G.K. Chesterton refers to the “superstition” of divorce: the notion that vows suddenly mean something in a second marriage when they evidently did not mean anything in a first marriage.
I would make a distinct difference between those who’ve left a marriage for a ‘good’ reason (for the partner’s serial adultery, violence etc). If someone had stood in a ceremony, whether religious or secular, and made the vow to love another to death part them it would be considered appropriate that there wasn’t a marital contract if the other hadn’t meant to keep their vow of fidelity, or to love if they were violent.
However, pre no fault divorce, this distinction was made by all of society. We had ‘abandoned women’, and widows. A woman who had had regular bruises would have been dealt with sympathy not vilification.
So women or men who had left marriages for a good reason did and do not make a mockery of the vows they took a second time; they meant them then, they evidently mean them now. But making these vows a second or even third time does make a mockery of them, and by extension all vows.
The marriage vow is the first vow we ever experience. We experience it as a child observing our parents. Even when a marriage is difficult the continued commitment to it through the trials of life is subconsciously witnessed by the children born from the marriage.
Even more importantly the rejection of these vows is witnessed consciously and painfully by children. They may not have been there at the wedding but when the vow is broken they are aware that the foundation of their existence has been rocked. I’ve said before that easy treatment of marriage vows can only leave a child doubting their relationship with their parents; when a child is made of each of them and they reject each other they in essence reject the child.
Divorce teaches them that when circumstances or even just your feelings change your promises can too. So all vows are tainted.