For many, wedding vows are a lower priority in their planning focus. Sure, they’ll agonize over the location, guest list, and even the cake. But the vows are often almost forgotten in the scramble to take care of all the details. Put off as an afterthought to be written up the night or morning before the wedding.
Which is a shame. Our wedding vows are more than something to check off the list as we prepare for the big day. While the style, spirituality, and theme of everyone’s wedding are unique to them, all ceremonies are, in the end, a public promise and commitment to each other made in front of witnesses. The vows we make are how we personalize and frame that commitment. They give us a benchmark for our marriage, goals to aspire to, and guideposts for our friends and family to check on us.
You might not realize it at first. But your wedding vows will come up again throughout your marriage. They can even be something that helps save your marriage down the road in many ways.
A Reminder to Be Your Best Self
All of us can be picky, mean, selfish, and untruthful. Many of us struggle with this side of our personalities and seek to hide this secret self from others. We’re constantly battling our “lizard brain” every single day.
If you haven’t already heard about the lizard brain, it’s what helped us survive for generations. It’s quick to react and respond. Our lizard brains were developed to ensure we survived in the wild. Hear a weird sound? Go into protective mode. See someone you don’t recognize? Get your defenses up. This was great for protection in the wild when we required immediate solutions without thought. But it’s harmful outside of the wild, particularly in relationships.
As we settled down and began developing social structures, our “visionary brains” emerged. This part of our brain is patient, peaceful, positive, purposeful, and loving. It’s the side of our brain that gives freely of ourselves to others without expecting anything in return. Thanks to our visionary brains, we can dream about the future and make long-term plans that benefit more than just ourselves.
Obviously, our visionary brains prompt our word choices in our wedding vows. Many of us unconsciously acknowledge our lizard brain actions when writing our vows. When we write our wedding vows, we’re tapped into our prefrontal cortex (where our visionary brain resides) and looking to counter our lizard brain self. Take an example wedding vow, “I will always be patient with you, even after a bad day at work.” This is us acknowledging our worst self and promising to choose our visionary brain for our partner instead of our lizard brain.
Our wedding vows act as an antidote and reminder to not default back to our lizard brains in our relationships.
A Time to Reflect on Personal Values
Many of us won’t take the time to sit and reflect on what’s essential in life. We mostly bumble around, reacting as we go along. The only time many will stop to reflect on what’s important is when they’re looking for a partner. Then, once we get married, these reflections stop.
Our wedding vows are an excellent reminder of what’s important and what we value most in our lives and relationships. They also inadvertently reveal why you chose your partner and value most about them. Take a wedding vow like, “Your creativity and talent serve as a constant inspiration to me.” Yes, you’ve praised a part of your partner’s personality. But you’ve also revealed what attracted you to your partner in the first place.
You help reinforce what’s important to you in your life by what you write about your partner.
This will help you later when times get more challenging. Many couples come into marriage counseling wanting to learn how to communicate better. The tools required for better communication are actually straightforward enough. The hardest part is having a significant enough reason “why” you want to work with your partner to learn better communication skills. Our vows are an excellent way to emphasize the big “whys” in our relationships and remind ourselves what we’re working towards when things get tough.
Relationship Guidance When Things Get Tough
We probably don’t have to break it to you, but no relationship is perfect. Fights are coming. Many will be small, but there will be some doozies coming as well.
As complimentary as we are and as many little things we have in common, we’re not identical (nor would it be healthy or good for us if we were). Even the best of us will fight more than we thought possible when we were in our early glow stage.
Our wedding vows serve as a guidance system for when the relationship gets rocky.
Take some standard wedding vow promises like, “I promise to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.” or “I promise to love you, to be your best friend, to respect and support you, to be patient with you, to work together with you to achieve our goals, to accept you unconditionally, and to share life with you throughout the years.”
These promises are road maps for how we should try to respond when things get trickier. We commit ourselves to future behaviors and actions based on our best selves in our vows. We envision a future with our visionary brains and give ourselves planned responses to keep us from acting on impulse (or with our lizard brains).
Give Us a Look At Our Different Roles
You’ll play many roles for your partner over the years – Best friend, companion, confidant, lover, travel partner, teacher, etc.
We’ll not only play these roles but discover entirely new ones unique to each relationship. As we age and grow together, we’ll learn how to live out these roles in a way that makes our partners happy.
We define and articulate some of the roles we place the most significant importance on in our vows. For example, many couples will declare that they will always be there for each other. “Through thick and thin, I’ll be there for you.” These types of vows establish a bonding trust between the couple and define the role of a trusted companion. Other common wedding vow role examples usually include supportive partner, best friend, helper, caregiver, etc.
Defining the Why
You can tell when a couple truly writes their own personalized wedding vows. This is because they’ll include a bit of their story. The wedding vows won’t usually include a whole breakdown of where they met, fell in love, etc. But they’ll skip to a critical moment that defined their relationship.
Specifically, they’ll talk about the moment when they knew this person was the right one for them to spend their lives together with and why they came to that realization. When you break these stories down, you get to the heart of the relationship – why you are together as a couple.
This “why” is vital to know, and you’ll come back to it many times throughout your relationship. It establishes the baseline for your future goals together. Knowing why you’re together can further cement your foundation and build something more substantial. Then, when issues arise, you’ll come back to this to remind yourself why the struggle is worth it.
Don’t Stop Reflecting After Your Vows
In marriages, it’s all too common for both partners to stop reflecting on what matters after the wedding. As the glow of the event fades, couples fall into a routine and opt for the paths of least resistance. Marriage is ideally supposed to be comfortable and happy (we are told), so couples avoid difficult conversations and self-reflection.
Unfortunately, this means that we will put off reflections on what we want and value only once someone has grown bitter. Then, they’ll start thinking about a new life and what they’re missing.
But our wedding vows can be a record, reflection, and reminder throughout our marriages. They tell us why we chose to marry this person against all odds. Our vows also help us explain our vision of who we want to be as a person and partner. They can also help us deal with the little struggles. A quick reminder of the big picture and your promises to each other enables you to gain perspective on the dirty dishes left in the sink.
If you feel stuck in your relationship or feel like you’ve lost sight of some of your promises in your wedding vows, please contact us today.
We have a team of counselors available to help you remember the life you envisioned with your visionary brain.