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Open Thread: Living Your Vows


Keeping the promises made, year after year

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Open Thread: Living Your Vows | A Practical Wedding

These days, as APW’s Editor-in-Chief, I spend many hours of my week reading essays about relationships. And, if we view marriage as a lifetime long relationship, many of the essays we publish on APW are written from the newer end of the relationship continuum. They’re written from the newly engaged or newly married beginnings, where there is often more joy than sorrow.

This year, David and I will be celebrating ten years together. For the first time, it feels like we’ve been at this awhile. Our relationship isn’t that new anymore, and the beginning feels like… a decade ago. In this decade, the one thing I’ve learned about relationships is that life gets harder. It’s not that loving each other gets harder, or that you stop having sex, or that marriage is a terrible trap, or any of the clichés that we throw around about marriage as a culture. It’s simpler than that. It’s that you slowly find yourself dealing with some combination of raising children, aging, planning for a financial future, parents dying, loved ones dying, paying your mortgage, illness, and occasional layoff. Or as my grandmother would say, life is hard. And in those hard parts, the pressure on your marriage can be immense.

Last week, we talked about writing your vows. Today, we’re talking about what it means to live those vows over a lifetime. What does it mean to turn back to those huge promises you made (in traditional words or personal words) when life gets hard? I polled some of APWs longer partnered staff and contributors about what it means to live their vows every (damn) day. Here are some answers from some of the smartest women I know (anonymous-ish, to protect the innocent… partners). I hope they spark equally smart responses from all of you.

I should note that while lots of us talk about the need for reminders to stick with our relationships when the going gets tough, none of this is meant to be divorce shaming. Sometimes taking care of each other’s well being, and living our vows to the fullest, means knowing when it’s time to let go.

On bad days, I sometimes literally check our Ketubah to remember what I signed on the line for. (I don’t regret saying traditional vows, but I do wish we’d been able to get a custom Ketubah, because “respect and support each other” seems awfully… vague.) Mostly though, living my vows means sticking to it, with faith that the going will get better (even if I don’t know when). Fundamentally, I was raised to believe that my vows meant promising to put each other first, always, and to build a family together. That’s the most important thing to me.

 

I’m mean and sharp and a little cruel. Sometimes, when the affection isn’t there and I’m not remembering how much I actually care about him, the only thing holding me back from saying really terrible things is remembering that I promised to be with him “till death.” Meaning we’re going to be still together tomorrow, and I need to make sure not to say something that’ll be too big of a mess to clean up.

 

At one point during pre-marital counseling we relayed an argument back to our priest and then waited expectantly, like she would take in both sides and then hand down an edict about whose family wins holidays for life or whose financial goals matter more. “That’s good,” she said calmly, “because you’ll be having that argument for the next fifty years, so get comfortable with it.” And weirdly, I did feel calmer as soon as she said it—like letting in the awareness that we would not always be sympatico with each other meant we’d be a little more prepared for the hard stuff.

When we started putting together our ceremony, we read about a billion different versions and immediately disregarded the “endure all things” promise. No one deserves to stay in a relationship with someone who is deliberately cruel or deceptive (or some combination thereof: not willing to come forward and tell the truth after the fact, not willing to seek forgiveness once the fight is over). At the same time what I remember during the dark times is that we loved each other enough that we asked everyone dear to us to stand up and watch us agree to better or worse, even in the face of the impossibility of predicting the future.

Practically what this means for us is that we periodically have a state of the relationship (at least once a year, if not more often), where we review our goals for our family, our careers, our finances, and our values. I want to live by the ocean; are we any closer to getting there? Will the need for her to be near a major airport push that out a few more years? Is that fair and worth it? These check-ins help me remember that life is (hopefully) long, that what might feel like a big tension right now will smooth out to a blip as time goes on.

 

I come from a lot of not healthy relationships, so I got married having zero idea how to conduct myself in marriage. I ended up writing my vows in the middle of a huge fight with my mom, and the core thesis was that your partner is family and even if you break up, family is forever. (Which means they might be out of your life, but they never really disappear.) Since getting married, we’ve had some really shitty stuff to deal with, and it always comes back to, “What have I learned from my parents’ mistakes?” The number one takeaway from that is never saying anything for the purpose of hurting your partner. Yeah, we get angry and we say mean things, but don’t bite just for the sake of injuring the other.

Knowing that we’re in it until one of us dies makes it easier to deal with stuff too, because I basically don’t see things on a short-term timeline anymore. Oh, the next six months are going to suck? Well, better brace myself. It also means that ending things is simply not an option when I’m considering how to deal with our problems. So it’s either A) Learn to live with things or B) Figure out how to fix things. And then accept that fixing things will probably take a long ass time, because fixing things always does.

 

A little less than a quarter of the nine years we’ve been together has been married time, so in a lot of ways, all that pre-married time shaped our vows heavily. Also, we went through a bunch of hardship and a number of life of changes in our first seven years. Comparatively, the married time has been like a soft introduction into living out our vows on a daily basis, without the burden of grave financial struggle, or multiple family losses.

But the main thing I vowed, the main thing I remember every day, is that my love will not come at a cost. The manipulation of affection is the thing that permanently broke a lot of relationships in my family. So I’m very mindful of not trying to gain the upper hand in a relationship, or feeling like I should be the superior person. We’re a team, and there’s no prize at the end for MVP. It doesn’t mean we don’t fight about chores or money, but when we do, it means we’re fighting towards a solution, not to get a win for our side, or to feel superior, or put the other person down.

What does it mean to you to live your vows? What does that look like when the going gets tough—for poorer, in sickness?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • lady brett

    i was alarmed immediately after our wedding, because i thought i/our relationship was supposed to feel different, and i just felt like…we’d had an awesome party and a vacation. a year or two later i was having a massive panic attack (the details are gone now, because they were solidly unrelated to anything…i think the zoo was involved somehow) and i realized after the fact that my unreasonable, the-world-is-crumbling-around-me fear that came in to top it all off was not the usual crushing fear that my honey would leave me because i am, in fact, too crazy to put up with, but a new fear: that my honey would be stuck with my crazy self forever. somehow our marriage (and vows), which had never really sunk into my brain in any notable way, had wormed its way directly into my gut. which is, more or less, what it feel like to live our (very traditional) vows still – not something i think about at all, but a gut level “in-it-together-ness.” maybe that would have happened without the marriage part, but even if it’s simply the effect of time it fits pretty solidly with what we promised.

    • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

      oh, I think this all the time. He’s stuck with my crazy. Maybe he would have been better off without me to put up with. But then, he chose me, and we both want what’s best for each other no matter how bad or good we are at helping each other get it. Being together is still better than being apart.

  • TeaforTwo

    I LOVE the comment from the priest about how you’ll be having the same argument for 50 years. In our pre-marital course, the facilitator quoted some longitudinal study about the biggest sources of conflict in couples’ marriages over 15 years. He said they stayed the same (housework being #1), and in the same order for every year, except that sex moved from #15 to #4. Then he looked at us and said “so that means that fifteen years from now, you’ll be having the same fights, and the sex is only going to get worse.”

    What a huge weight came off my chest when I went home and thought about that. I realized that I’d been going crazy trying to “fix’ every source of conflict that we had so that we would be ready to get married. And then he said that, and I realized that I wouldn’t want my husband to fix me any more than he wanted to be fixed. So there are just some areas where we are different, and our task is to figure out a way to manage that, and we have our whole lives to figure that out. HUGE relief.

    • Meg Keene

      I mostly like that because also, it’s looking you in the eyes and saying, “Are you still willing to say you’re in this for forever?” Because knowing that life doesn’t get easier, and still choosing to promise to stay… that’s huge.

      • TeaforTwo

        Absolutely!

        I will also say that, for me, it felt like shifting the burden of responsibility. There are things about my partner that drive me crazy, but when one of those things is the source of the conflict, I can remind myself that this is not new information, and it’s what I signed up for*. That re-framing has made it waaaaay easier for me to shift a solution-focused mindset, instead of raging and blaming.

        (*That’s not to say that I think of all fights as my fault. Just that there are fights we have because one of us is being a dick in a particular moment, but also fights/conflict that we have because we are just different people who want different things. And that those different things, like the fact that he’s an introvert, doesn’t notice haircuts, and doesn’t notice when the kitchen is dirty, are all things that I knew for years before I said “Yes. You. Forever. Messy counters and all.”)

    • Jules

      There were a lot of gems in there, but that was my favorite as well. Why? Because some of my favorite marital advice is learn to live with the ones that AREN’T solvable.

      John Gottman’s book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, was really an eye-opener for me and how I can be a better partner. One chapter claims that the majority of marital problems fall into this category of “not solvable”. You deal with the problems…but they’re not necessarily “solved” and you won’t necessarily ever agree.

      • Kate

        This reminded me of a quote I read in high school or something but really resonated with me and never forgot: “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.” – Victor Hugo

        We all suck in different ways, and it’s going to lead to disagreements and disappointments. But to be loved anyway? That’s magical.

        • Sarah McClelland

          It really is magical! I love the idea behind the sentiment- perfection found in our imperfections.

    • SarahG

      I love this because one of my anxious fears of getting married is that the moment we say our vows, Something Terrible will be revealed about my partner (of 3+ years, with whom I live, and with whom I am in business, and have bought a house, and already weathered two fairly major health crises.. did I mention I’m anxious?). I mean, there’s always more to know about a person, but it strikes me that while the big events of life are unpredictable, my partner is… not (and neither am I). I know how we both act in stressful situations, and that’s not suddenly going to change because omg married. Who knows what life will throw at us, but I think we both have a good idea of how we’ll react. That’s enormously relieving, to me.

      • MisterEHolmes

        ” one of my anxious fears of getting married is that the moment we say our vows, Something Terrible will be revealed about my partner”

        Read Jane Eyre, have you?

        • Violet

          GOD, I love a good JE reference.
          “Reader, I married him.”

        • SarahG

          Ha ha! And yes :) Books like that are terrible for people like me.

      • http://thescienceoffood.info/ Cassandra

        You’ll always be learning more about your partner. Sure, the superficial personality traits are easy to see but how can you say that you really know someone? After 3 years, 5 years, or 20 years, as soon as you think that you got inside someone’s head, they will surprise you more and more.

        Tigers don’t change their stripes but people grow, and they DO change. Some major unpredictable life events that happened when I was in my early 20’s have forever changed who I am now. And I should know myself more than anyone else and the way I reacted in these situations were very unpredictable.

        I don’t mean to cause you anxiety but I think that you should be realistic about the fact that as you and your partner grow and have different experiences, you will change. And you’ll continue to grow on each other,

        Have faith that you’ll continue to grow on each other and support each other. After all, isn’t that what a commitment is?

  • Laura

    “There’s no prize in the end for MVP.” This.

    Whenever people ask me what attracted me to my partner, one of the things I say is that he doesn’t take shit from me. It’s not that he’s controlling or cruel, it’s simply that he doesn’t allow himself to be treated disrespectfully. As someone who loves to have control and who has the tendency to walk all over whomever will let her, that’s something I really value in a partner.

    My marriage doesn’t belong to just me — it’s our marriage and our lives together. That means that sometimes I don’t get my way. It sucks and I hate it in the moment, but I recognize that it’s probably good for me to compromise or accept a decision I wouldn’t have chosen. Because if I get my way all the time, I’m probably not growing as an individual, nor am I growing as a good partner.

    • Julia27

      I have very similar tendencies and say the same thing about my partner. I relieved to see that I’m not the only one out there who says that about their partner!

    • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

      Your ability to self reflect is impressive and inspiring!!

    • Sarah E

      Same here. One of the major attractive things about my partner when we first started dating was that he didn’t just fall over every time I smiled at him. It was a little too intoxicating for me at that time to have previous interested guys just try to give me whatever I wanted, whenever. That my current partner does things for me because HE’S the nice one (rather than because I’m particularly charming) makes a huge difference.

  • jashshea

    Aww, this made me look back at our vows (and get misty as hell).

    We haven’t been married for that long, but have been together ~8 years. We’re both pretty realistic and our vows were super simple: To care for each other in joy/sorrow; share responsibility for growth/enrichment of our life together; and to choose to be partners/friends today, tomorrow & always. A fair translation would be: do the best we can do each day. There are days when we live up to our vows and days we don’t (and many more to come of each).

    I am in my mid-30s and have strong friendships entering their 2nd and 3rd decades. Those relationships take a lot of work on both sides and have certainly changed over the years. I imagine our marriage will require upkeep as well as life gets crazier over the years (we’re still DINKs).

  • stella

    Love this. We just passed 12 years together (3 married) and fighting through things as a team is why it works. Sure, when we’re building a table or working on the car we will bicker and squabble to no end, and both of us looovve to be right. But once one person has ‘won ‘ the ‘loser’ often says ‘well you and I are one person, so if you’re right that means I am too’. Ha ha. But seriously, when it comes to the bigger issues in life, knowing you are working at them as a team is huge.
    In pre marital counselling we were told that your obligation as a spouse is to put your partner first, always. At the time I didn’t think that made sense, we have to care for ourselves first, or we can’t help others. But I realised that if you’re both doing this, there’ll never be a time when you’re not being looked out for in your marriage, because they are there doing it for you. Sometimes we neglect ourselves. But it’s made that much more difficult to do that when you have someone who you love looking out for you, encouraging you to be well and be the best you can.

    • JDrives

      Oh I love that note on putting your partner first. Like you I’m a firm believer in taking care of yourself in order to take care of others – as a counselor it’s imperative to my job to take time out for self-care now and again, or I’ll do a terrible job with my clients. You’re so right though, my fiance really looks after me and encourages me/holds me together when I really need it.

    • Meg Keene

      I actually think of it slightly differently: our marriage comes first, always. Our marriage is it’s own entity, bigger than either of us. And sometimes what’s best for the marriage isn’t the best for me or for him, but it’s still the right choice. Also, it’s extra important with a kid, because keeping the marriage healthy is important for the kids well being (at least at the moment). And it’s easy to prioritize individual bits of childcare before the marriage, which is… shortsighted. And a super easy trap.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        I always liked this reframing. I sometimes have a hard time putting my partner first (because that can lead to me abandoning myself when I shouldn’t.) But the idea of putting my MARRIAGE first feels really accessible. And easier to work toward as a team.

        • Violet

          In the midst of an argument, my husband and I like to say, “We’re better than this.” It aligns us together against the issue, instead of me versus him.

          • Lauren from NH

            Oooo I like that! He knows how to push my buttons (he’s just not a big self starter on housework and I am very vocal about needing him to meet me half way, no maids in my house!). I like that phrase for low moments or when arguments go sour. It’s corrective and aspirational, a wake up call, “We’re better than this.” Nice.

          • ambergrisse

            That made me chuckle, because a few weeks ago we had the same housework blowout for the umpteenth time. A day later, we both nonchalantly suggested a maid and agreed that it was an awesome idea without any reference to the argument. My mom’s (4th) husband (similarly seasoned) said that when it comes to cleaning disputes, if it bothers you, it’s just easier in the long haul to take care of it – the argument is useless. But right now, I think hiring someone to pick up the slack will absolutely be worth it. That and baskets. Why is housework so infuriating?!

        • Meg Keene

          Also sometimes your partner is being a real dick, if you know what I’m saying. I think you all know what I’m saying ;)

          I mean, not that we’d ever think our partners were being real dicks, NOW WOULD WE. But. Cough. If we did, it would seem so much easier to put the MARRIAGE first.

      • stella

        A very good way to view it. That’s how I see it too – for the good of the relationship rather than making a ‘selfish’ choice that might work best for me.

    • JSwen

      Nice! We are four years in together, getting married in two months. I like to remind my fiance that we’re a team so if we fight, we’re only fighting ourselves. Your version is the flip-side, which reads much better – when we work toward a solution, we both win. :)

  • LM

    We have been together for 5 years, married for 1. We both have a tendency to turn inward when things are stressful. For me, living our vows means reaching out and being open about what’s going on when my natural inclination would be to shut down or turn away. Separately, on our anniversary we had a ‘state of the union’ talk where we discussed the past year and ways we want to develop our relationship in the coming one.

    • JSwen

      I have a tendency toward this as well. Thinking about working “turn toward each other in good times and bad” or something similar into our vows.

  • emilyg25

    This is going to become one of my regular APW rereads. Our vows were very simple; we each promised to “be a loving and faithful partner as long as we both shall live.” We’ve only been together two years (married one), and to be honest, I’m still learning to always put him first and to be less cutting. To be, in a word, more loving. One of my favorite things about being with my partner is how it’s allowed me to grow and become a better, less self-centered, more flexible person. Still a work in progress, but coming along.

  • Casey

    We’ve been together 8 years, married for less than 1. One line from my vows has especially resonated lately (pretty sure it was borrowed from APW): “I promise to love you on your best day, and to love you even more on your worst.” I had a romantic vision of our first year of marriage being dreamy and happy, which it definitely has been at points, but we’ve also been dealing with some really scary family illness. It’s put a lot of pressure on both of us and put us in a situation that I naively thought we would have to face for several years. I’m finding that promise I made to be very true as we navigate these challenges together, and every day I feel so grateful that we have each other.

  • Nell

    “Since getting married, we’ve had some really shitty stuff to deal with, and it always comes back to, “What have I learned from my parents’ mistakes?” ” I am so glad that someone shared this. Even after years of therapy, even after seeking out happily married people to help me retrain my brain to think positively about marriage, even with my incredibly patient partner teaching me things like “hey, you can tell me what you’re feeling and we’ll work on it together!” – I still sometimes wonder if I’m going to be able to hack it as a married lady. It felt awesome, but also really scary, to get engaged. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

    • Meg Keene

      I think that’s normal even if your parents ARE still happily married. Just to normalize that for everyone.

      • Fiona

        My mom and dad met as teenagers and were happily married for 19 years when my dad died. Now, almost a decade later, my mom and I are living together again in this year before I get married. I’ve always viewed my parents’ marriage as excessively happy and strong (and I think it was), but in living with my mom, she’s been sharing with me all this stuff from their early marriage that I wasn’t around for and framing it as advice. The experience is pure gold!

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          Man, can your mom write some stuff for us? I always love hearing from people who got married young and made it work. My hunch is there’s a lot of work that happens in the early years that we don’t hear a lot about.

          • vegankitchendiaries

            I also think this would be a great read!

          • Sarah

            I also have this hunch. I always feel that I want to ask my parents about this…My parents have been together since they were 15, they are 52 now, and have been married for 29 years. Like, this is just mind blowing to me, now that I’m engaged. I can’t even imagine the work that they must have had to put into their relationship to stay together from such a young age. And my mom did not have an easy home life as a teenager (it was abusive bad), when she met my dad. But I always shy away from asking them about all of this because, my mom in particular is not super forthcoming about her life back then and I don’t want to pry into my parent’s marriage too much?? They’ve always, to me, been rock solid, but I don’t actually know if that’s true!! I should probably ask them what’s up, eh?

          • Pileofstix

            Ask them. Ask them, ask them, ask them. Ask them about their childhoods, their early marriage, all of it. Not to be morbid, but one day they won’t be around to ask anymore. So get as much as you can!

          • Sarah McClelland

            Even when it’s not all happy it’s all real. My grandmother has cancer and has been making albums with stories in them for us to have and hold onto. It’s a great thing to ask about. And it’s stuff we’ll all be glad we had- and how we found out she still has the pearls she wore on her wedding day. My cousin and I will both be wearing them this year.

          • Fiona

            I will have to ask her! I’ve given her stuff to read and she really likes it, so she might be open to it ;)

          • EF

            my partner’s parents have been together since they were about 15, got married in their mid 20s, are ridiculously happy so far as I can tell. but every once in a while his mother will let slip how hard it was when they were starting out and didn’t have any money, or how balancing her career with when to have kids (and her career always came before his career, as it were). it’s fascinating to hear hints of how early relationships evolved.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            These are the stories I want to hear SO BADLY. Because let me tell you, NO ONE is telling them.

        • TeaforTwo

          Oh my god, yes. My parents were happily married for 32 years when my mother died, and I always think of their marriage as a gold standard. But now that I am older and married, I realize how much must have been going on below the surface. It’s such good perspective, because it reminds me that marriage is long, and that lots of the stuff that feels huge in the moment will someday turn into an anecdote.

        • Beth R

          Yes! My family went on a vacation one year that coincided with my parent’s 25th anniversary. My dad had gone through and found a bunch of old cards and notes they had written to each other throughout the years and one of them was from one of their first few years of marriage when they were in their early 20s. It was from him to my mom and said something like, “When we argue, you can’t just run out of the house. We need to talk these things through.” I was blown away! I couldn’t imagine my mom storming out of the house during an argument. They never really fought in front of us and were always a united front, so I had no idea that there was a time when things were difficult for them. It made them more human to me and opened up this whole world of what marriage is like and what it takes to hold it together (like not running out during an argument).

          There was also a card in there discussing the time they made love on the side of a mountain, which I could have done without…. *gag*

    • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

      Sometimes, I’m grateful for the crappy relationships I’ve seen in my life–either my own past relationships (romantic and platonic), or other people’s, like my parents’. As an educator with a lot of experience being educated, I’ve found that it’s often really hard to teach other people something that comes naturally to you. It’s hard to explain to your friends or your children how to handle a relationship fight if you never learned how and your fights just somehow seem to end (or you never fight).

  • KC

    One thing about our marriage is that, while we’ve gone through some definite Life Is Hard things, there hasn’t really ever been any situation where it would be identifiably easier to not be married (except if it were possible to rewind to a particularly fun fewer-life-challenges bit in pre-married life… which it isn’t, any more than it’s possible to rewind to a fewer-life-challenges bit of married life!).

    But it’d be good to look over our vows again and check if there’s anything in there that I’ve been unconsciously skimping on…

  • Laura

    Something else I’ve been thinking of lately. We’ve recently got several “You two have a *very* different relationship than most married people I know” comments. Mostly in response to situations where I, as the wife, was apparently supposed to get pissed off and scold my partner and otherwise police his behavior. I suppose then he was supposed to roll his eyes and issue a fake apology to make me shut up and then do whatever he damn well pleases. Because we’re MARRIED, you know, and that has to turn us into the stereotypical nagging woman + clueless but well-intentioned husband.

    I never really know how to respond to those people, because, you know, we just try to treat each other like adult human beings who actually like and respect one another. And that’s something I try to remember in situations where things get tough and I’m “living my vows.” Am I treating my partner like he’s a human worthy of my respect, even if he’s acting like an enormous ass? Because if I start belittling or disrespecting him (even in my mind), that’s a fast track to marital trouble.

  • kcaudad

    A recent revelation for me was when my hubsand and I were having a usual fight/disagreement about X situation, and he said, “our marriage is more important than X”. WHOA… light bulb went off for me. It was both gut wrenching and heart warming at that same time. It was so awesome to hear him say that we need to put our marriage first. Sometimes I need to reframe the other things in life and remember that X isn’t more important than the health of our marriage over the long term.

  • Anne

    Three years into our marriage, I still think about our vows. For me, part of our vows that I find myself often coming back to is this: “I will always have faith in your intentions.” Sure, my partner does stuff that bugs me from time to time, but if I can take a breath and get some perspective, I know he’s always coming from a loving place.

    • Em

      That’s a really good one.

    • Laetitia

      Me too! And I have learned, it actually is well invested faith!

    • Peekayla

      I will definitely have to integrate that sentiment into our vows. Thank you for sharing!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    In some contexts, I’m ashamed to admit it, but my husband has been unemployed for as long as I’ve known him. In some ways, “for poorer” looks like things have always been. For the first several months of our marriage, it was really hard not to put an actual dollar amount on the relationship – so much for the extra groceries and laundry, so much for his health care, etc. It took a new job for me, and a corresponding new budget for us, for me not to feel like he was this extra line-item to my single life. These days, I don’t feel that way so much, but there are definitely days where I feel I deserve compensation, not so much from him, but from the universe, for the little AD/HD expenses – like when we pay extra for a service because he didn’t read the fine print.

    The times he’s been sick in bed have made me really worry about how I’ll cope with a debilitating illness. I’m a terrible nurse. I like to think I’m compassionate in the abstract; I study mental illness and systemic poverty issues and do advocacy work in my free time. But faced with an actual loved one complaining about stuff I’ve worked through, or complaining but refusing treatment (even if that’s just a glass of water), I get stone-hearted. I’m trying to work on that.

    • clairekfromtheuk

      I hear ya on that one. Mine quit his job a month into our marriage and still doesn’t have anything 5 months later. Yeah, I know 5 months isn’t that long and we’re lucky in lots and lots of other ways and we went into it with our eyes open but some days, I just really wish I didn’t have to worry about money!!

  • 39bride

    We’re about 21 months into marriage, and those months have been pretty epic. We’ve faced just about every possible big problem you can imagine, short of major illness/death (severely-messed-up siblings, flooded home requiring two months living with in-laws and fostering pre-teen relatives is just scratching the surface). In the face of such stress and chaos, I find myself often rereading our traditional vows. The part that has always been healing to my sometimes-battered spirit is “All the days of my life.” It’s wonderful knowing that through it all, we’re in it together, forever. We are facing all of this as a team. This may be too much for one of us, but as a team we can handle it; some days I’m the strong one, some days he is. And sometimes we both just hold each other because we don’t know what to say and words aren’t enough anyway. Together is everything.

  • laurabird

    Can I just say how much I love that there are so many comments (on this post and others) from people who’ve been married for a year or two or ten? I started reading this blog when I was considering marriage with the (now) ex, kept reading when we broke up, kept reading when I met my fiance and thought he was just going to be a rebound, kept reading when I fell hard in love for him and we got engaged. And I’m sure I’ll keep reading long after the wedding.

    I love the community this website has built, and you are all amazing. I always look forward to the comments as much as the posts. I love how much I’ve learned, how many different experiences I’ve been privy to. It’s kind of ruined me for most other websites. :-)

    So, thanks Meg, and thanks APW, and thanks to all you lovely strong wonderful people.

  • april

    We weren’t able to write our own vows (Catholic ceremony), but this passage from Anne Morrow Lindburgh’s “Gift From the Sea” is what I hold on to as my own personal vow:

    “When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

    The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”

    • EF

      this pretty much describes the relationship I have with my best friend, and I just emailed it to him. thanks for posting!