“I, person madly in love, take you, person madly in love, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."
Vows. Promises. Intentions. Hopes. Wishes. Pinky swears.
When you’re in love and swept up in the possibility of it all, drenched in the newness, the prospect of building an entire, beautiful life with this other person is wildly exciting. Individuals who swore they’d never get married decide they want the “whole enchilada!” Even stiff, traditional vows, while not actually used as much anymore, have a sweet ring to them. The mantel of “I’d do ANYTHING for you” is happily carried, along with a dreamy look.
In the beginning of a relationship, a couple naturally looks for their “similarities.” They happily make a mental note of all the things they have in common and more easily accept the differences, actually seeing them as strengths that will balance them out.
Fast forward several years, a thousand miniscule incidents and enough time spent with the blinders off dealing with “real life” and most couples feel smacked hard up against the head, their mouths left gapping wide open, staring at the stranger that lives under the same roof.
Here’s the deal, though. This is not a blog post on the “downside” of marriage, a reminder that the odds of one ending in divorce are awfully high or even a list of “The 10 Top Ways to keep your sex life HOT!” (Wouldn’t that be nice?) For God’s sake, my only son is getting married this year and I’d do just about anything to ensure that they not only stay together, but live out their coupledom “happily” and “ever after!” I’ll be their biggest cheerleader.
No. I simply want to share something after 20 years as a Relationship Coach and much wading through the muck on my own part in an attempt to keep a marriage going at all costs.
Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is hang on to those vows as if they were carved in stone, allowing them to keep you anchored to something unhealthy, toxic, stifling or that is slowly sucking the life out of you on a daily basis.
It’s a given that when you choose to marry and share with each other the intention to not consider divorce and do “whatever it takes” to keep the union together, that you should focus on doing just that - working your ass off to be present, own your stuff, work as a “team”, cultivate forgiveness and keep asking yourself things like, “Is this in the best interest of the relationship?” And yes, even when both of you are doing those things, you might find yourself thrown to the ground at times, licking the pavement, completely overwhelmed or angry as hell and lay there a little longer than normal, considering what it would be like to just say “Enough. I’m done. ”
Even then, get up, dust yourself off, and stay put. But if you stay put, like many of my clients do, simply repeating the mantra “I want to be the kind of person who honors my wedding vows”, then you’re asking for trouble and will end up, more than likely, in a miserable, resentment filled, dying union where your connection has become based on being “roommates” and too much time is spent considering whether you and your partner are “falling out of love.”
In my book, “This Nightmare Called Marriage – Finding Your Way Back to the Dream!”, I stress that there are two key principles any long term, committed relationship must be based on for it to survive and flourish:
- A certain level of emotional maturity must be met before taking on the big challenge of a committed relationship.
- The understanding that a committed relationship is for the purpose of advancing an individual’s personal and spiritual growth and that every single day-to-day joy and challenge will bring you up against that edge!
If there has not been an agreement that the relationship will be based on continued self- reflection, personal growth and the willingness to address everything coming up between the couple as an opportunity to understand and heal something, then sooner or later, the relationship will begin to nose-dive. Hanging on to vows or promises won’t do anything to stop the painful crash that’s coming.
Clinging to your vows for dear life? They aren’t going to help you if:
- Your spouse has become verbally abusive
- You’re afraid to address any issues that need to be cleared up out of fear of rocking the boat
- That alcohol problem is being refused to be addressed or dealt with
- The constant flirting and emotional connections with others won’t be acknowledged or stopped
- Constant, controlling behavior dictates every decision in your relationship
- Your partner refuses to show kindness, affection, caring and love
Want to hold fast to something that will actually make a difference in your relationship and open the door to the two of you creating something amazing? Take the two principles I gave you and then surround them with this:
SELF-RESPECT ,TRUST AND LOVE
Let those promises, vows and “pinky swears” go and focus on what not only matters, but can make a powerful difference in a hurting marriage - whether you are loving yourself enough to treat yourself with respect, to trust yourself that you can become the man/woman you really want to be and to reflect real love to your partner and back to yourself on a daily basis.
Mature love requires a commitment to a life time of continued growth, the ability to take 100 % responsibility for yourself and how you’re showing up, the willingness to push through blocks and tough issues and enough self- love to be able to steep in it yourself and extend it out to your Beloved.
This is what keeps two sets of feet on a journey of Love.
May it be so.