Marriage is described in many ways; a sacred vow, a lifelong commitment, a grand romantic spectacle, the joining together of two souls. On the wedding day the vows are recited breathlessly in crisp tuxedos and gauzy white wedding gowns. Couples promise to:
have and to hold from this day forward,
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish,
’til death do us part
It’s all very romantic.
When people fall in love with each other, they fall in love with their respective best qualities. Anyone could love the most wonderful parts of a person, but marriage requires accepting the faults in each other and then figuring out how to work around them while focusing on positive traits. You’re always going to love your partner’s best qualities but it’s the other stuff that can tarnish the love. Marriage is joint tax returns with someone who is less than financially adept, compromise when it’s the last thing you want to do, inevitable miscommunications, the highs and lows of shared parenting and a boatload of responsibility that your single self couldn’t have begun to imagine. Is there anything, anywhere in the poetry of wedding vows that is practical to help guide us on days that are decidedly lacking in romance? Sure, you are still together through both ‘better and worse,’ but how much cherishing of your partner are you doing with a fever and a plumbing disaster and a sleep deprived toddler?
Perhaps a new, more practical approach to wedding vows is needed, vows that actually give us a starting place from which to launch into if not connubial bliss, then a fulfilling and growing partnership of equals. Here are a few of my ideas for more realistic and helpful vows:
I promise to believe in you, the person you will grow to be and the couple we will grow to be together.
I think it’s very important to note that there is no such thing as a stable marriage. There can be happy marriages, but not stable ones. This is because, in all areas of our life, we are either growing forward or falling backward. This is the law of life, there is no constant, only change and movement.
I promise to help shoulder our challenges, there is nothing we can’t overcome if we stand together.
Michael and I have been married for 17 years and our marriage is stronger today than I could ever have imagined it could be because we decided together that NOTHING is greater than our love for each other. Nothing. Not an argument, not being right. No matter what, our commitment to each other comes first.
I promise to be a true and loyal friend. I won’t hold things against you in the heat of an argument. I will always cherish what you share with me as a friend when you are vulnerable and speak from your heart.
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“When two people achieve a level of bond of friendship or love so complete that each puts the well-being of the other above his, the Creator will set aside all of his other concerns in relation to these people in order to draw down Light upon them.” – Arvei Nachal
I promise to be your co-pilot in adventure and your accomplice in mischief.
A basic fact is that friends have fun together. Often couples are so mired in their routines and being proper, responsible “grown-ups” that they forget how to have fun or to try new things. They begin to resent day to day responsibilities and reminisce about the fun times they had when they were single. The courtship shouldn’t stop once you get married, or have kids. Travel the world together and explore new things, share interesting ideas and keep discovering life because that journey never ends.
I promise to be your greatest fan and your toughest adversary, while always keeping our love and happiness as my highest priority.
The purpose of relationships is more complex than just personal growth or growing together as a couple, it is also to bring great Light to this world. When there is discord in a relationship between husband and wife, that reverberates throughout the universe and creates animosity and hatred in other places. We have a great responsibility not just to grow, but to realize that the health of our relationship influences not just each other, but the world. To be with somebody who both pushes you to grow and who is open for you to push them to grow is the greatest blessing in the world.
I promise to show you every day how lucky I am to have you.
When people start dating they tend to de-emphasize the negative qualities they see, while overemphasizing the positive. As time goes by we tend to see only the negative. In order to avoid this, we should recognize this inclination and choose to focus on the good. This enables us to appreciate our spouse and appreciation is what keeps love alive. Every day we should show appreciation for what and who matters in our lives. It is crucial to our relationships that we feel and stay connected, because the minute we lose our appreciation, the harder it is to find our way back to intimacy.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Write your own wedding vows that reflect what is most important to you in your relationship (or future relationship). Couples, take time together and surprise your partner with your handwritten vows.
What is a True Teacher? Remembering Rav Berg
October 6, 2022
Returning to Teshuvah
September 15, 2022
Reflections on Tu B’Av and Our Silver Anniversary
August 11, 2022