Love, Honor, and Obey?
As a psychotherapist, marriage counselor, and a person with more than a few intimate relationships under his belt, it is clear that the traditional marriage vows are just not enough to sustain really successful truly intimate long-term relationships. Anyone who is aware of the divorce statistics knows this. Even the vows couples design for their own nuptials aren’t enough to keep them together.
Conflict is Inevitable; Misery is Optional
Research shows that long-tern successful intimate relationships of 15-25 years or longer, have likely hit several lengthy rough patches. These are times for re-alignment. Your car needs periodic alignment because of the rough roads and potholes you have been through; your relationship needs it, too.
In fact, the most successful relationships start with a sustainable set of commitments that also become the tools to do the required periodic maintenance. Start with a good set of tools, then use them as needed.
It might not seem very romantic. It may be difficult and unpleasant to get under the chassis and fix things. But, the smooth ride and extended mileage you’ll get will be well worth it.
Stay Out of the Ditch
Before you commit, take time to discuss each of these statements and come to agreement. The less agreement you come to, the less likely you are to sustain romance, intimacy, love, support, and happiness; you’ll be off the road in a ditch much sooner than you expected or hoped for. The more agreement you can come to, and the more willing you are to use these commitments as tools, the more likely you are to sustain happiness in the long run.
1. I realize that fairy-tale romance doesn’t really exist and that “happily ever after” demands a lot of work.
2. I understand that if I am not happy with myself, I will never be able to make you happy.
3. I realize that communication is the most important aspect of any relationship, and I promise to share my deepest secrets and dreams with you.
4. I promise I will confront problems as they come up, not wait and hope they will go away.
5. I understand that marriage is a commitment and that it is in some ways confining; I choose to accept that confinement in the firm belief that it will help me grow as a person.
6. I understand that there will be joy in our relationship and that there will be pain and sorrow as well.
7. I will not try to change you so that you better fulfill my needs. If I want to see change happen, I will fulfill your needs and see what happens.
8. I will keep my mind and body healthy, and I will expect you to do the same.
9. I believe that self-knowledge is the most powerful tool a person can have, and I expect you to help me know myself better, even if it means criticizing me.
10. I will give you unconditional respect as a human being at all times and I expect the same in return.
11. I promise that I will never be too busy to sit and watch the sunset with you.
12. I realize that, even though you may be able to anticipate some of my needs and preferences, you are not a mind-reader and I need to ask for what I want.
13. I will compliment you sincerely; I will compliment you in front of others and save criticism for when we are in private.
14. I will touch you gently.
15. I understand that it is important to be romantic and I will never stop courting you.
16. I realize that individual space is important and I need to respect your right to privacy; when we spend time apart it will be because our separate interests generate interest between us.
17. I will not fear change because change in our marriage can mean growth.
18. I understand that fighting fairly includes: no threats, accusations, or name calling.
19. I know that in spite of my best efforts, my human imperfection will provide many opportunities to apologize; I am willing to say, “I’m sorry.”
20. I recognize that foolish pride and holding on to anger is dangerous to our relationship; I am willing to say, “I forgive you.”
21. I understand that appreciation and recognition cannot be taken for granted; I am willing to say, “Thank you.”
22. I will develop my sense of humor and invite you to laugh with me.
23. I will develop my ability to connect with you in your feelings; there will be times when we will cry together, and doing so will bond our hearts.
24. I know that it is unrealistic for either of us to always be strong; weak or strong, our marriage will be interdependent.
25. I will make a habit of performing caring acts daily.
26. I will look for love, even when I don’t “feel” it or hear the words.
27. I understand that “getting married” is a life-long process; I will be patient.
Bonus Commitments, not in my original list
28. I will cultivate optimism so that we can celebrate rainbows after the rain.
29. I will use my sense of humor to help us maintain perspective, to uplift us, and never to hurt us.
30. I will celebrate the sound of your laughter and the times we share laughter for whatever reason.
More terrific advice like this is included in “Toilet Paper, Toothpaste, and Tuna-Noodle Casserole: Observations and Advice on Love, Marriage, and Authentic Intimacy From a Psychologist Who’s On The Practice-Makes-Perfect Program,” by Steve Wilson. Click here to buy it now.