Set yourself up for a successful relationship by reciting these heartfelt promises.
I've had the privilege of officiating a few weddings over the years, and being a relationship coach, my favorite part of the wedding ceremony has always been the exchange of vows. Not only is it touching and often tearful, it’s also an extremely telling moment.
When a couple exchanges vows, they're actually defining the culture of their relationship. They're saying, "This is the way we are going to function in this relationship. This is how we are going to do life and love together."
And so what's said is very telling.
Some couples stick with the traditional vows: "Do you, __________, take __________, to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward."
The traditional vows are fine, but I always prefer a couple write their own vows. It tells me that they've given some serious thought to the commitments and values that will guide their relationship.
In my first marriage, we didn't write our own vows, and I think that was telling.
We were young and we had not given serious thought to how our relationship would function. We didn't have a blueprint, a set of shared commitments that would guide our relationship.
That was a big reason our relationship didn't last.
Seven years ago, however, I got remarried, and this time we wrote our own vows. We talked about and agreed to the commitments that would guide our relationship, and we're flourishing because of it.
Here is a brief description of 6 vows that I wish couples would say to one another. (Feel free to put them in your own words, of course, but if you want a relationship that lasts, here's the blueprint.)
- The Vow Of Responsibility: "I vow to take full responsibility for the condition of our relationship. I will not blame you for my feelings or actions, but in a spirit of curiosity, I will wonder how I am responsible for what's occurring in our love life."
This is the vow of a conscious relationship and the focal point of my coaching practice. When our relationships hit rough spots — and they all do — most of us instinctively blame the other person for what's happening or what we're feeling.
We play the victim/villain game, arguing over who's right and wrong. But when both people turn their attention on themselves and wonder what their part is in the dynamic being experienced, drama ends, solutions are found and intimacy deepens.
- The Vow Of Openness: "I vow to reveal rather than conceal my thoughts, feelings, choices and actions, especially the ones I fear might anger you or threaten our relationship."
True intimacy can only occur if a couple commits to authenticity and transparency. This vow is about living out loud and verbalizing the voice in the head.
In a conscious, healthy relationship, secrets aren't kept and the sticky, scary issues are brought out into the open and discussed.
In the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, the book of Genesis says, "And the man and his wife were both naked and unashamed." That is, perhaps, the best definition of intimacy I've ever come across. "Naked" means they were exposed and seen. Nothing was covered up or hidden. And "unashamed" means they didn't judge themselves (or each other) for what was exposed, but they celebrated each other. That's a vow worth making!
- The Vow Of Sexual Fidelity: "I vow to seek my complete sexual and emotional fulfillment within the boundaries of our relationship and to openly share with you any attractions, temptations, fantasies and flirtations I have with others."
Assuming you want a monogamous relationship, let's be honest about something: We are sexual beings and all of us encounter people we're attracted to, tempted by and sometimes even flirt with.
To keep our heads in the sand about this actually makes infidelity more likely. This vow is about more than exclusivity; it's about openly sharing our sex lives with our partners.
This can be scary, but conscious couples talk about attractions, temptations and flirtations, as well as things like pornography, strip clubs, romance novels, masturbation and so on. Discussing them honestly leads to greater self-awareness and deeper intimacy.
- The Vow Of Creativity: "I vow to pursue my full creative potential and not make my happiness and fulfillment your responsibility. And I vow to support you in pursuing your creative potential as well."
If people aren't living the life they want to live or doing the things that make them feel fully alive, they become bored, angry and often lonely.
This puts unnecessary pressure on the relationship to fill that empty space, which leads to conflict, and often times, infidelity.
In healthy relationships, both people vow to pursue their full creative potential and they also insist that their partner does the same. Whether it's raising kids, gardening, volunteering, writing a book, lowering their golf handicap or building a business, each person is pursuing their full creative potential.
- The Vow Of Appreciation: "I vow to verbally appreciate you, rather than criticize you. I vow to notice the deeper aspects of who you are and why I love you and communicate that to you on a regular basis."
A recent study showed that for every criticism spoken in a relationship, it takes five verbal appreciations to offset it.
Criticism will kill your intimacy. Healthy relationships have a culture of verbal appreciation. Additionally, what's appreciated is more than mere actions.
What's noticed and verbalized are the essence qualities behind the actions. For example, instead of simply saying, "I appreciate you for watering the plants," a deeper noticing would be, "I appreciate how you use plants to make our home feel alive, beautiful and peaceful." Wouldn't a person feel truly seen after hearing that?
- The Vow Of Agreements: "I vow to keep my agreements with you impeccably, consistently and reliably following through on my promises and commitments."
Sometimes coaches, psychologists, researchers and authors make relationships awfully complicated. I'm probably guilty of that at times too.
But it's not complicated. If we make and keep our agreements, our relationship will flourish. If we can't be trusted and counted upon, however, our relationship will suffer and soon die.
If you say you'll do something, do it. If you promised not to do something, don't do it, or ask to renegotiate your commitment.
Finally, don't commit to things you don't want to do or aren't sure you can do.
These vows are best thought of as skills. And as such, they're mastered through practice and one-on-one support, as any skill is.
Rarely do I meet someone who is naturally able to relate like this without help. Mastering these vows is like mastering yoga or golf. It takes practice and coaching.
I would love to coach you in how to attract and create a conscious relationship. If you're interested in such support, take advantage of the 30-minute exploratory coaching session that I offer to anyone who is interested in working with me. Contact me at email@example.com.
Roy Biancalana is a certified relationship coach and author of, Attracting Lasting Love: Breaking Free of the 7 Barriers that Keep You Single. He works with single people in the art of attraction, dating and creating conscious relationships. For more information, visit his website, www.coachingwithroy.com.