My brother-in-law is a Catholic Priest and, unsurprisingly, has never been married. Yet, he comes up with some insightful thoughts on marriage. His latest really struck a chord with me. During his homily at my sister-in-law’s wedding last year, he said:
“Marriage vows are not for the good times. They’re for the bad times.”
I wanted to jump up Southern Baptist style and shout out an Amen when he said this, but thought better of it (lest anyone thinks my husband and I have bad times in our marriage!).
Typical vows do read “for better or for worse, in good times and in bad,” but Father Carlos made the point that good times don’t really require vows, do they? It’s the bad times when those vows kick in. Everyone sticks around for a party with free food. Not everyone wants to stick around for the clean-up afterwards.
Hence, the vow.
Really, if you strive to be a decent person, you make little vows to people all the time. How often do we do things we don’t feel like doing because we made a promise or a commitment to do it?
Here’s one I’ve made pretty often: “Yes, I will pack up my four kids and drive you to the airport at 5:30 in the morning on a Monday.”
When I say it, I mean it. I know it may require hardship later on, like crying babies, rush hour traffic on the way back – maybe I’ll wake with a headache and feel like garbage. But saying it out loud seals my intention to do good for the sake of someone I love. It makes me set that alarm clock, wake up and fulfill my promise even when I “feel” like flaking out. (Because what-the-hay, it’s freakin’ five in the morning!)
But consider the alternative.
What if you ran your life this:
“I might drive you to the airport on Monday. I’ll see how I feel, okay?”
Everyone knows someone like this: The flake, the irresponsible, self-centered guy no one can count on. (Who always seems to show up for a free meal or a good time.)
But at least this guy is honest.
What’s worse is the person who commits – who makes the vow – and then breaks it ‘cause he’s tired or “something came up,” leaving you abandoned and madly trying to find a taxi at the last minute.
When you love someone and want to commit your life to that person, you say it and then you do it. You vow to be there no matter if you’re tired, irritated, uninspired, bored or whatever other temporary feelings cause you to want to run away. You especially stay when all hell breaks loose. And it just might. Actually, it probably will.
Maybe that’s why the new trend is to water down the vows to something that your mailman could fulfill, like, “I vow to always respect you for the person you are.” Sorry, that’s not going to cut it. Give me the meaty vows that mean something and specifically mention “bad times.”
(Not that I’ve encountered any bad times in my marriage. We’re perfect, of course!)
The true beauty of the relationship is in having the courage to make this vow and then the fortitude and love to live it until you die.
If you think you can’t handle this commitment, then don’t even get near it. It’s pretty serious stuff.
Let me put it this way:
Marriage is the Airport Run of Your Life. Don’t commit unless you’re ready to endure some bad traffic.
Okay, I’m sure Father Carlos won’t be stealing that line anytime soon, but it’s the best I can come up with.
As for me, I’m just happy to be in a marriage where we’ve never had any bad times.
And if you believe that, I’ve got a lush mountain villa to sell you in South Texas.