Humans. We love to set goals. To achieve things. Make vows and promises to ourselves and to others.
We do it daily. “Today, I am going to get _____ accomplished!”
We make promises on little things — “I promise to not eat all the fries before we get home… this time” — and bigger things — “I promise to never drink that much… again.”
Sometimes, these declarations are simple thoughts or phrases spoken out loud.
Other times, it’s a much more elaborate display of public declaration, like marriage vows.
But so very often, we don’t actually achieve that which we “vow” to accomplish. We make declarations almost seemingly only to break them. What gives?
You likely understand what a “vow” is but how often have you thought about why you make one?
There’s something you need to know about your wedding vows in order to keep a marriage happy.
Even though in the context of marriage vows it appears on the surface we are making vows to another person, I believe that the more powerful aspect of that declaration is made to the weakest parts of ourselves — those parts that will want to “quit” at the first sign of trouble or discomfort.
But when quitting is an option, you’ll hardly ever stick with anything that’s hard. I mean, who wouldn’t pick not running at 5:00 AM over running at 5:00 AM?
The only way an imperfect mind can be encouraged to achieve or stay when challenges arise is by removing the other options. Our minds are wired to protect us from hard things, from pain.
But so very often our dreams lie just on the other side of pain and difficulty.
You have to go deep to where the gold is buried, but sometimes the digging can get a little rough. You might even end up with a few chips in your shovel along the way.
Here’s the main point: If whatever it is that you’re vowing to do was easy, everybody would just do it.
There would be no need for the elaborate public display nor the solemn vows spoken aloud for all to hear.
The reason we created vows in the first place is that we understand we’re about to head into some challenging waters.
We’re setting our resolve ahead of those known and unknown obstacles.
Nobody has ever said, “I vow to finish this piece of delicious dessert that’s been set in front of me. I swear to the heavens and anyone else listening that I will not leave one morsel on my plate!”
Although doing so may elicit some entertaining glances from your server and table mates should you choose to give it a try.
When “quitting” exists as a possibility, most people will choose it.
After all, it’s generally much easier than facing the truth of our current reality, especially if we had some part to play in creating that reality.
Please don’t misinterpret the message I am trying to share with you. No amount of vows, promises, or declarations should trap a person in an unhealthy situation forever.
Each person has to decide continually what they are and are not willing to allow in their own lives.
However, I do believe that very often, we “quit” before we’ve walked through the refining fire of life’s challenges.
Those valuable lessons can often only be learned through wrestling with the difficulties presented to us by direct experience.
When we choose the path of least resistance, we’re then often destined to repeat our mistakes again (and sometimes again) as life continues to serve us countless opportunities to grow and change.
Sometimes, I think we almost treat marriage vows as if they’re the legal disclaimer that we all agree to on any website but never actually read or pay much attention to.
“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded… blah, blah, yeah where do I click ‘agree’ so we can get to the good parts?”
Perhaps, instead, we should move more towards a truly honest declaration of what we are actually committing to?
I wonder what an updated version of marriage vows might sound like if they were a true reflection of the commitment (or lack thereof) between two people today?
As a quick reminder, in case it’s been a while since you’ve attended a traditional wedding, most marriage vows go something like this: “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 in health, until death do us part.”
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Perhaps a more modern version that is a more honest reflection would go a little something like this, “I, ______, like you, _______, a lot. I would like us to be lawful partners (mainly for tax purposes), to be with and to have an intimate relationship when times are good, but not so much when times go bad, especially if you are or will become rich, but probably not if you end up being poor, I hope you stay healthy but I’m not your bed nurse, until divorce we do part.”
I know that’s a bit of a cynical take, and partially just for some humor, but I think if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not as far off as it may initially read.
So here’s my encouragement to you.
Before you make any more vows or commitments to yourself or anyone else, and especially before considering something as important as marriage vows, please take a moment to pause and really consider if you truly believe and are invested in what you’re about to commit yourself to.
When I look at the couples with happy and lasting marriages, it appears they seem to understand the true weight of the vows they made.
Within those commitments is an agreement to both the other person, but perhaps more importantly, to themselves.
Their first reaction to a given relationship issue is to look in the mirror, to understand the role they have played in creating their current reality.
From this place, and often only from this place, can true connection and “a partnership of equals” be formed on top of the foundation of personal responsibility and accountability — whether you are on Day One of your commitment or Day 10,000.
Troy Madsen is a certified Psychedelic Integration Professional who’s passionate about supporting individuals along their personal healing journey. Learn more about Troy and his work on his website.