Don't Renew Your Vows - Rewrite Them
An interesting discussion came up on the radio show this past week. A listener had a question about couples renewing their wedding vows, a practice you’ll often see on landmark occasions like a 10th or 20th anniversary.
I gave it some thought during a commercial break and came to the conclusion that people might be looking at this event the wrong way. Sure, you can renew your vows and pledge once again to be faithful and supportive — you know, the usual words spoken millions of times before.
But to me this puts your marriage vows on the same level as your car’s registration, a routine that’s somewhat mechanical, following an established procedure on a predetermined timeline that everyone follows.
After the show I drove home, still pondering the idea. Here’s what I think:
The motivation and the emotion behind renewing your vows is commendable, and actually quite sweet. I just think we’re coming at it the wrong way.
Instead of renewing vows — essentially voicing the same pledges you did five or ten years earlier, using words that every couple exchanges — I think we should use those years of experience with a person to rewrite our vows.
Consider the ten years you’ve spent with someone (or however long). You’ve been down quite a path together, haven’t you? You’ve learned things about each other you couldn’t possibly have known when you said “I do.”
You may have had children and learned about each other’s level of patience. You may have purchased a home and discovered a skill set you never knew your mate possessed.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a health scare in your years together, or suffered a death in the family and found a niche of empathy or kindness that had never before surfaced.
Or maybe your travels together have shown you so many things you had in common that weren’t obvious way back when.
On top of these moments of discovery, there’s no doubt you’ve changed as individuals. It’s impossible to think you haven’t. How have those changes impacted your relationship?
There’s so much new material after five or ten years that couldn’t have even been on the table when you originally walked down that aisle. You have a golden opportunity now to use your experiences to craft a new set of vows that don’t rely on some tried-and-true, regurgitated vows that every couple says.
You can take an hour — just one hour — to sit down and write new vows that incorporate what you’ve specifically learned about each other. It could follow a path like this:
“I promise to be more supportive of your efforts to guide our kids into adulthood.”
“I promise to be more attentive to your needs for alone time, especially after so much family drama has dominated our time as a couple.”
“I will cherish your quirky morning habits rather than try to change them.”
Touch on things that are specific to the two of you, not something you found in a wedding book. Speak in the language that resonates with you as a couple. Use specific examples if it drives home a point.
It’s a good opportunity to inject some humor into the seriousness of marriage, too. Perhaps “I promise to do a better job of picking up my dirty clothes before you get home so dinner can be peaceful.” No reason to not have a little bit of fun, right?
Most of all, make your new, rewritten vows into a pledge to be a better partner in life. This isn’t a time to request what you want; this is a time to show you’ve paid attention to your partner’s individuality, and to promise you’ll do what you can to honor that uniqueness.
Renewing vows is sweet. Rewriting vows is both productive and deeply meaningful.
And, I think, even sweeter.