Have you ever taken a vow of any kind?
Okay, let’s take it back a little and find out what a vow is…
The Oxford dictionary defines it as a solemn promise to do a specified thing. A vow can also be called an oath, a pledge or a covenant. Vows are made for different reasons, it can be made to God or a saint (Religious vows) as is the case with priests, monks and nuns. A vow of revenge can be made by some people, a vow of secrecy as in the case of cults and then there’s the marriage vow. My write up today is about the marriage vow.
The most important part of a marriage ceremony is the exchange of vows. That is the basis for any marriage ceremony – two people coming together and pledging to love and support each other forever. Guests are invited to serve as witnesses to the exchange. It’s quite unfortunate that in recent years, not only the guests but surprisingly even the couple do not give much thought to the main objective of the ceremony – the vow. I’m quite positive that if given a choice, most couples would opt out of the joining itself and go straight to the reception. Most guests do that these days as the focus on marriages has shifted to the fanfare and razzmatazz. More thoughts and plan is given to the bridal party, decor, photography and after party, anything but the new union and family that is about to start.
THE WEDDING VOW
What exactly is the wedding vow and why should it be taken seriously? Wedding vows are the words spoken by the couple to each other which express both an intent and a promise. They express how the couple intend to relate to each other, how they intend to navigate the path of life together, and what meaning they intend to give to their marriage.
The vow is a promise to work hard at living out this intent, no matter how challenging that may be, because of their love and commitment to each other. Couples can decide to write their own vows, however, for people of faith, some churches and other religions have their own traditional vow which every couple they join have to take.
Whichever vow a couple decides to take, a lot of thoughts should be given to their union before taking the vow. In other words, you should not take the marriage vows if you don’t intend to take it seriously. Choosing a life partner is one of the most serious decisions anyone can take. It is a decision that requires a lot of thoughts, prayers(for people of faith) and research. That is why courtship is an important stage in any relationship.
Courtship in a relationship is the period when a man and a woman get to know each other and develop a deep relationship so that they could purposefully explore the possibility of marriage. It is about developing a deep bond to ensure the relationship has a clearly defined direction and it’s going just the right way.
Courting is very different from dating, I know the meaning of dating varies for everyone, however, dating could mean you’re seeing someone occasionally or you’re going on dates or you’re dating someone specific and it’s serious. It is a form of courtship but without the emotional part. Courtship is developing a deep relationship before getting married. Courtship in the right sense is the period a couple get to know each other deeply, observe each other’s traits, know each other’s family and friends. It basically is a period where a couple decides whether coming together in marriage is feasible, they decide whether they can tolerate each other – idiosyncrasies and all. Ideally, there should be no sexual intimacy during courtship. This would enable the couple to focus on each other without the emotional ties that come with sexual relationships.
Courtship is all about commitment and accountability; it is a commitment to honour God’s will as you seek a partner for life. In contrast, dating is a strictly no commitment policy but with a little chance of a long-term relationship. Courtship is about getting to know each other and developing a deep relationship before getting married whereas dating is mostly physical with no strings attached and no emotional intimacy. A successful courtship progresses to a proposal which starts the engagement period. The length of engagement differs, some people get married immediately after the proposal, some few months after, while some even drag into years. The length of the engagement it’s entirely up to the parties involved.
The nuptials follow the engagement. This is when the couple exchange their vows and are joined in holy matrimony. Weddings are usually happy ceremonies followed by a celebratory reception where family and friends come together to celebrate the start of something beautiful.
And The Two will Become one
So the vows have been taken, the fanfare and razzmatazz are over, the guests are all gone and the focus is no longer on you two, now is the time to face each other, the time for your journey to eternity to begin, it’s time to honour your vows. It should be easy right? You probably had a whirlwind romance or a long courtship – even stretching to years – and you know everything about your spouse or probably you just dated for a while…
Different scenarios, different personalities, different circumstances but the same issue – starting life together. Unfortunately, there are no blueprints on how marriages should work. The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the couple – with a little support from family and friends. This is when you start discovering habits and traits that you did not notice before because no matter how long you dated, even for those who lived together before taking the vow, some new traits will show up that you never noticed. One thing people overlook is the fact that it’s the same for the other party. Your spouse is also discovering a part of you he never saw and is also dealing with it and this is why there must be an intention from the beginning of the relationship to make it work.
There is a lot of negativity on marriage these days, and from the comments I read on social media, it is clear that the youths are sceptical about marriage. Marriage is a beautiful thing and there are great marriages out there, but if you ask any married couple, they’ll tell you it requires effort.
Both parties must want it to work for it to work. Nobody has it all, there will always be someone prettier, kinder, richer or just has it more put together than any individual, what makes people stay in a marriage is the intention to commit against all odds.
In my 12 years of marriage and from the knowledge garnered from married couples I’ve observed and spoken to, here are some tips that can help keep our vows and enjoy our marriage;
Everybody knows how important communication is, however, it is overlooked by most people. It’s like that top you wear every day, yes, that comfy top you change to when you get home. It probably has lost colour or even has a rip, it’s probably your most valued item of clothing but when told to pick your best garments, you’ll pick everything else in your wardrobe but that top. That’s how we treat communication in marriage, we know it’s important but it’s amazing how a lot of us don’t value it’s importance!
You have to talk, talk about everything, voice out what you like, voice out what you don’t like. Talk about how you like things done. Avoid keeping malice, let it all out. Honestly, it makes a world of difference when we do. Refrain from assuming the other person should know or understand your feeling. Just express yourself. Talk about everything.
An important part of communication is how we do it. How do you get your point across, do you just yell at each other, or talk without considering the other person’s feelings? Some people are communicating but, they are doing it the wrong way which may actually aggravate the situation. The manner in which we get our message across goes a long way in sustaining our relationships. It is important to pick a time when the other person is relaxed and able to reason better. The tone used also plays an important role. I know tempers will always flare and there’s always a tendency to lash out without caring about the aftermath, but it goes a long way if we approach the other person when everyone is calm and can reason together. This leads me to the next point – kindness.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Kindness is one of the best virtues anyone can possess. It is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is empathy, thoughtfulness, tolerance and a lot more. What a lovely place the world would be if only we all can be kind at all times!
In marriage, kindness makes a lot of difference and can make our marriages sweeter. Kindness is when you correct without condemning, call your spouse’s attention to something calmly. Kindness is when you advise rather than lecture, when you nudge rather than compare. It is caring for one another, showing compassion and concern, it is grace, it means thinking before speaking, forgiving before seeking revenge, it works well with communication and it is what makes communication between couples seamless.
We live in a dog-eat-dog world, we’re all out here trying to make it work, trying to get our voices heard, the world can be very harsh. After fighting these battles at the work or business space, no one wants to go home to another warzone. Your home should be a peaceful place, a calm from the storm you battle at work. Greet each other with kindness, ask about each other’s day, a soft touch here and there, a hug, a pat on the back, kiss on the forehead, (even if you had a tiff in the morning). Just be kind to each other.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.Ephesians 5:31
What is marriage without intimacy? Intimacy is closeness and familiarity between people in a relationship. It is built over time and requires two people connecting and growing to care about each other and becoming comfortable with each other. People often confuse intimacy with sex, intimacy is much more than sex. Sex can build intimacy, it’s a form of intimacy but it is possible to have sex without intimacy.
Intimacy involves wanting to spend time with your spouse, the light touches you give each other in the course of the day. It builds as you exchange ideas, hopes and aspirations. It is praying together, confiding in each other and wishing each other well.
Boundaries and Space
For any relationship to work, there must be boundaries. Every relationship requires healthy boundaries – family relationships, acquaintanceships, friendships – all relationship require boundaries, without boundaries there is bound to be clashes.
Boundaries in marriage are that line or limit which partners set to protect their marriage, and prevent themselves from exploitation and manipulation. It helps couples understand what they’re comfortable with and how they will like to be treated by their partner and vice versa. With intimacy, both parties begin to recognize each other’s boundaries and are able to take responsibility and resolve conflicts easily.
Setting boundaries involve drawing limits and understanding what the other person can or cannot tolerate and respecting that. It also involves understanding when the other person needs space and letting them be. The interesting thing about boundaries is that it sometimes changes over time, different events in life could shift an individual’s boundaries.
Now, respecting each other’s privacy is a form of recognising boundaries. It is healthy for couples to have interests outside of each other. Have like-minded friends and family that you can do things with, without your spouse. Give each other space so that you can come back refreshed and not feel choked. It also gives you more things to talk about when you’re relaxing together. When you see the other party is in a mood, show concern and be kind but give them space till they come out if it.
Can I amplify the importance of sex in marriage as it is another area of marriage a lot of people overlook! In most marriages, preference for sex differs as you find one party likes it more than the other. It is the basis of most infidelities as dissatisfied parties seek alternatives outside.
Sex in marriage should be enjoyed not endured, a healthy sex life could transform any marriage. Please note that all of the points above play a part in enjoying a healthy sex life in marriage. Your bodies are to be enjoyed by each other, allow yourselves the pleasure of exploring and discovering what you like. Talk about it, let your spouse know what you like or don’t enjoy but then how do you know if you don’t explore each other’s bodies? Try new things and talk about it, be open with what you’re comfortable with, it could be awkward at first but that’s your ticket to an amazing sex life. Remember, every part of your body is just that – a body part, enjoy it, you’re licenced to do that 😉.
Both parties need to initiate sex, it’s boring when it’s just one party all the time. Flirt with your spouse, be spontaneous, be creative be naughty. Try to have fun with each other.
It is also important to make an effort. Smell nice, look nice and say nice things to each other. Create the right atmosphere, say the right things, entice each other. Please just have fun guys, sex is not meant to be a routine, it’s not meant to be a chore or to be boring, it’s to be enjoyed 😘.
Fitness, Health and Hygiene
Fitness, hygiene and healthy choices are very important for every home. Thankfully there is a lot more awareness about fitness and making healthy choices as it relates to our wellbeing. However, it is also important to inculcate these habits as it helps relationships both in the bedroom and out if it. Both parties should endeavour to take care of their bodies as well as the home. Who doesn’t appreciate a good looking man or woman right? So efforts should be made to look good both in and out of clothes. Not only does it keep your partner’s interest, but it also increases self confidence and when you’re fit, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can do during sex.
A clean, airy and well fragranced environment also does wonders to our mood or Zen as some like to call it. The right ambience helps in making the home a comfort zone and any part of the family unit will look forward to returning to. Home fragrances such as candles and diffusers can be used in the home for aromatherapy and for pleasant scents.
The God Factor
I have put this here because of my readers who are not of faith but as far as I’m concerned, it should be at top of the list. There is nothing like choosing a partner who knows God and fears him. From what I have discovered about marriage, any of the parties could decide to stray every now and again, what holds people back sometimes is not just the love, not the vow you took, not friends and families, but the God before whom and in whose name you took that vow. A spouse that genuinely loves God already understands their role in marriage, ‘we love, because he first loved us”. An understanding of how God loves us helps to know how we should love, honour and respect our spouse.
The Gift of gifting
Nothing makes anyone feel special than a nice gift, especially when it’s unexpected. Gifting, especially when done randomly builds and reinforces relationships. Gifting between spouses fosters communication of feelings and appreciation for each other. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be cherished, it could be quirky, it could even be ridiculous, it’s the thought behind it that counts. Gifts symbolise love and devotion and even though gifting should be done without expecting anything back, it should be reciprocated.
The act of gifting itself is a gift, when you give someone a nice gift and you see their reaction, it makes you happy and that itself is a gift. Try not to give gifts only when they’re expected (traditional giving times like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays). Exchange gifts just to show you love and appreciate your spouse. P.S Ladies, men like gifts and surprises too 😊.
Therefore, what God has joined together…
I mentioned somewhere in this article that there is no blueprint on marriage, we are all wired differently and what works for one may not work for the other. It is up to the parties involved to intentionally make the necessary efforts to make it work. That said, there are some basic things that can work for everyone. Everyone wants to be cared for and shown kindness, everyone likes to be respected etc. That’s why the points shared aabove can be helpful.
It will also help if we hear more stories about happy marriages. I know the world can be intimadating, especially as social media bullies are ever ready with their disparaging remarks, always happy to condemn and cast holes. But, please share your stories, we hear too many stories of bad marriages, our youths could do with some goid marriage stories, too many stories scaring them off marriage.
Work on your marriages, both parties should put in the efforts required. Don’t despise corrections from your spouse, search yourself always and look for how you can do better, no one is perfect. Go on date nights, double dates with other couples could be fun. Have fun together, just relax and have fun.
The whole point of this article is to remind people that marriage is more than a ceremony. It’s an agreement between two people to look out for each other and stay together forever. It’s a wonderful concept, the companionship, the loyalty and the intimacy. May all your homes be blessed.