Friday, February 26, 2016

What My Wedding Vows Should Have Been...

We wrote our own vows.  It is a very modern thing to do... except now, maybe the new hipster thing is to do the old thing... I don't know anymore. I quit trying to be cool quite a while ago!  I am 32, and I have been married for almost 7 years.  Depending on your view and/or experience of marriage, you may see that as a short time or a long time.  But one of the things I have learned about marriage, is that it really shouldn't be measured in time - it should be measured by experiences.  I don't think our marriage was ever a challenge until we had a second child, which was about 2 years ago.  For us that was the straw that broke the camel's back... except, we are now still happily married, so I guess it just dislocated its hip or something... okay, that's a bad illustration, maybe.

So for those who think 5 years is too short of a time to feel disconnected from a spouse to the point where you ALMOST don't care anymore... I can say you are wrong.  For those who are wondering why it took us so long to get to that point, I want to say that I am truly sorry it happened earlier for you.  I am learning it is different for everyone when the honeymoon stage ends, but I have also learned that God can repair anything... ANYTHING.  And most of the time, marriage "falls apart" because we stop doing the things we did in the beginning.  And once you begin to do those things you did in the beginning - be intentional, spend quality time together, TALK and LISTEN, show enthusiasm, respect, be loving...

There we go - off to be disillusioned!!!

We found ourselves a little over a year ago in that "just cohabitating and getting by" phase... We had been through a second birth, newborn months of sleepless nights, I had stopped working to stay home with the kids, he had taken on a second job, and we had moved.  I think we both took for granted that the other person would be alright if we just gave in to how tired we were.  So when we just wanted to veg out, we turned to TV, social networks, and our kids' entertainment.  Neither of us were unfaithful or dishonest or mean (well, okay, I was a little mean...) or anything like that.  We just slowly drifted into an existence of being fine with things not being fine.  I'm sure there are millions of married people who know exactly what I am trying to describe.  It is an easy trap to fall into.  One night we had a very serious discussion... a crossroads... and I remember saying, "I don't even feel married anymore, and it doesn't even bother me... but that scares me to death!"  So we decided to do what it takes to get out of that kind of "don't care" hole... you dig yourself out!  We took a class with other couples in our church called "Marriage on the Rock", and we relearned so many things we already knew.  We just hadn't cared enough to practice what we would have told anyone else to practice!  In the past year we have chiseled through a lot of things that we had allowed to build up between us.  It has been difficult, but it is a difficulty that has a greater gain than easy ever gave!  We no longer believe "that won't happen to us", because isolation, selfishness, and indifference can happen to ANYONE - whether they have kids or not, whether they have a lot of money or not, whether they had great role models in marriage or not... because in every marriage there are 2 people who have to make their marriage thrive to survive.  Anyone who tells you that their marriage has always been easy, they are either lying to you or they are lying to themselves.

But if this is the universal reality, why don't weddings reflect this truth that is inevitable... that you won't always be head over heels?!  I mean, I know that's why we make vows... if marriage was easy forever, then promises wouldn't be necessary.  But we are really setting ourselves up for failure, aren't we?!  We promise to ALWAYS cherish, ALWAYS care, to ALWAYS love and respect.  I am so glad we promise these things at the beginning of a marriage, because being able to rely on one another and trust each other is so vital to keep that marriage alive!

But what about promising to say "I'm sorry"?  What about committing to "supporting you, even when you fail"?  What about vowing to forgive?  "To stay even if we have the same argument for the next 57 years"?! "To pursue you, even though I have already won you"?!

I mean, anyone who has been married for a few years or through a few trials of life can tell you that we marry flawed people... that's the only kind of people to marry!  So, that means they have married a flawed person too - yourself! Myself!

If I had known that I would be the kind of wife that hates to apologize, easily justifies using disrespectful tones often, to be defensive, to be easily embarrassed by failure... believe me, I would have written vows that included promises about these things.  I guess I knew these things about myself from how I had behaved in other relationships with friends and family, but I was so in love in the beginning that I really believed our love would eradicate all those tendencies within myself... WHAT A JOKE!

We had our first all-out fight within an hour of returning from our honeymoon.  My husband said he didn't want us to go to a family thing, that I really wanted to go to.  We fought, I mean FOUGHT!  I cried, I felt things toward my husband I had never felt before.  My tone was disrespectful, my attitude was mean and selfish... and thankfully I was enough of a newlywed that I paid attention to his logic early enough to see that he was actually thinking about me, trying to help me.  I said I was sorry for being a baby and wanting my way.  He said he was sorry for... who knows... he is much nicer than me, and often apologizes for how he behaved, when it is really my fault.  The family thing was 2 1/2 hours away from home, we had literally just arrived home from being gone for a week, and we both had work in a day and a half... he was right - the last thing we needed to do was spend a full day on the road to go to a family thing when we had a week's worth of dirty laundry in our suitcases and a living room full of gifts we hadn't opened, a refrigerator full of leftover reception food, and planning for the work week ahead.  I married a smart man who is strong enough to handle me... and yes, sometimes I need to be told that I am being stubborn and unwise.

I am also a teacher by nature - it is in my blood!  I hate to see others fail, and I have this innate need within myself to help them succeed.  I can't help it!  And there have been a few moments in our marriage where I thought my husband was making a bad choice.  And sometimes not "bad" but just not "best".  I have learned that my counsel, while welcomed and listened to, he and I just don't always agree.  There have been a few times in our lives where I feel like we are taking steps backward from our goals... and since I am a planner, I always have the next 5 steps for going forward mapped out.  I am a control-freak, and it has taken several of these "regression" points in our marriage for me to see that I am often concerned with how things look to other people.  I have learned that it matters to me that others know my husband's failures are not mine.  That I did not support that unwise decision he made... that others might think less of me if they think less of him.  When Kyle and I have a future goal, and he decides to "wait it out" or "let's just see"... it drives me crazy, and I call this failing.  I'm learning that sometimes it is much wiser than bulldozing ahead to make things happen.  He is learning that sometimes, things have to be made to happen.

That is what marriage is - learning and using each other's strengths (and what sometimes appears as weaknesses) to our family's benefit, for everyone's benefit.

I have learned that it is impossible to consider myself and my husband "one flesh" when he is being his wonderful self, and then "his decisions aren't mine" when he makes a mistake... I can't have it both ways.  That is a lie that ruins marriage.  We must share and celebrate all victories while also sharing and learning from each other's defeat together, and that is what makes a marriage stronger.

My husband is preaching his first wedding ceremony tomorrow for a dear couple that graduated from our college ministry.  And while he has been studying, writing, practicing, and even asking me for my input, it really got me thinking about all of this... Why say vows if they do not assume and provide for the inevitable - we are going to mess up, hurt each other, and fail.  We need to promise that we will be faithful, love, respect, and cherish each other - yes!  These are essential, vital elements of marriage!  But we must also promise to say we are sorry when we screw it all up, even if for the first or the millionth time, and to forgive the other when they have failed.  We also need to promise to do whatever it takes to reconcile and dig yourself out of the "don't care" hole, if and when we come to that place... for as long as we both shall live!

So for those who have yet to say your vows - be sure to allow a section on how you promise to apologize and reconcile with your spouse when your sinfulness and flawed humanness starts to show.  And for those who already said your vows... maybe months or decades ago... decide today, just like I have to every day (and still should even when I don't feel like it), that we will say we are sorry to the person who should mean the most to us.  That we should love them no matter their weaknesses, fears, and inadequacies.  They are just people after all.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

No comments:

Post a Comment