I have never thought about the wedding vows and their meaning. I think that pastors, at least almost 20 years ago in my small town, weren’t doing such a great job of premarital counseling. I remember the pastor who married us asking if we were both believers, how we felt about premarital sex, and how we felt about divorce. He didn’t go over what we were vowing to do, or what any of the vows meant.
Matthew and I have been together for over 20 years and we had never sat down to analyze those promises, those vows that we made to each other. We promised this for our lives, till death. We aren’t going to make it to death without putting in the effort to continue to love one another and everything about each other. We have to continue to love even the changes.
I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold , for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
Let me break it down. I take you. Have you ever thought about what it means to take someone else? It’s not just marrying a person, taking them into your life, it’s an acceptance of everything that they are, everything that they will become, everything they bring with them. If you can’t do that, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT marry them. If you are already married and have found that you cannot accept those things, you have to find a way to compromise and agree. You are accepting their family traditions, rules, the way they were raised to communicate, the way you were taught to forgive, the things you were taught about sex, the way they have fun, the way that conflict is solved, the way you were taught to handle money. You also accept their love language, their religion, and how they feel about being separated from their loved ones. All of these things play a huge part into how you will function in your relationship. It really takes a blending. I can’t describe the feeling of learning new things about a person you have been married to for almost 20 years. It was the most beneficial exercise.
Here is the how:
Make a list of your family traditions that you had as a child. How you celebrated special events and holidays. Dinner; did you eat at the table or around the t.v., birthdays and so on. Then list what communication was like in your family. Did everyone know what was going on within the family? Was there avoidance or open talking? List how your family communicated about problems. Now write down the ideas you have about forgiveness. Were you forgiven and the event forgotten or was it a constant throwing back of what happened? Sex: was it taboo or discussed? Did your parents talk about what to expect? Now list how your family had fun. Did you go camping, vacations, game nights? List how conflict between your parents was resolved. Did they fight, scream, and yell? Was their physical violence, or verbal abuse? Money; who was in charge, what were feelings about debt? What about love? Was love freely doled out, did you know you were loved, were their frequent “I love yous” said? Religion, were you raised in the church or was religion absent in your home? Finally list if their were frequent separations. If one of your parents left home for a night was it a normal, no worries event, or was something wrong? Did one of your parents work take them away frequently and was their conflict because of it.
When you write these things out look at the lists together. Are there rules that you have not brought into the relationship? Are there rules that you unintentionally or intentionally brought into the relationship?
In our busy lives we often don’t communicate with our spouse the way we should. To effectively communicate you need full attention from both parties and preferably you need a lot of eye contact. A technique that was taught was knee to knee and eye to eye.
What does it mean to have and to hold? Well, it’s not to hug them and kiss them. I guess that may be part of it, but the main meaning is that we support each other. Hold each other up, learn to give each other the love and care that we each need to thrive, not just survive.
We had a session on better and worse also. The better, the healthy, the richer. Those are always easy. Or are they? When we are better, healthy, and have plenty of money we tend to take things for granted. There is no motivation for the care that we take when someone is at their worst, in sick, or poor. In a marriage you will experience all of them. What determines how you care for someone in the worse? I believe it’s about how you deal with each other in the better. If you take them time to pour into each other during the better, then you can focus in on caring in the worse. It really all comes down to focusing on the better traits when their worse traits come out. Think about the personality traits that your spouse has. Think about whether they are an extrovert or introvert. Think about yourself, what are you? Each personality has two sides. During the better we focus on those things in their personality that we like. During the worse, we tend to focus on the negative traits. We need to learn to always focus on the good, especially during the worse!
If you have never figured out your language of love or your spouse’s, I suggest the books by Gary Chapman or his website. Learning these love languages will help you to love your spouse in their language. You should have a primary and secondary language. Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift giving, and physical touch. Learn what they are, and learn to speak their language of love. Dr. Chapman also talks about the languages of Apology. Who knew? But there are five of those also. If you apologize in your language your spouse may not see it as an apology. Learn to speak to them.
Another thing that we learned is from the Gottman Institute. There are 5 Magic Hours that help marriages thrive, this 5 hours is spent over a one week period. Partings, reunions, admiration/appreciation, affection, and weekly dates. 2 minutes spent on saying goodbye. If you have 5 partings each week you have filled 10 minutes. Since there are 7 days in a week, you really are going to spend more time doing these things. 20 minutes should be spent on reunions, at the end of the week you will have spent an hour and 40 minutes together, longer if your spouse is gone for extended periods over the weekend also. There should be 20 minutes spent together when you reunite. This is usually after full day partings, but it should be time spent without interruption. This will totally be dependent on the season of life you are in, much easier now that my children are older. Admiration and affection. In my humble opinion, you can never have too much of this. but the institute says 5 minutes each day. Thank you, you look great…you get the idea. Affection; kissing, hugging, holding, touch. Skin to skin contact. 5 minutes each day. This doesn’t include sex. This is the stuff that will make you want to have sex or at least should, seduction. The last part of this magical 5 hours is a weekly date, 2 hours once a week. Spending this time together each week gives you a time of complete focus on each other. It helps you to be more aware of each other.
Matthew and I each gave a rating for our marriage when we first arrived. We were both in the 7/8 range out of 10. I think this was a bit shocking to both of us. However, we know the hit our marriage has taken since coming under the heat of a demanding job and a fast paced city. The exercises that we went through this weekend made us realize that our main issue was communication. It was indirectness, passive aggression, and avoidance. These aren’t things that we want to pass down to our kids and we are determined to not allow this city or job to ruin what God has joined together.
In the end we decided to be friends again and to continue down this road. We had the opportunity to repeat our vows with complete new understanding and appreciation for what we were saying, it was a moment frozen in time.
This weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. God had a plan for us to be blessed, and to be a blessing to others.
Family Life has a marriage section that is always so helpful and on the heals of this weekend, this is what they shared today: What Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew