Let’s be honest. Most of us are more likely to upgrade the operating system on our computer than to revise our marriage vows.
As I sat writing my vows on the eve of my wedding (okay, fine, now you know that I’m a big-time procrastinator) I was no better prepared to face the rigors of marriage than I was to pilot a jumbo jet. And, no surprise, like most soon-to-be newlyweds, the promises I made were idealistic and romantic— based on what I imagined it would take to create a marriage that lasts.
Not that there was anything wrong with my vow to be loyal and honest or my promise to stand by my husband through life’s ups and downs. But in order to follow through with those commitments, it became clear, over time, that I needed a new set of promises that went beyond my lofty aspirations and vows of undying love. I needed vows that would address what marriage actually required.
Yes, marriage vows are meant to be idyllic and inspiring, to remind us that true love still exists, to bring an entire room to tears. Our wedding day promises are about love and hope and how we’ll come from our best, not about housecleaning or self-development or what to do when we feel like murdering each other. Imagine the nervous laughter (or horror) if someone vowed to only hate her husband for short periods of time?
None of us can possibly know at the outset what our marriage will bring or what tools we will need. Marriage has challenged almost every assumption I had about myself and my husband. It has asked me to stretch and to grow beyond what I thought possible; to be bigger and more resilient and exponentially more flexible. It has presented challenges that seemed insurmountable and then demanded that I surmount them.
Why not think of our original vows as a first draft that we will eventually replace with a set of promises that reflect a deeper, broader, and more realistic understanding of what marriage calls us to do?
Knowing what I now know about the challenges of marriage and what I aspire to as a spouse, here are the vows I would make:
1. I promise to notice and acknowledge the positive things that you do, rather than get hung up on the negatives.
2. I promise to accept that we are different— that we will see the world differently and over the course of our marriage we will want different things. Though I don’t expect this to be easy, I will strive to be open-minded and loving about the way that you see things. Failing that, I will do my best to be tolerant.
3. I promise to do more than my fair share when necessary and to not grouse about it. Keeping score is about fear and stinginess, not about love.
4. I promise to release my end of the rope when we’re in a tug of war, knowing that there’s a cost to my winning when it means that you lose.
5. I promise to not ask you to change in ways that I’m unwilling to change.
6. I promise to not take your annoying behaviors personally, even though I really, really wish you would wash out the sponge.
7. I promise to keep in mind that your basic intention is to be a loving and decent husband, even when you’re not doing so.
8. I promise to drop my expectations of your becoming the man I want you to be as opposed to the man you are.
9. I promise to focus a lot more on my shortcomings and a lot less on yours.
10. I promise to forgive both of us for having not known from the start how to be the kind and generous partners we’ve finally become.
Now that you’ve read my vows, tell me, how would you update yours?
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I must confess to never having thought to do such a thing, but it’s a wonderful idea. I would add, “I promise not to make you responsible for my emotions, nor shall I permit myself to be made responsible for yours.”
Comes from an interesting marriage experience. Another winner of a post, Winifred.
I thought of this post on our anniversary as we talked about what we’d learned. I laughed at how carefree (read naive) my vows were when my real promises turned out to be things I had never articulated.
So true, though. Going from rose coloured glasses to wisdom and a more genuine love.
I like the thought of updating our vows, however, I see that we already do just about everything on your update list. I have a great man, so I try to return the respect.
Seems that the more kind and generous we are the more it I inspires the same in our partner. No guarantee, but at least we increase the odds.
Thanks for coming by.
“I promise to tell you why I’m acting that way.”
Yes, as opposed to mind reading or guessing!
Brava, amiga! Another great blog!!
Wonderful. I wish I had put number 2 in my vows.
Tough one, dealing with differences.
Life gets better when we can embrace difference. Even having some tolerance is a good start.
I had no idea, as a newlywed, how important this would be!
One f the most important, it’s what destroyed my second marriage. He expected me to believe and behave how he thought I should. This is not rare.
I promise to never forget how overjoyed I was when I fell in love with you so I can bring this extraordinary emotion back whenever I am annoyed at you.
It really helps to remember that the annoying person is someone you also love.
Honestly, it works. Whenever my husband annoys me or I disagree with him, I walk a few steps away, close my eyes and I see him as he was (years ago!) and it’s often enough to calm me and put me back on track.
Very good and useful read. Vicki
These are just fantastic.Thank you for posting. There are some ideas that overlap with mine but yours are much more eloquent.
Wow. Thank you!