30 Tips to Stay Married 30 Years Today: #4 Don’t Write Your Own Vows


Charlie Anderson:
 Do you like her?

Lt. Sam: Well, I just said I…

Charlie Anderson: No, no. You just said you loved her. There’s some difference between lovin’ and likin’. When I married Jennie’s mother, I-I didn’t love her – I liked her… I liked her a lot. I liked Martha for at least three years after we were married and then one day it just dawned on me I loved her. I still do… still do. You see, Sam, when you love a woman without likin’ her, the night can be long and cold, and contempt comes up with the sun.

Shenandoah 1965

One of the most common things I’ve seen in the days since marriage has been removed from churches have been people writing their own vows.

Many of these vows are flowery, beautiful words, remembering pleasant times together and looking forward to a bright future together and to be sure I don’t doubt that when those vows were being made the couples making them were convinced that this would be the case forever.

Ah the optimism of youth.

It is true that love is a grand thing and that the vow to a love is a part of marriage but what IS love?

Love is being true not just when things are going well, but when everything is falling down around you. Love is standing with someone not just when all the bills are paid and you are going on fine vacations, but when the credit card bills are overwhelming you and your car and house are being repossessed. Love isn’t just devotion during the days of youth and strength, but in the days of infirmity, of age of confusion. Love isn’t just honoring someone when they has position and rank and standing, but when they have no position, no standing and seemingly no prospect for that to change.

The lovely phrases crafted by couples enthralled with the idea of the perfect wedding neglect this reality, but these traditional vows do:

“I, ______, take you, ______, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

As does the slightly more modern version

“I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

When you are wedded to a culture that says if it feels good do it and if it doesn’t throw it away, such vows are a scary thing, it acknowledges the reality of what marriage is and is has always been meant to be.

If you want yours to last, take thee traditional vows and acknowledge what a marriage is, you can always say some flowery phrases at the reception before you guests after the real vows are in the bank.

Previously in 30 tips to stay married 30 years:

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