Do either of these sound familiar…
“I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), 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.”
“Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”
Yep, these are wedding vows. Promises made for a permanent relationship and yet all too often these wedding vows are becoming temporary in our society.
So much of this has to do with shifting the idea of a covenant to become more along the lines of a contract.
In a covenant, both parties agree to uphold the terms of the agreement, REGARDLESS of the actions of the other.
In a contract, if one of the parties doesn’t uphold their end, then the other party doesn’t have to either.
The keepers of a contract keep score.
The keepers of a covenant keep the peace.
This means that even if the other side has wronged you, let you down, hurt you intentionally or even made life a living hell, you learn to forgive and move on because you put your name on the line.
You always have a choice, however. You can choose to treat your marriage like a contract, or you can keep refreshing it to give it the covenant importance it was DESIGNED to carry.
Saying it and reading it are easy. Doing it is the tough part. Here are four ways to constantly make sure your wedding vows are living and active.
Forget the Score
Someone once said that withholding forgiveness from someone is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die!
It always feels counterintuitive and yet the only person you hurt when you don’t forgive, is yourself.
You’re the one who has to bear the weight of carrying around the bag full of “wrongs” your partner has done to you.
Let it go! You’re still breathing, which means there is a chance to refresh things and get back to the good.
None of us gets into marriage wanting it to end in the dreaded “D” word.
So why let a lot of differences outweigh the powerful fact that you chose each other and you’ve made the effort this long?
That counts for a lot.
Forgiving your spouse will help you to use some of that energy you were using to constantly find what’s wrong to begin to find and call out what’s going right.
Your marriage vows are much easier to keep when you enjoy being in it!
It’s easier to enjoy when you are not constantly painting the person across the way as a monster to be defended against!
They have done some wrong things, but then again, so have you.
Get back to a level playing field so you can see eye to eye once again.
Be a Person of Your Word
What you do anywhere is what you’ll do everywhere.
If you tell your spouse you’ll get the dry cleaning and then not make it a priority, it may be a small thing, but it sure can turn into a big thing.
Been there done that!
If you say you’ll make date night a priority, but another week rolls by in humdrum fashion, what other evidence does your spouse have that you are taking your marriage seriously?
These seemingly insignificant little failures can pile up quick!
Because you are the only partner your spouse has.
If you let them down in this, no one else can appropriately fill that hole!
If they can’t trust that you’ll handle the little things, then it will be harder from them to trust you about the big ones.
“I’ll be there at 5 PM”, might not be on the same level as “I’ll be there ‘til the end!” but if you’re willing to be a little late on your spouse pertaining to the first, what’s to stop them from thinking you might leave a little early in concerns to the second?
Patch up and catch the little “foxes.” now so you don’t get ignored later when you actually need to call “wolf”.
Husbands, make sure that your name is still one your wife is proud to have!
Wives, make sure your husband knows you’re still proud to have him!
Don’t just say it, live up to it.
Which brings us to our next point…
Don’t Just Say “I’m Sorry”
“LIVE” I’m sorry!
If there is something you have become aware of that helps your partner to forgive you, then do it lavishly! If that means truly repenting, or accepting full responsibility, then humble yourself and have at it.
Go to great lengths to prove that you are constantly excited to become the person your spouse wants to stay married to, again, and again, and again, and again!
This last point will help with this one too.
Remember, It’s Bigger Than You
In a world where so many marriages break up, the ones that stand the test of time and keep going really stand out!
The darker it is, the more the light shines.
Need help remembering your covenant is worth fighting for?
How about the little kid who lives next to you from a divorced home wondering whether it’s worth getting married?
What about the jaded divorcee you work with who is thinking about giving it another shot?
How about the children under your own roof who are questioning whether things are worth sticking with when they get hard?
Remember you’re an example and an influence!
Don’t let that crush your self confidence and feel like a bigger failure, let it inspire you to want to be an inspiration.
The world, your spouse, and yes, even you, need to know that marriage is worth fighting for. This is especially true when it’s rough.
Marriage itself needs us to champion its cause.
It’s not just a faded idea, too far past it’s prime.
It’s not some silly old creation of a bygone generation.
It is the cornerstone of healthy family, which is the building block of society.
Don’t quit now. It will get better. It will work if you work it.
More than just you are depending on your marriage staying strong.
Generations to come will need stories and examples of those of us “who made it”.
Now it’s time for you to dust off those old vows, read them to your spouse again, and let them know they are still worth keeping every word you spoke!