Writing your own wedding vows may seem like an imposing task, especially with all of the other matters to be handled when planning a wedding ceremony. But the process can really be inspiring and help you remember why you’ve chosen this special person to walk through life with you.
Below are a few tips that will help you write wedding vows that are compelling, authentic and enduring, vows will wow your family and guests and last for a lifetime.
- Write vows in the positive (e.g., “I will treat you with respect,” instead of, “I will not be disrespectful toward you.”).
- Write vows in the way you speak. If you’re plainspoken, write your vows that way and leave flowery prose to others.
- Write vows that have a sense of the sacred. Such vows come from deep within and you will willingly take them on. If a vow seems to be a directive, a command, or an ultimatum, set it aside and choose another.
- Write vows that are broad enough to apply to your life today and your life fifty years from now.
- Write vows that make you feel joyful, inspired, excited, and optimistic.
- Write vows using bold language. Examples include “I will,” “I commit to,” “As your partner/husband/wife/friend/lover I intend to . . .”
- Write vows that matter to you and your partner, that authentically express what’s in your heart. Your vows are for the two of you, though you may wish to ask your family and/or your community to support you in keeping them.
- Once written, read your vows aloud to make sure the language flows well; revise any awkward sections or phrases that you might stumble on. Do a run-through before the wedding day to get comfortable saying your vows.
- If you intend to memorize your vows, keep a copy of them with you during the ceremony, just in case. Or have the officiant lead you through them, with the officiant saying them first and you repeating them afterward.
- Coordinate your efforts with your officiant. Remember that some religions have restrictions on the vows that can be used in a marriage ceremony. Your officiant may be able to offer suggestions for your vows and incorporate them seamlessly into the ceremony.
Be sure to check out some sample wedding vows by clicking on “Wedding Vows” under Categories in the sidebar. There you’ll find a number of samples including romantic wedding vows and more.
Why is it that giving sincere praise is so challenging for so many of us—even (or perhaps especially) to our significant other? Is this a lost art in our culture, or have we humans always operated like this?
What is so difficult about praising someone for something they’ve done, whether the act was seemingly insignificant or really huge, say, holding the door for you when you have an armload of files or, perhaps, creating world peace in our time. “Thank you. I really appreciate your kindness. That was very thoughtful of you.” Is that truly so hard to say?
But acknowledging someone for something they’ve done seems relatively easy compared to praising another for who they are and what they mean to us. I might graciously thank Shonnie for cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, but how often am I willing to tell her how much I appreciate who she is and how glad I am that she’s in my life when she’s performing no action at all?
And accepting praise is just as difficult for many of us. How many times have you seen someone let an acknowledgment ricochet right off rather than take it in? “The counselor of the year award goes to Mary Jones, who is one of the most valuable and loved staff members in our organization. Let’s have a big round of applause for Mary!” And Mary reacts, “Aw, shucks, folks, it weren’t nothing.” Many might consider this humility. I suggest, however, that such a reaction is really self-deprecation and demonstrates and inability to authentically value oneself.
Frankly, I think we humans thrive on praise; it nourishes us, tells us we’re on the right track and let’s us know we’re appreciated by those around us. Sincere acknowledgments can also remind of us of who we are and what we’re about in this world.
A four-step program for giving your partner praise
- Notice when your significant other does something you really appreciate.
- Clear the chatter in your mind. You don’t have to say just the right thing. You won’t lose points in the relationship game. In fact, you’ll probably gain them, though that’s not the primary objective here.
- Be sincere in your acknowledgment. Speak from your heart.
- Give your partner an ample opportunity to take in your praise before moving on. If you think he or she has deflected it, you might gently ask, “Did you get what I just said? I really meant it.”
A three-step program for accepting praise
- When your partner (or someone else) is acknowledging you, stop for a moment, breathe deeply and take in the meaning of the words being spoken.
- Accept what is being said as the truth.
- Smile and say “thank you.”
Below are five tips from on giving sincere praise from Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project. Useful in your all your relationships–friend, family, co-worker and romantic.
Five Tips for Giving Good Praise
by Gretchen Rubin
Be specific. You read this in a lot of parenting advice: praise means more when it’s specific than when it’s general. “What a beautiful painting!” is less gratifying than “Look at all the colors you’ve used! And I see you used all your fingers with the finger paints. You’ve really made your picture look like a spring garden!” This is true, for adults, too. “Great job,” is less satisfying than an enumeration of what, exactly, was done well.
Acknowledge the actor. The Big Man has a habit of saying something complimentary without acknowledging that I had anything to do with whatever result he’s talking about. For example, with this household project, he looked around once and remarked, “This really turned out well.” As if some deus ex machina had wrought these changes overnight. Aaargh.
The effusiveness and time spent in giving praise should be commensurate with the difficulty and time-intensiveness of the task. If a task was quick and easy, a hasty “Looks great!” will do; if a task was protracted and difficult, the praise should be more lengthy and descriptive. Also, you might bring up the praise more than once.
Remember the negativity bias. The “negativity bias” is a well-recognized psychological phenomenon: people react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. For example, within marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act. So if you want to praise someone, remember that one critical comment will wipe out several positive comments, and will be far more memorable. To stay silent, and then remark something like, “It’s too bad that that door couldn’t be fixed,” will be perceived as highly critical.
Praise the everyday as well as the exceptional. When people do something unusual, it’s easy to remember to give praise. But what about the things they do well every day without any recognition? It never hurts to point out how much you appreciate the small services and tasks that someone unfailingly performs. Something like, “You know what? In three years, I don’t think you’ve ever been even an hour late with the weekly report.” After all, we never forget to make a comment when someone screws up.
C.S. Lewis wrote about four unique types of love we experience. Storge which is described as affection between family members; Philia, the love between friends; Eros, the sexual love shared by intimate partners; and Agape, or unconditional love. Though there are other ways to talk about love, I think simply looking at these four variations of the human emotion can be really useful for couples.
Love changes throughout our relationships
One of the challenges couples face is our shifting experience of love for our partner. The images most often seen of “happy couples” are those of passion and sexual connection. For many of us, this sexual attraction and desire predominate in the early phases of our relationship. If this blissful sensuality fades, many couples start to fear that their love is waning and perhaps even that the relationship isn’t the “right one.” I think, however, that an alternative way of looking at such a change is to see it as the opportunity for another form of love to take center stage. Perhaps a couple at this stage is searching for affection and familiarity rather than passion and pleasure. Or it could be a chance to express love through a deepening friendship. Maybe it’s a call to offer unconditional support and “for”ness for one’s partner, championing their best in whatever is most important to them.
For fun, take some time to look at your current relationship and identify the form of love that’s most prevalent as well as the form you’re experiencing least. What, if anything, would you like to change about your love and the kind of connection you’re creating with your beloved?
“Love must be as much a light as it is a flame.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
“It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.”
Recently Bruce and I have been very busy with things to do, places to be, deadlines to meet, goals to accomplish. Many of these activities have also meant time apart. I think that most of you know this experience in your relationships–so many calls for our time and attention and only 24 hours a day to give. So what’s a modern couple to do? How do we find time for the important things to do without sacrificing our relationship (or our other irreplaceable treasures like health, self and other significant relationships with family and friends)?
I was reminded of one possible answer when reading the newsletter of Randy Siegel, our good friend and communication expert. He described two types of people. First was one who, “When you’re with him, he makes you feel like talking to you is the single, most important thing in the world. You feel seen, heard, understood, and, yes, loved.” With the other person Randy described, you’re experience is more like this: “You’re talking, and they’re looking around, have that glazed look on their face, or nodding their heads impatiently waiting for you to pause so they can interject a point.”
Being present is essential to maintaining your connection
To strengthen your connection with your spouse, practice being fully present when you’re with each other. Broadly, “being present” means to be undistracted, focused on your partner, being attentive to and aware of only that which is occurring in that given moment. Below are some suggestions on how you can bring greater presence into your relationship.
- Intend to be present. You increase the likelihood of being present simply by committing yourself to be 100% attentive to the here and now.
- Take your time. While we can be present at high speed, slowing down often helps us fully absorb all that happens in a moment of time.
- Use all your senses. Like slowing down, tuning in with our ears, eyes, nose, heart, mind, and intuition help us pick up on the richness of now.
- Minimize distractions. Even with our best intentions, ringing phones, chiming PDAs, buzzing doorbells, and other interruptions can pull us out of our present connection. Eliminate anything that’s likely to snatch you away from your focus on your partner and your relationship.
- Build “being present” time into your routine. We do this through our gratitude ritual at the evening meal where we focus solely on holding hands, sharing our gratitude, and listening attentively as our partner shares (We do this before meals with friends as well.). Presence is as valuable in the everyday setting as it is at a romantic dinner or special getaway, so practice it regularly.
Do you have other ideas on how to be present with your partner? We’d be delighted to hear your suggestions and learn about the practices you and your beloved use to stay intimately connected amid the hustle and bustle of daily life.
“If you have one eye on yesterday, and one eye on tomorrow, you’re going to be cockeyed today.”
Earlier this month we were interviewed by Coach Iris Benrubi about passionate commitment. We first familiarized our audience with the five levels of commitment from the Commitment Scale in our book I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook:
- Uncommitted—Disconnected entirely from your partner
- Obligated—Begrudging participation, duty-bound
- Desiring—Wishing for a deeper connection
- Committed—Connected to one another as allies, equals
- Passionate commitment (or inspired)—Synergistic partnership, deep connection to one another as well as connection to the world-at-large
Though we may move up and down the scale, the idea is to spend most of one’s time on the committed end of it.
But how do you fully commit to your significant other, whether in a new relationship or in an existing relationship? We offer the following suggestions. You can learn much more about each of these strategies in our book.
- Choice—Choose to be committed, then keep your focus on this choice.
- Vision—Create a joint vision, a vivid mental picture, for the future of your relationship together, and bring that vision into your consciousness on a regular basis.
- Vows—Craft vows or commitments about how you will be one another.
- Live your vows—Put practices in place that support you to be intentional about keeping your commitments to yourself and to one another.
- Daily housekeeping—Handle all disconnections from your partner as they arise, stepping over nothing; work through conflict and bring yourself back to connection.
- Empathic listening—Make a conscious effort to truly hear and understand your partner’s point of view.
- Forgiveness—Refuse to hold ill will and clean up resentments as you go. Ask for and offer forgiveness for all transgressions.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Review the first 15 pages of I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook (PDF format).
“It is important to know the difference between giving in and giving up.”
~ Brad Brown, co-founder of The More to Life Program
In our partnerships, be they romantic or platonic in nature, we are in a dance. There is give and take as we negotiate the steps of effective relationship. Many of us learned to relate in an adversarial way where someone wins and someone loses. If you’re like me, you might have even perfected the art of giving up simply to avoid the conflict that seemed to erupt when a disagreement occurred between two strong-willed people. Or you may be afraid to “give in” believing that it’s a sign of weakness or lack of conviction. But like the quote reminds us, there is a difference between “giving in” and “giving up.” Living that difference can transform your relationships.
Giving in versus giving up
- Giving in creates space between you and another person; it’s an opening to step into. Giving up creates a void where you’ve disappeared; negative feelings occupy the void.
- Giving in brings you closer to your partner. Giving up is the same as running away.
- Giving in is admitting that you aren’t the sole authority. Giving up is abdicating your personal power.
- Giving in is equivalent to saying, “You’re important to me. Let’s find a way to connect/work together.” Giving up is equivalent to saying, “F— you. I don’t care about our relationship.”
- Giving in is moving toward your partner and seeking to reconnect. Giving up is pushing back and distancing yourself.
How to give in in your relationship
My guess is that many of you reading may be thinking, “Okay, this makes sense, but I don’t know what ‘giving in’ would look like or how to do it.” So here are a few ways you can practice giving in.
- When you’re in a disagreement, giving in can mean not getting in the last word, refusing to continue trying to “win,” or simply, and honestly, saying, “You’re right.”
- When you are personally feeling stuck, upset, scared, frustrated, angry, giving in can be telling the simple truth about how you are feeling and what’s going on for you. Giving in can also mean saying, “Help. I really need ‘x’ from you right now.”
- Switch from your habitual ways of being in your relationship. If you tend to take the lead, choose instead to step back and let your partner play that role. If you generally are the task master, put away the “to do” list and instead seek to be spontaneous and playful.
While giving in may seem radical or odd at first, as you practice, I think you’ll find that it’s one of the best ways to make a positive impact on your relationship. I’d be delighted to hear about your experiences with this experiment.
I recently wrote about how many of our visions of marriage are tainted by the often obscene promise of fairy tale romances or the numbing, heart-hardening lies we’re told about failed relationships (Love lives between fairy tales and apathy). Today, I found some related and extremely valuable thoughts on a fantastic relationship and intimacy blog, Making Love Sustainable, by Wendy Strgar. She writes about a new book by Seth Godin called The Dip, which refers to “the hard place where days can go by before any satisfying results come in.” I encourage you to read Wendy’s entire post. In the meantime, here’s a brief excerpt:
“The Dip though points to a bigger and more rampant problem–the willingness to quit on the hard stuff because we believe ourselves to be mediocre or not up to it. We are afraid to feel the strain, so we quit–and most easily on relationships that are challenging. The problem with this kind of quitting which can become serial. . .as soon as the relationship demands more that we think we have, we bail. That place becomes so familiar, it is the jumping off spot, time after time. The real shame is that often the breakthrough place, where things start to work in a new way is just past that jump.”
What really struck me in this quote is the statement, “we believe ourselves to be mediocre or not up to it.” I think that kind of self-doubt and belief that neither partner is capable of navigating challenging waters is one of the biggest barriers to long-term happiness. If you hit a bump and your mind automatically assaults you with “you’re not smart enough to get through this,” or, “he doesn’t have what it takes to weather this kind of storm,” or, “this relationship isn’t strong enough to last,” you’ll likely not even be inspired to attempt to work through the challenge.
So, if you want to be able to make it through dips in your relationship, start building your confidence in yourself and your partner. Start strengthening your beliefs about the dedication, tenacity, capability you and your partner both possess. Work the muscles of belief and lose those flabby, flat-out-false thoughts that get you nowhere good, replacing them with toned, truths that will become the foundation for a strong, sustainable, and deeply satisfying relationship, whether you’re in a dip or on top of the world.
Recently at the party given in honor of my Grandpa’s 90th birthday, my new cousin-in-law, Scott, shared with us an idea for a relationship book. He envisioned stories from couples who’ve been in relationship for awhile — say 10 or more years –and are happy with their partnership (be it marriage or other commitment). As a newly married man, he believed such couples could provide valuable advice to burgeoning relationships and also could show that happy partnerships are possible, since that’s often not the prevailing story of our culture.
It does seem that many people today hold views at the far end of the spectrum. Either that relationships are pure bliss — like those childhood fantasies of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming — or that all relationships are doomed to end in divorce or merely to subsist in the haze of obligation and less-than-content cohabitation. What I’ve found in the 10 years since Bruce and I first became a couple is that love resides comfortably in the middle territory between these two extremes. While there are many times that I feel like a princess and am as giddy as a teenager in love, sustaining these euphoric feelings takes a commitment from me (and from Bruce, too).
I choose not to think of relationships as requiring “work,” however I do believe that staying in love requires a willingness to let go of anything that threatens to keep us feeling unloving toward our partner. Here are some of the things I endeavor to avoid in my quest to nurture a loving, happy, and mutually-satisfying marriage.
- Negativity about relationships — whether it’s people bitching about their ex or talk shows ranting about some woeful couples. I want my relationship to thrive, so I’m careful about the kind of environment to which I expose myself and the relationship.
- Resentment and retaliation. When I notice that I’m holding a grudge against Bruce, I either get over it or talk with him about it so the air will be clear again. Having any kind of ill will between us does nothing but weaken the love that bonds us together.
- Mistrust. I’ve committed to sharing my life with Bruce. If I find that I’m not trusting him, it’s time for a heart-to-heart conversation so I can come back to a place of mutual respect.
- Low self-esteem. If I’m not believing in myself or am thinking that I’m in any way unworthy, unloveable, incomplete, or inadequate, I become extremely needy and depend on Bruce to “make me okay.” In this state, I’m completely vulnerable to any slight I perceive and he’s likely to end up being the “bad guy” at some point through little or no fault of his own.
Sure, there are more things that can drive a wedge between a couple, yet these are ones that, when avoided, help me stay in a state of happiness. So, while I don’t believe that having fairy tale delusions is in our best interest, being apathetic about our potential for bliss doesn’t serve us either.
Most people I know make New Year’s Resolutions an individual thing. If you want your marriage to be better, however, it’s best if you both resolve to make changes instead of making this a solo act. That doesn’t mean you both have to make the same resolutions. It simply means that you’re both committing to doing your part for the health of your marriage. Based on my experience, here are suggestions about two areas to consider for improvement — changes in these areas can profoundly alter your relationship for the better.
Past = resentment and grudges. 2008 = forgiveness and growth. Resolve to forgive each other for those hurtful things that we all sometimes do in our relationships. Let go of hurt feelings, talk about the pain, offer and accept apologies, then choose a new path forward.
Past = busyness and lots of “priorities.” 2008 = slowing down and reserving time for the relationship. Resolve to hold your marriage as sacred and give it the time and attention that it needs to thrive. Instead of waiting for special moments to say “I love you” or to give a gift, do things to show that any moment is a special moment in your relationship.
“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”
~ Wayne Dyer
May 2008 be a truly magical year for you and your beloved. May all that did not serve you in the past be gently left behind. May those dreams which you deferred now blossom and grow in the light of a new year. May you find more joy, love, and peace in the journey to come than that which you already have known. Happy New Year!
Gratitude is something Bruce and I consciously bring into our lives on a daily basis. At the evening meal we each express gratitude for one or more things that happened or simply were during the day. It might be something “small” or “big” for which we’re grateful. We might give thanks for something that is “positive,” or we may even notice gratitude for something we perceived as “negative.” Some days our words of thanks flow easily from hearts filled to the brim with appreciation. Other days we might really have to think about what we actually feel grateful for. Regardless of how easy or hard it is for us to identify that for which we are thankful, we have maintained this practice for over 5 years. I believe that gratitude has made our relationship even stronger than it would be without this thankfulness ritual.
How gratitude enhances our relationship (and can enhance yours too)
- Gratitude infuses a relationship with positive energy. When we feel grateful for our lives, we tend to be more loving, thoughtful, compassionate, and supportive. Gratitude is a spark that lights many other warm and soothing fires.
- Gratitude makes the “bad” times less troubling. Even when we do hit rough patches in our relationship, our commitment to find things for which we are thankful helps to pull us out of the blues.
- Gratitude helps our love grow deeper. Along with our practice of giving thanks each evening, we verbally acknowledge each other (and then ourselves personally). Though we do have grievances with one another, our focus on what is working and what we’re truly grateful for helps strengthen our connection.
- Gratitude becomes a positive foundation for the rest of our lives. Since we focus our relationship on gratitude and what’s already working, we tend to carry that same outlook with us into our work, our play, and our other important relationships. Having a gratitude practice as a couple means that we both have the practice as individuals.
- Gratitude helps us keep the peace. It’s easy to get caught up in the ravenous energy of modern American culture and find ourselves yearning for more and better things. By noticing that which we are already so blessed to have, our cravings subside and we realize how happy, satisfied, and fulfilled we already are.
I would be grateful to know about your experience with gratitude, especially in the context of relationship. How has it changed your connection with your partner? With yourself? What roadblocks to gratitude do you find? What most profoundly evokes your gratitude? Please use the “comments” area to share or trackback to this post from your site.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. . . . Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
~ Melody Beattie
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“We can spend a whole lifetime enjoying various benefits and not appreciate their value until we are deprived of them. How many lovers boldly contemplate separation, fondly imagining that they have had enough of the beloved. And yet as soon as they actually experience separation, they burn up with longing.”
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”
~ Mary Jean Iron