I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms.
I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love.
You will always know the deepest part of my soul.
No matter what challenges may come, we will always find our way back to each other.
-from the movie, The Vow
I had the privilege of attending dozens of weddings in my early twenties. Many were friends, but most were by way of working for an entertainment company that provided bands, DJs, sound reinforcement and more.
During those years I heard several iterations of vows. Some traditional, some personally written, and others a combination of both. I grew to appreciate the clarity and precise promises made in traditional vows, which is what my wife and I chose for our wedding.
Regardless of the exact words, the underlying message of all wedding vows is that we love each other and will stay together no matter what happens.
When we’re starry-eyed staring at our spouse-to-be the vows are gushy and lovey-dovey, and I wonder if we realize what we are saying in the moment; what we are promising.
In all honesty, I remember more about the pictures we took and the acapella group that entertained our guests than I do the ceremony and what we said to each other. But through the miracle of technology I’ve saved our vows in a file and been able to revisit them whenever I need.
Compared to our incredible wedding day, those words have grown to be more important to me the further we get in this journey.
Years Later You Actually Need Your Vows
It’s funny how you don’t really need your vows when you’re first married. The “Honeymoon Stage” doesn’t require much beyond your presence. Just being together brings joy, and there often isn’t much work involved in having a relationship because most days are butterflies and rainbows.
Promises you made to one another on your wedding day aren’t really being challenged.
But then things escalate as you live together a bit longer. It goes from minor fights over which end to squeeze the toothpaste, to whose family you should live closer to, to arguing over why there isn’t enough money in the bank to pay the bills.
Suddenly “for better or worse” just got real.
When things get really difficult and you don’t know if you want to stay anymore, remembering those vows can be a powerful thing.
You made a vow, a promise with power, to someone in front of God and all your friends and family. You said specific words to someone that you never said to anyone else.
There is power in the exclusivity of those words. Tap into that power when you feel your selfishness telling you “you deserve better than this.”
After a couple’s years of marriage, you are probably have some battles scars you didn’t have on day one.
Vows are a weapon we get to use in our fight to stay married. Remember what you promised and why you promised it.
Years Later You’ve Actually Lived Your Vows
My wife and I have yelled, screamed, cursed, pushed, threatened, walked out on, and insulted each other more than I care to admit. A lot of life happens in 10+ years.
We’ve had money, we’ve lost money, we’ve been in great shape and health, and we’ve been in hospitals. We’ve loved our jobs, hated our jobs, love being parents, hated being parents, served each other, and selfishly imposed our wants on each other.
In our marriage we have seen the amazing, the good, the bad, and the ugly in each other. We’re still here and still in love.
The words, “For richer for poorer, in sickness or health,” mean more to me now than our wedding day because I’ve done it. I understand at an experiential level what those words I said required of me as a man.
Promising to stay together when things get hard is easy if one of your biggest fights so far was over how emotionally shell-shocked you were from watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (yes, that was a real fight when we were dating…).
But choosing to stay together and work through a fight after you leave on Christmas Eve, walk 3 miles to the nearest hotel and don’t come home until after Christmas (yes… I did that…) is putting those words into action.
Now the vows have value. They cost something in order to be kept.
Every time you encounter a difficult stretch in your marriage and you choose to stay put and work through it, and get to the other side of it, you add to the wealth of your wedding vows.
You paid a price by entering into a battle, enduring the uncomfortable nature of being vulnerable and talking through things, emerging victorious.
Your scars remind you that you’ve grown, you have a new capacity for love and understanding, and you are a man of your word. You vowed to stay together “for better or worse” and now you’ve proved it.
This value added to our words helps us keep proving it over and over.
If you don’t remember exactly what you said on your wedding day, I challenge you to revisit those words. Pull out the pieces of paper or open the digital file that has your vows. Watch your wedding video again. Or maybe you need to email the officiant of your wedding to see if they kept a record of that day.
Whatever it is, recall the promise you made on your wedding day. Let its power be evident now years later.