It’s been six years since Tiffani and I exchanged marriage vows. Like most soon-to-be-married couples, we had an idea of what marriage would look like. We watched “chick flicks,” read a few marriage books and spent time with older married couples.
Looking back, I realize I didn’t know much at all about marriage. The words I promised Tiffani at our wedding were idealistic and romantic. This isn’t much different from the traditional marriage vows you hear at most weddings. “To have and hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
There’s nothing wrong with these marriage vows. But, seriously. Who really understands what they mean?
I know what you’re thinking. Why do marriage vows matter?
Here’s why. Marriage vows are promises. But not just any promises. Vows are markers that guide your marriage. So, while I’m not against writing vows Casanova would applaud, I am against marriage vows that are more romantic and emotional than practical and honest.
In a culture that idolizes romantic love, we don’t need any more Shakespearean vows. We need marriage vows that will shape and impact marriages.
Here are 12 truthful marriage vows you won’t hear at a wedding.
1.) I promise to never flirt, lust or desire the attention of someone of the opposite sex.
When you get married, you vow faithfulness to your spouse. You vow exclusivity to them. You promise to never flirt, lust or seek attention from the opposite sex. You promise to protect your mind from images that aren’t your spouse.
You don’t listen to music that degrades people. You don’t allow your eyes to view images or watch shows portraying people as objects and relationships as indispensable. These are obvious, right?
But when you vow exclusivity to your spouse, you vow more than physical purity. You vow emotional purity as well. You promise to never confide in a secretary at work or be flattered by someone of the opposite sex.
Emotional purity is much less obvious than physical purity, but it’s just as destructive. You must fight to give all of your emotions, your desire to impress, your attention, struggles, heartaches and everything in between to your spouse. These don’t belong to other people. Fight for purity, both physically and emotionally.
2.) I promise to never expect a 50/50 marriage.
There’s no such thing as a 50/50 marriage.
You can’t keep score in a marriage. There’s no such thing as a 50/50 relationship. That’s a contract.
Give 100 percent of yourself every day. Some days, 100 percent won’t be much. But on those days, trust your spouse will pick you up. Regardless, let go of this give-and-take idea.
Just give. Giving is the essence of love and the heart of the one who created marriage, God.
3.) I promise to make the gospel the mission of our marriage.
Most marriages struggle because the relationship is the end goal. The mission of most marriages is to provide stability to your life, to have a family, to have a companion. Get the idea?
But God created marriage, and because he created it, the goal is larger than selfish desires. The goal is to glorify him. Even in Christian circles, few couples make the gospel the mission of their marriage. And this explains why Paul said it was better NOT to marry (1 Cor. 7). Your interest would be divided between your spouse and God.
Your mission on earth is to serve God. Every day. This mission doesn’t change when you get married. But if you’re not intentional, pleasing your spouse will take precedent over serving God.
4.) I promise to love who you are today, not who I want you to be.
For the sake of your sanity and your marriage, please listen. You can’t change your spouse. You don’t have that power.
If this is your goal, two varmints will infest your relationship: bitterness and resentment.
For years, Tiffani and I tried to change each other. It wasn’t until we stopped trying to change each other and started enjoying one another that we experienced intimacy.
One of the profound mysteries of marriage is two people with different values learning to love, flourish and celebrate one another. It’s not easy, but that’s why you must rely on God and embrace the unique values He places in every person, including your spouse.
This sounds overly simplistic because it is … just love the person in front of you. Don’t long for a “fixed” version of your spouse. Don’t hope for a day when your spouse changes. Just love the current version of your partner. Doing this will transform your marriage.
5.) I promise you will never be responsible for my happiness.
Marriage isn’t a quest to find happiness or completion. God created you complete. You must learn to love yourself before trying to receive or extend love.