separate because of marital strife, every attempt will be made to reunite the couple, if possible.
However, should the couple wish to proceed with a divorce due to irreconcilable differences, they’ll be forced to leave the community. Divorce is grounds for shunning, which is the Amish penalty for disobedience to the Ordnung.
Of course, this is never entered into lightly. The Church Elders will try to prevent this through counseling, and time will be allowed for a change of heart. If no reconciliation is possible, the couple will have to accept the consequences of violating this rule of Ordnung.
Cases of Adultery
The Ordnung doesn’t expressly prohibit adultery although it’s widely understood to be morally wrong. Repentant adulterers may, however, ask for forgiveness and return to their spouses.
If an Amish person gets divorced, they face another issue: they cannot become involved in a new relationship. Entering into a new relationship is also viewed as adultery and punished accordingly. So, how can you tell if an Amish woman is married? What about an Amish man?
You wouldn’t want to make assumptions about their marital status, but how will you know who’s married and who isn’t? Do Amish wear wedding rings as most westerners do?
No, believe it or not, they don’t wear wedding rings. They have to dress modestly and avoid all forms of vanity. That includes jewelry, even wedding bands. Don’t worry though, it’s really quite simple to know if an Amish person is married.
All Amish women wear traditional bonnets called kapps. Unmarried women wear black, and married women wear white. As for Amish men, they grow their beards out when they marry. Before that, they remain clean-shaven.
Separation of Married People
Amish divorce isn’t allowed, but that doesn’t mean couples are forced to live together in marital disharmony. Separations do sometimes occur within the Amish community, but they’re rare. Amish people take their vows seriously and don’t part ways unless the situation is hopeless.
The community elders will try to repair the broken bond through counseling and prayer with the individuals involved. If they decide not to live together, both parties are forbidden to remarry while the other spouse is alive.
Remarriage After the Death of a Spouse
The Amish may, however, remarry after the death of a spouse. Remarriage after a spouse’s death isn’t viewed as adultery, and there’s no penalty against it, unlike Amish divorce.
Widows and widowers may enter a courtship and remarry, and many Amish people do after losing a loved one. Because the Amish have large families, remarriage results in large extended families.
Not all Amish wish to remarry, but most Amish widowers do. It’s done discreetly out of respect for the memory of the deceased spouse.
What About People ‘Under the Bann’?
Breaking the rules of Ordnung is punishable by shunning, known as being ‘under the bann’. It entails the exclusion of the offender from community life. They aren’t allowed to socialize with other community members or even their own families, as before.
Shunning is a form of ‘tough love’ with its roots in biblical passages about wrongdoers, but what happens to the spouse of a shunned person? Shunning is reversed when the transgressor shows genuine repentance, so their spouse won’t be divorced from them because of this penalty.
Anyone married to a shunned person can continue to live with them. However, they will have to limit their contact and communication with them. Sexual intercourse is also not allowed in such a case.
Right from the courtship phase, the Amish are devoted to finding a life partner. And once married, they proudly cling to their steadfast beliefs about the marriage vow until ‘death we do part.
In a world where the bonds of marriage get treated with a cavalier attitude, the Amish community takes a stand, and this has ensured the continuity of their faith, their people, and also their culture.
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