“I do. I take you to be my 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, to love and to cherish, and I will never change my mind.”
These were the vows we took 16 years ago. We believed wholly in our promise to one another. This commitment was a done deal, come what may. Each of us were utterly sincere; but oh, how young and untested we were!
The Power of Vows
Two years into our fledgling marriage, some of our closest friends blindsided us by announcing their divorce. The day they made their vows, we were near enough to see the glint of gold and the glimmer of their heartfelt tears. In no way was this what we had anticipated. We ached terribly for our friends and the painful splintering they were undergoing.
Their breakup felt like an earthquake to us, shaking our support system and making us question everything we had taken for granted to be secure. In that moment of shock, we had sudden clarity about the full power of marriage vows. They impact not just the couple, but each person who is connected to that marriage by love and friendship.
The Atomic Bomb of Divorce
Divorce wrecks way more than just two valuable people. Our society tells us to get used to it, that some people will naturally grow apart and we must politely swallow that. This was the first time divorce had impacted either of us so directly. In some ways, it stripped us of youthful naiveté. But we fought back against the thought of ever losing our marriage. The very idea galvanized us. If we wanted to really be together for life, we had to fight for that relationship like we meant it.
Fighting for Your Marriage
As a result, we eventually recognized 4 gates that must be set around our marriage. These are the entrance points where we disallow carelessness to slip through. We established a high valuation for our relationship and this attitude guides our choices.
♦ Marriage means we are financially tied. We budget together and make premeditated joint decisions. David Bach, author of Smart Couples Finish First, emphasizes that “money is one of the most significant areas of potential conflict in marriage. It is consistently among the top four reasons for divorce.” We all have deep-seated feelings about money and it’s purpose. Staying on the same page means consistent teamwork and transparency.
♦ Marriage means we forfeit the right to independence. Occasional time with our friends or being alone is valuable, but the majority of our time no longer belongs to us as individuals. We demonstrate our ongoing value of the family we created, by investing time in it foremost. We choose togetherness over and over. Our main priority is each other.
♦ Marriage is the end of keeping secrets. We choose to communicate clearly, often beforehand, where we will be and whom we are spending time with. It’s an open book policy. We don’t spend time alone with those of the opposite sex, unless it’s for business. (Even then, we can select time and place carefully.) Neither do we text people of the opposite sex without a specific reason. Our phones have no secrets to tell.
♦ Marriage is a holy arrangement. We don’t want to desensitize ourselves by reading about or watching other people have reckless “casual” affairs. We’ve all seen in real life the pain that causes. It isn’t light or simple; it breaks precious people. That doesn’t spell entertainment, it spells d-a-n-g-e-r. I Corinthians 6:18 urges us to flee from sexual immorality, not to make a bowl of popcorn and turn the lights down. Where our culture is flippant, we are vigilant. We understand holiness is not an idea created to limit our life, but to enhance its quality. In the same vein, we have open discussions about intimacy to ensure each person’s needs are being met.
Playing the Long Game
Separation might appear to outsiders as a mystery, or a logical course for some relationships, but it truly isn’t. Every marriage requires diligent attentiveness to be successful. Nothing handled with negligence will thrive- not a houseplant, not a 401K, not a marriage. Only a wholehearted approach will see it through.
We will never get accustomed to divorce. It never gets easier to see marriages crumbling around us. Honestly, it feels like an earthquake — every. single. time. But there is a reason we are not disillusioned. We set our eyes on the Author and Creator who gifted us to one another. He always challenges us to be steadfast. He empowers us to exceed the standard of our culture and to be caretakers of a priceless legacy.