Updated: Apr 24, 2020
I have one regret from my wedding day. No, it wasn't that my would-be husband forgot to say "I do" at the alter, or that one of the groomsmen almost fainted during the ceremony, or even that my new husband and I never got to eat our dinner because someone threw it away before we could eat it.
See, those are all memories that I now cherish.
No, if I was to have one regret from that day it would be that when I looked into the adoring eyes of my betrothed and shared my wedding vows, I did nothing less but totally lie.
Granted, I didn't realize I was lying at the time. Understand that when I told him I would always love him, I had never experienced the hardships of a long-term relationship. When I said I said I would always support him, I didn't realize just how many times my opinion would differ than his and how many occasions I would think he was wrong and I was right. When I told him I would respect him forever, I didn't realize that sometimes my response time would be slow and I would respond rudely. I promised that no matter how much he changed, I would love him as I did that day...
But I had no idea how much the both of us would change over the years. I promised I would be there for him no matter the circumstances, yet I had no foresight on my selfishness. I promised his happiness would always be my priority, but I had no idea how exhausting that would be.
Now, over eight years later, I see that I have broken almost every one of my vows. Instead of making lofty, unattainable promises, I wish I would have made vows that were not meant to be broken. Vows in which I declared my intentions, but vowed what I would do if/when my intentions weren't met.
Because even though my "love" for my husband has waxed and waned over the years—that is if I'm using "love" as synonymous with "affection", "enjoyment", "pleasure", or "warm and fuzzy feelings"—my devotion and loyalty to my husband hasn't changed. Even though I haven't always supported my husband in his hopes and dreams, I have learned so much about the strength and joy that comes in self-sacrifice. Even though I haven't always respected my husband, I have been on the other end of his grace and forgiveness and seen in my husband one of the most generous hearts I have ever encountered.
Yes, he's changed and it's been hard to deal with the whiplash over the years. But no matter how much he's changed, I've more so. And knowing that he's faithfully stayed by my side no matter what ups and downs I've pulled him through makes me feel safe and known.
Our circumstances have stacked the cards against us, and we have failed each other miserably... yet we stayed together. And that's what I wish I would have vowed. That no matter how many of my good intentions fell short and no matter how many of his marital goals were not met, we would go nowhere without the other.
1) State Your Best Intensions
In the first part of your vows declare what you want to do in your marriage. Best case scenario, what kind of spouse do you want to be? What do you want to do and who do you want to be? Think big and dream deep. Set the love bar high! Sometimes it helps to address how you and your spouse-to-be give/receive love (touch, time spent, acts of service, words of encouragement and gift giving).
2) What Will You Do When You Fall Short?
In the second part of your vows, throw down a truth bomb: You're going to mess up. All of your best intentions will not be met... and that's ok. That's not what marriage is about. Marriage is sticking together no matter what. So, after you botch your goals, what are you going to do about it? These are your vows. When you're not good at communicating, what will you do about it? When you lash out in anger, what are you going to do? When you feel like walking away, what will you do instead? Is divorce or infidelity ever an option? What will you do when you're tempted otherwise?
3) What Will You Do When Your Partner Falls Short?
The third part of your vows are almost the most important part. Because as much as you're going to screw up, so will your partner. As much as you're going to hurt them, they're going to hurt you. So what will you do when they fail your expectations, when they're unsupportive, when they respond in anger, when they don't communicate well? Is divorce or infidelity ever an option? What will you do when divorce or infidelity are easier than staying faithful to your marital promises? Placing forgiveness, grace, and hope in your vows is essential because...
...This is marriage. It's you—a not-perfect human—joining your heart, mind, body with someone else who is not perfect and deciding to do life together no matter what. So make promises that are honest and open and leave room for growth and mistakes.
And if you want more one on one help with your vows, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would LOVE to help you write vows that you will cherish for the rest of your life.