In our culture, when we say someone “broke their vows”, we automatically jump to thinking they had an affair or got divorced. But I think many of us are breaking our vows daily.
What did you promise at your wedding? Now, I don’t know exactly, but the typical vows go something like:
I ____, take you ___, to be my [wife/husband],
to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part.
Whether or not you said those exact words, there’s a good chance that’s similar to what you meant.
The line here that I was thinking about this morning while we were discussing something in our supporters forum was the “to love and cherish”. How often do we fail at that?
Do you love your spouse?
Our culture has turned love into a selfish feeling. Something that makes us feel good. We use the same word to say:
I love my wife
I love my pet
I love my job
I love my phone
And, while people will argue that the word means different things, for most people, it doesn’t. They mean it as they say it. I like what this makes me feel. And when it stops making them feel good, they ditch it. They apply at a new job, they bring the pet to the shelter, give it away, or put it down. They upgrade their phone.
And sadly, sometimes they get a divorce or have an affair. And that’s when we say they broke their vows. But the truth is, they broke it long before that point.
The way these vows were written, the original author knew that love isn’t a feeling. It isn’t something that you get. It’s a choice. It’s something you give. You can’t promise you will always feel “love” – that warm “it’s making me feel good” feeling. In fact, I promise that if you’re married any length of time, there will be many times you don’t feel that way.
What you can promise is that you will choose to love. That you will decide to take every chance to turn towards your spouse when opportunities arise.
That’s part of this vow. When you see a door that leads to intimacy, you take it.
In this way, marriage is like Christianity. We dedicate our lives to loving God. That doesn’t mean getting warm feelings from Him. It means taking every opportunity to turn towards Him.
Of course, we don’t do it perfectly. We miss some chances, we walk away from some doors. Sometimes we even slam them shut or lock them for a time. None of these things are okay, right or good, but we’re human, and it happens, with respect to our spouses and with God.
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect in action, only perfect in spirit. What do I mean by that? That though we slip, we falter, we occasionally turn away and make mistakes, our conscious effort is always to return to Him.
Look at who God calls perfect in this Word:
This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. – Genesis 6:9
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? – Job 1:8
And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. – 1 Kings 15:3
But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days. — 1 Kings 15:14
Now, of course, none of these people were perfect. Job had pride, Noah was a drunk, David an adulterer and murderer, and Asa had trouble trusting God even going so far as to take the treasure from the temple to pay for treaties.
But, no matter what they did, they were always repentant when they realized what they had done. Always seeking to return to intimacy with God. I think that’s what really matters in our walk with God, and our relationship with our spouses. The example of Solomon shows this. Both him and his father (David) sinned in the same manners, but David’s heart was perfect while Solomon’s was not.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. – Psalm 51:17
It’s when we fail to turn back to our spouses that we’ve broken our vows. When we decide to stay angry, when we shut down intimacy (of any type), when we decide to let ourselves “fall out of love”, when we withhold love because they aren’t making you ‘feel loved”.
It’s those long-term dynamics of choosing not to love that ultimately are when we fail to love.
So, let me ask you. Do you love your spouse? Are you keeping that part of your vow? Now, if you think you are, let’s get to the next one.
Do you cherish your spouse?
If loving is deciding to continuously turn towards intimacy at every opportunity (and again, I don’t mean just sex), then cherishing goes a step further. It’s not just a decision to work towards deeper intimacy, but to revel in it. It’s deciding to look forward to any moment that allows that.
Do you remember what it’s like to cherish your spouse. Remember when you were dating? When you were “in love”, and by that, I mean, they made you feel fantastic whenever you saw them. Do you remember wanting to spend every minute of every day with them? When all you wanted was to be around them. You wanted to protect them, to care for them, to do anything for them.
You cherished every moment together. Every second was heaven. You just wanted to be close to them. For some, perhaps most of us, it made it difficult to refrain from sexual activity before marriage. Many of us didn’t manage to. Why? You just wanted to be closer than clothes would allow. You wanted to be one and just couldn’t wait. Our infatuation threw sense out of the window.
Sometimes I think it’s unfortunate we don’t get to experience that infatuation period during marriage itself, when we can be so intoxicated with feeling “in love”. Do you know the only time the Bible tells us to be intoxicated is with respect to our spouse?
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
– Proverbs 5:18-19
But, that was when you were dating, and now, perhaps it’s years later, maybe decades. Do you still cherish them? Do you still look forward to every moment together? Does your spouse make your heart leap in your chest like it used to, or catch your breath? Do you still look for ways to make their life easier, to do little tasks for them simply because you know it will bring a smile to their face? Do you still long to have sex, simply because clothes don’t let you get close enough?
Are you still cherishing your spouse?
Now, some will say that they “just don’t feel that way” anymore, but the way these vows are written, it’s not something that happens to you. It’s a choice. And I think that same choice of choosing to love them them leads to being able to make the choice to cherish them, to revel in being intimate with them.
I think when people say “I just don’t love them anymore”, they’re speaking the absolute truth. They’ve chosen to stop loving, and it’s impossible to cherish someone you’ve chosen not to love. It’s not that their spouse did something wrong, or that they don’t deserve it, it’s that they themselves made the choice to stop loving, stop cherishing. They’ve decided to distance themselves.
And I get it, in some cases, you simply cannot make yourself love them again. It hurts too much. The wounds are too deep. You simply cannot bring yourself to love. I think this happens to some people who find out about affairs. They simply do not have the fortitude of heart to continue. I don’t mean that as a slight or an insult. Merely a fact. Some people simply have a stronger willpower than others. For some, the betrayal comes at a time where their will simply isn’t strong enough to continue choosing to love. Others have more willpower when their betrayal comes, whether because they simply had more to start with due to upbringing, or that they have exercised their willpower over the years.
Are you breaking your marriage vows?
Don’t wait for betrayal to start choosing to love, choosing to cherish. Start exercising those now by making a choice to turn towards your spouse daily. Whether you said the word verbatim, or something akin to them, that was the spirit of your vows. If cherishing is too far out of reach today, just focus on choosing to love. It’s time to dust off your vows and remember what you committed to.
P.S. I know this post was heavy on the “what” and a bit light on the “how”, but stay tuned, because Christina and I are going to work on something to help with the practical part of choosing to love and cherish. If you aren’t already subscribed to the newsletter, you might want to so you don’t miss it.