A couple weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. For anyone who has met my wife, you know I got the better end of this bargain. I definitely “out kicked my coverage,” as a friend so kindly puts it. Carolyn is a brilliant, beautiful, and compassionate woman. She is an outstanding teacher, an amazing mother, and just a whole lot of fun. I am incredibly grateful for her and our life together. In many ways ten years have flown by.
But I think it’s important for all married couples to acknowledge just how much you and your partner will change in 10, 20, 50 years. It’s no stretch to say that I am married to a different person than the woman I met sophomore year of college. Carolyn would say the same about me. Our personalities have changed, we have new hobbies, different friends and evolving political opinions. We’ve changed and started careers, exercised more or less, developed new tastes in food and gone through quite a few pairs of glasses. The biggest change has certainly been the two beautiful children we welcomed into our lives. Over ten years of marriage we have both changed and grown.
But one thing has not changed — our commitment to one another. For both of us, we take our wedding vows very seriously.
If you’ve seen the Netflix show “Master of None,” you may remember the season 1 finale in which Dev and Rachel attend the wedding of a friend. Larry, the groom, talks about first meeting the bride, Andrea, and how he knew, “I was madly in love with you…I’ve never had any doubts, fears or regrets ever since.” As he says this, people in the audience look at each other, incredulously. When Andrea speaks her vows, she describes Larry as being “like a prism that takes in life and turns it into all these beautiful colors.” People in the crowd look at one another as if to say, “You’ve gotta be kidding me with this.”
Most pastors are less than enthused when couples want to write their own wedding vows. I’ve never had a couple that wants to do this, but I have witnessed some, and they are usually, well, interesting. The “vows” from this episode are illustrative of the issue — they’re not really vows. Wedding vows are promises you make to your betrothed. Oftentimes couples assume vows are simply expressions of how much they love the other. As anyone who has been married for a long time will tell you, love changes. There are seasons to love in marriage. We won’t always feel the same as we did on our wedding day.
But even when couples write vows that are actually promises, there are problems as well. There is a temptation to promise the impossible. Promising that “I will love you more and more every day and always make you happy,” sounds nice, but when we’re honest, we realize that no one can really promise this. Instead, marriage vows are principally about fidelity. About promising to stick together, through thick and thin. To be faithful to one another. To support and honor one another through this journey of life.
Carolyn and I were married young by modern standards — 22 and fresh out of college. I actually think it’s a positive thing that many people are waiting to get married. Career, identity and future hopes are all quite fluid in your twenties. Still, I worry that modern expectations of marriage, and of finding one’s “soulmate,” can be unrealistically high. Marriage is not always easy, and fulfilling marital vows is challenging. If we wait around for the “perfect” partner, we’ll either wait for ever or, worse yet, always be on the lookout for someone better to come along. Instead, there is a true beauty to the covenant of marriage. Promising that though we will change, though life will not always be easy, that we will stick it out together. After ten years Carolyn and I have had countless adventures and our share of challenges. But I wouldn’t want to face it all with anyone else.
First published in The Wilbraham-Hampden Times, August 2017.