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.