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Marriage advice offered on WCQS radio

On Tuesday, October 10 we were interviewed on WCQS, the public radio station based in Asheville, North Carolina. Host David Hurand talked with us for 30 minutes aboutradio interview with Shonnie Lavender & Bruce Mulkey

  • what it takes to write your own wedding vows,
  • the benefits of writing your wedding vows, and
  • how the process we take you through in I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook can help you build a strong foundation for marriage or improve the marriage you’ve already created.

We also answered questions from callers about relationships and wedding vows. Listen to the interview, then let us know what questions you have.

How can you have the relationship you want if your wants remain a secret?

“Men are four times more likely than women to negotiate the first offer, thus they accumulate an average of a half-million dollars more in their paychecks by age 60. Whether by nature or by nurture, many women shy away from negotiating salary. We assume that if we jump into the job, pull up our sleeves, and get down to business, someone will notice us and reward us accordingly. Rarely does that happen, and so you wind up cheating yourself out of money by not asking for it.”

  • Tory Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire and the official workplace contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America

If you’re wondering what this quote has to do with relationships, let me explain. If you want something specific from your partner–a kiss, a helping hand cleaning the kitchen, a night out with the guys, an impartial sounding board–ask for it.

Now, some of you reading this may think I’m stating the obvious, yet, like the quote by Tory Johnson illustrates, many of us assume our needs are evident even though we don’t take the time to make them clearly known. Yes, over time in a relationship–whether it’s long-term dating or marriage–we learn many of our partner’s non-verbal signals and we even know how to decode her/his secret language. However, unless your goals in life are to (a) make your partner work extra hard and (b) let your needs go unmet, it’s time to start speaking up for what you want.

Are you ready? Let us know how you’re going to advocate for your wants and needs. Or offer your own ideas about this suggestion.

Podcast — Commitment: Essential to loving lasting relationships

icon for podpress  Commitment [45:41m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

This week we had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Heck, of We were sharing about the importance of commitment in creating relationships that flourish–whether they are intimate or professional in nature.

You may click on the link at the bottom of this message to listen to the full interview (46 minutes). The primary areas we discussed include:

  • How we define “commitment” and “vows”
  • The power of using your vows on an ongoing basis (I also talk about this in our first podcast)The Commitment Scale
  • The Commitment Scale (see graphic) — and how you can use it to stay connected to your partner and inspired in your relationship. We review the five levels of commitment, how to know which level you are in, and how to move up the scale to a higher level of commitment.
  • The quality of a committed relationship versus a relationship in which commitment is lacking.
  • The power of ritual in creating joy, gratitude and longevity in your marriage.

To access our full set of notes about commitment and The Commitment Scale, join our mailing list. Simply fill in the subscription form on the homepage. Once you’ve verified your subscription, you can download the PDF. You can also download the first 15 pages and a sample exercise (Rating Your Relationship) from I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook (PDF files).

If you have practices that help you and your partner stay connected and committed, share them in the comments section. We’d love to benefit from your expertise too!

Love — What’s commitment got to do with it?

What do you think? Here are your choices:

  • A. Nothing. Love is purely a matter of the heart.
  • B. Something. Commitment is somewhat important to love, but as long as there is passion, love will thrive.
  • C. Everything. If you want love to last, and your relationship to flourish, you have to be committed to the person you love.

Let us know your answer and WHY you chose it — leave a comment. Let’s get the conversation rolling.

Podcast — How wedding vows can solve arguments with your spouse

icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [6:36m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Well, actually you and your spouse will have to solve your own arguments, yet your wedding vows can help make it easier. Listen in as I tell you how our wedding vows recently helped us clear the air.

This is our first I Do! I Do! podcast. Our goal is to provide no-nonsense resources YOU can use to create YOUR ideal relationship–yes, we do mean “ideal.” Not just ho hum habitation, so-so spouse-hood, or mediocre marriage. We want your relationship to ROCK! (You do too, right?) To that end we’ll be producing these audio programs that you can listen to on your computer, via iTunes, or as a downloadable MP3 file. When applicable we’ll have accompanying transcripts or notes in the blog post.

So this first episode was unplanned. Bruce and I had a disconnect–our term for a disagreement because even if it’s minor, we sense our disconnection from each other when it happens. I believed he had interrupted me and I responded to him in an annoyed and irritated way. In the podcast I talk about how we got reconnected and the role that my wedding vows played in making that possible.

So, simply turn on your speakers and click the “audio mp3″ graphic or “Play Now” text below to play the podcast file and listen in on what happened.

If you want to know more about how we solve disagreements, manage marital upsets, or fight fair when we do argue, let us know. Also, if you have specific marriage or relationship topics that you want to have us talk about, drop us a comment via the link below.

Thanks for listening!

The benefits of writing your own wedding vows

What happens to you in a relationship reflects far more accurately what you really want, or can tolerate, than what you keep on verbally insisting that you want.

~Thomas Patrick Malone & Patrick Thomas Malone

Before I describe the many benefits you’ll enjoy from writing your own marriage/wedding vows, let me clarify how we think “wedding vows” differ from “marriage vows.” In our book, I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook, we use the term “marriage vows.” We do that because we think that:

  • marriage vows express a “lived intention,” the way you will be with one another–now and through your years together
  • wedding vows represent words that are merely spoken once on the wedding day, then stored in the wedding photo album or the shoebox of memorabilia

Of course, you can call them what you will, yet at least you understand our frame of reference.

We view marriage as a sacred journey–a living, evolving partnership that grows and changes each day of your life. In The Marriage Vow Workbook, we provide a step-by-step process you can use to write your own vows AND, in the process, establish a solid foundation for your relationship.

By writing your own marriage vows, you are purposefully creating guidelines for your marriage that you intend to follow throughout your time together. As the years pass, your self-authored vows become touchstones to remind you why you made these commitments on your wonderful wedding day, why you resolved to travel this path together.

Here are some of the ways we believe you strengthen your marriage when you use The Marriage Vow Workbook to write your own unique marriage vows.

You’re more committed. Once you’ve purchased The Marriage Vow Workbook, taken the time to complete all the exercises, and written your own marriage vows, you have already invested in your future together and expressed your deepest intentions for making this sacred commitment.

You’re more connected. In sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings about your relationship with your partner as you complete the exercises in this workbook, you will increase your intimacy and deepen your connection to one another–and you’re not even married yet!

You’re more authentic. The marriage vows you write are a true reflection of who you really are. They are consistent with your vision, values, and beliefs. Even if you’re a bit nervous on the day of your wedding, you know your vows by heart because that’s the place from which they arose.

You’re more creative. In writing your own vows, you send forth into the universe the vision of what you are seeking to create. By first imagining what you want in your lives together, you convert those thoughts into possibilities. When you write these possibilities down and then speak them as vows, you transform them into intentions you’re committing to live by. And in sending these intentions out into the universe, you immeasurably increase the likelihood that they will become reality in your shared future.

You’re more conscious. Your marriage vows have the power to support your marriage now and throughout your life with your partner. By creating a ritual to make these commitments part of your daily life, you have a greater opportunity to remain mindful of your actions in all of your relationships . . . including the one you have with yourself.

So, as you can see, there are significant benefits to writing your own marriage vows. Though it takes time, consideration, and willingness, the rewards are so profound that we believe you’ll want to start your marriage in this way.

Download the first 15 pages of The Marriage Vow Workbook (PDF). You might also check out our schedule of classes.

Since this is my third marriage, how can I write credibly about the importance of wedding vows?

Good question. And given the fact that I coauthored I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook, I figure sooner or later someone will ask it. So here’s the answer:

Both of my former wives were lovely and loving women, and my time with them was filled with periods of deep connection as well as periods of great challenge. However, being immature and irresponsible, I knew very little about commitment–what it meant to be faithful to a significant other. In addition, there were no basic agreements in my first two marriages about how we would be with one another and how we would sustain our relationship. It was like trying to play a baseball game without any rules. How many outs per inning? Three? Four? Five? Is catching the ball on one hop an out or do you have to catch it on the fly? Without such an essential element of a successful long-term relationship, it’s really no wonder that we ultimately grew apart and divorced.

After my second divorce, I retreated to a little cottage in the hills outside Austin, Texas. I had been with an uninterrupted stream of women my entire life–first my mom, next my girlfriends, then my two wives–and now was a time for me to focus on myself rather than the other. I lived there the better part of five years, with my cat, Chocolate, as my only companion. I got clear about who I was’not the macho, tough guy I sometimes pretended to be, but not the wimpy, new-age guy either. I got clear about my purpose in life. And I got clear about the kind of woman I wanted to share my life with. And wouldn’t you know it: As soon as I put my explicit intention out to the Universe, the woman of my dreams showed up.

Though totally unaware of one another’s existence, both Shonnie and I serendipitously joined a marathon training program during the hot Austin Texas summer of 1995. Based on a time trial, we both were placed in the intermediate runners, a group composed of approximately thirty runners. As our group’s numbers dwindled in the months preceding the race, a handful of us continued to train together at Lake Austin every Saturday morning, completing the Austin Motorola Marathon together in February 1996. And though the remaining members of our group sometimes went out for pancakes at the Magnolia Cafe after our weekly runs, we typically didn’t see each other outside our workouts. So one Saturday we made plans to go out for music and a few beers. When the appointed time arrived, however, only two runners showed up–me and Shonnie. And the rest, as they say, is history.

A few months later when Shonnie and I entered a committed relationship, we decided we would create commitments and an intention for our relationship before we moved in together. Thus we had agreements about how we would be with one another that served us right from the beginning, agreements that still hang on our bedroom wall. When we were preparing for our marriage, we devoted a lot of time and attention to the creation our marriage vows and our intention for our marriage. With these sacred commitments in place, we’re clear about which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. We’re assured that neither of us has any intention of deliberately doing or saying anything disrespectful or unloving. We give each other permission to speak up when he/she sees something that’s incongruent in the other’s words or actions. We support one another to grow, to expand, to fully be oneself. We acknowledge our individual and joint successes and commiserate when things don’t turn out as we’d planned. We envision our future together and work to create it. All of this from our steadfast love for one another and these sacred vows we are pledged to uphold.

Why should I write my own wedding vows?

That’s a great question and one that we’re often asked. Usually what’s behind that question is one of three impulses.

  • Fear – Having concerns about not doing it “right” or not possessing the skills to make your own words into actual vows
  • Overwhelm – Believing that it will take too long when you’re already busy with wedding planning
  • Indifference – Thinking that traditional vows and self-authored vows are basically the same

Whichever rationale is shaking your desire to author your own wedding vows, we encourage you to read on before going with traditional vows.

Debunking the fear — Anyone can write their own vows. It does NOT take special expertise. In I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook we take couples through straight-forward steps that guide them through the process of writing their vows. Take one step at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a complete draft of your own wedding vows.

Overcoming overwhelm — While there are plenty of things to do in planning your wedding (unless you elope), writing your vows doesn’t need to be complex. About four months before your wedding, we suggest setting aside one hour per week to work on your vows. Using The Marriage Vow Workbook you can read two chapters per month and complete the exercises within each chapter. If you write your vows without such a guidebook, check out our tips for writing your own wedding vows.
Banishing indifference — Traditional vows, though familiar, lack many of the benefits that you gain from writing your own wedding vows. Below is a table to highlight some of the differences between traditional vows and self-authored wedding vows. Read”�the benefits of writing your own wedding vows,” for a full list of great reasons to write your own vows.

Traditional Wedding Vows

  1. May or may not have personal significance
  2. Are often merely “pretty” words
  3. Used only on your wedding day
  4. Likely don’t enhance your relationship on an ongoing basis

Self-Written Wedding Vows

  1. Deeply meaningful to YOU
  2. Your unique intentions, desires, hopes, and dreams are written out as reminders of what the two of you want to create in your life together. No one has the exact relationship that you and your partner have.
  3. You wrote them, so they’re always within you, ready to use at any time.
  4. Simply going through the process of writing your vows can deepen your connection with your partner.

So there you have it. Writing your own wedding vows need not induce fear or overwhelm in your lives. We wrote I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook from our own experience writing our vows for our May 30, 1999 wedding. We coach couples through the process of authoring their unique wedding vows (see sample wedding vows here). Writing your own wedding vows offers innumerable and lasting benefits that you’ll enjoy before, during, and long after your wedding day.

If you wrote your own vows or are planning to, we’d love to learn why you decided to go this route! Or, if you still have lingering doubts, post your question in the “comments” section.

Are all marriages “shotgun weddings?”

Now I’m sure that your first response is an emphatic “no,” because the term “shotgun wedding” is “…an American colloquialism based on a supposed scenario (hyperbole) that the father of the pregnant daughter, almost by accepted custom, must resort to using coercive force (the shotgun) to ensure the marriage is carried out.” (source Wikipedia). However, if we broaden the idea of a shotgun wedding as being one with little preparation or forethought, would your answer still be so clear?

Obviously much planning goes into most weddings. There’s the choosing of the dress, invitations, gift registry items, rings, wedding party members, guests, food for the reception, songs, honeymoon destinations, an on and on. What there may be less of these days is planning for the marriage. Or at least that’s what I’m wondering.

Marriage prepartion surveySo, I’ve created a survey to get a glimpse of people’s experience with marriage preparation classes or pre-marital counseling. I’m curious to know how much time couples are spending getting to know one another and looking toward their shared future.

Help me learn about the modern marriage preparation. Take our short, five question marriage preparation survey (Your results are anonymous of course.). We’ll report on our results in an upcoming post.

Romantic wedding vows from Deanna & David LaMotte

Deanna & David LaMotteHere are the unique wedding vows from our friends, David and Deanna LaMotte. They celebrated in private on June 5, 2004 and publically on July 10. Though David is a gifted songwriter and knows how to put heartfelt words onto paper, we remind you that anyone’s wedding vows can be romantic.

David to Deanna

  • I love you.
  • And when I tell you I love you, this is what I mean:
    You are the one for whom I have waited. You have brought me more peace and steadiness than I have ever known, and the days since I met you have been the best days of my life. Your ready smile, your deep convictions, your passion and compassion, your beauty, your laughter, your sense of adventure, your intelligence, your wisdom, your faith, your courage, your kindness and the lessons of your experience enrich me in every moment I spend with you.
  • I offer you my history, with its pride and its regret;
  • My future, walking with you wherever we go;
  • This present moment, which explodes with more joy than a moment should be able to hold.
  • All of my joy and fear, my brokenness and my courage, my success and failure, my humor and despair, my loneliness and my connectedness.
  • I promise to laugh with you and to laugh at myself.
  • I promise to take you seriously when seriousness is called for.
  • I promise to hold you while you cry, and to cry while you hold me.
  • I promise to care for you as best I can, and to encourage you to stretch and grow and care for yourself.
  • I promise to love and nourish myself, as a child of God and as the one whom you have chosen.
  • I promise to support you in sharing your gifts with others, to encourage your generosity and your chosen responses to your many callings.
  • I promise to listen to you, respect and consider your thoughts and beliefs, and to heed your challenges to my own.
  • I promise to rest with you, and to seek balance between work and play.
  • I promise to seek God with you, bravely and constantly, holding you closer than any other human to the heart of my heart, with only God in the very center.
  • I promise you nothing less than the rest of my life. You are my closest friend, and I give you myself. This is what I mean when I tell you that I love you.
  • From this moment on you are my wife, and, with Divine assistance, I promise to be your loving and faithful husband for the rest of our lives.

Deanna to David

  • I love you. And when I say I love you, what I mean is…
  • Everything within me, from the most analytical thoughts (complete with pro/con lists) to the goosebumps and butterflies, and especially the still small Voice, tells me that it is right to commit my life to building a life with you…
  • …because I believe we are stronger together than we are apart and that we can grow more in our intellect, our compassion, and in our faith together than we could alone.
  • I promise to stand firm beside you as your partner in pursuing knowledge, adventure, spirituality, peace, and responsibility.
  • I promise to love and honor who you are rather than who I imagine you to be, and I promise to present myself honestly and openly to you.
  • I promise to support you when your strength is challenged and to ask for your help in my weakness.
  • I promise to hold you as completely in my heart in the difficult times as in the joyous ones.
  • I promise to be open to growth and change and the unexpected as we, as individuals, grow and change.
  • And, finally, I promise to be open to laughter and wonder and mystery and, most importantly, to God’s will in our life together.
  • You make my joys greater and my sorrows more bearable, and you make my spirit feel known. From this day forward, you are my husband and companion, and I promise, with Divine assistance, to be a loving and faithful wife for the rest of our lives.