Most of us launch our marriages with promises spoken as vows that somebody else has written. We repeat them as if we could not possibly remember what they are or say them correctly if not prompted to do so. We do this because it’s the custom of the day and maybe to reassure ourselves that we know what we’re doing.
This marriage thing is a big risk and although we know it few of us want to admit it. The English word wedding has its roots in the idea of ‘to make a bet or wager.’ It is a roll of the dice. And many of us foolishly confuse the wedding with a marriage.
The wedding is a party for extended family and friends, an occasion for receiving the anointing of the community (the license), and a fantasy based on archaic romantic images. Weddings that do not metamorphose into marriages soon fail.
So the question is, what good are vows and promises to a couple who wish to claim their desire for a life long, vital and loving partnership?
The answer is not much if you do not know what a marriage is in the first place and so have no idea what it will take to be successful. Without a clear and inviting paradigm of marriage – a paradigm that is lacking in our time – many of us will turn our frustration into judgment of our partners. We knew our intentions were good. We felt love and we believed we were doing the right thing, so maybe ‘what’s missing’ is our partner’s fault.
In a just released book on marriage, With These Rings, Dr. Stephen Frueh, a marriage coach, leadership coach and national speaker, offers a fresh and innovative approach to ‘the marriage conversation.’
“I’ve interviewed hundreds of couples and spoken to large groups of divorced singles. When I ask ‘who’s fault (divorce) was it?’ Most people say ‘it was his / hers.’ We have 20/20 vision in “seeing the speck in our partner’s eye” and are nearly blind at “seeing the beam in our own (eye).”
But divorce or relationship failure can’t be weighed, for the most part, in the criminal justice system model. Relationships don’t fit well in a courtroom. Why divorce? With These Rings argues that it’s not as much a failure of love as it is an absence of a compelling paradigm that will sustain commitment over time.
If we don’t know what marriage is, our vows will sound like promises ‘to be good.’ If you’re a grown up, the quality of your relationship is not going to be significantly affected three or four or ten years into the marriage by a vow you made years earlier that wasn’t your own in the first place and that had little conscious connection to what you really were committing to.
The use of credit cards demonstrates the gap between hope and delivery. Long after the shine has gone and the buyer enchantment has faded we’re still making payments. We’ve forgotten the inspired moment of purchase and are now dutifully making our payments.
Similarly our model of marriage, our vows and promises, our notion of wedding, and our ‘honeymoons’ have little to do with the huge promise available in the decision to marry and the consciousness it takes to sustain enthusiasm for relationship.
The With These Rings model offers three ‘rings’ or domains hidden just below the surface of relationship. These ‘rings’ are subsets of relationship. There is a new basis for communication and for recreating vows here that can become the working basis of healthy relationship.
Dr. Frueh believes we can re-invigorate, re-imagine and re-birth marriage, offering a pathway for marriages that are marginal to become lively, intimate and exciting once again.
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