The Most Important Vow I Hope My Son Makes At His Wedding — When The Mother Of The Groom Is A Couples Therapist

Photo: Kamchatka, Hrecheniuk Oleksii, and Helgy via Canva
meaning of modern commitment

I just heard that next year my son is getting married!

As a relationship expert, I found myself thinking about what I would like to tell him and all the lovers who are about to commit to each other. Especially at a time when the word on the street is that relationships have a “best-before” date, and that lasting love is a rare and elusive thing available only to the lucky few.

RELATED: 10 Most Important Wedding Vows You Should Make, Based On Research

We all “know” that love makes a safer world. But in his famous experiments where partners hold hands and so radically reduce their brain’s alarm response to threat, my colleague Dr. Jim Coan tells me that he finds this Safer World effect only happens when partners are explicitly committed to each other.

With that in mind, along with my own personal knowledge, I have some things to say to my son about marriage. 

What I Will Tell My Son When He Gets Married

  • I will tell my son that, even though it is scary, commitment matters.
  • I will tell my son that we now have a science of romantic love and bonding.
  • I will tell him the structure of love and how it works – or not – is now an open book. 
  • I will tell him that the path to love is now clear – but not easy! The dance has many twists and turns and we all lose our way at times.

Closeness with a loved one calms our nervous system and increases our confidence so that we can deal with our world, but only when we feel that we matter to our lovers and that they will be there for us no matter what. 

When we have a secure emotional bond, we have a resource that keeps on giving and leads us into emotional balance, better health, resilience to stress, and a more positive sense of who we are.

He can shape this dance with intention. He doesn’t have to leave his love relationship to chance or to the guiding angels of romance novels. 

The Wedding Vow I Hope My Son Makes

As a wedding present, I’ll give my son and his partner a week away in a quiet place to sit and write their vows to each other. Vows about what kind of relationship they long for and how they will create this together.

This means not only envisioning where they want to be in 5 or 10 or 20 years' time but also what they will do, every day, to get there.

Never mind the circus of outfits and the theatre of the event, marriage is a promise and a journey. We need to know specifically what direction we are going in.

RELATED: 5 Fascinating Psychological Reasons Why Human Beings Crave Commitment

And what does the new science of love and attachment tell us about making vows like this?

As someone who studies this science, I would suggest that the most potent vow of all might be something like, “I will struggle to be open to you and to respond to you from my heart, my emotions, even when I am angry or afraid or hurting. I will take the risk of reaching for you when we are stuck in distance. I will still turn and risk – choosing to believe in you and our bond.”

Over 35 years of watching distressed couples transform their relationships has taught me that when partners can stay open and responsive, they can have what I call Hold Me Tight conversations. They can then share their vulnerabilities and their needs rather than closing down or resorting to critical anger. The safety this creates allows them to find a way through differences, solve challenging life problems together, and shape the lasting connection that we glimpse in those romance stories.

This commitment and this journey are not for those who like easy sentimental illusions; it takes guts to move into a "Hold Me Tight" conversation, for you to tell your partner,

“I am avoiding here because I am scared of hearing that you are disappointed in me right now. I want to be here and maybe I need some reassurance that, even when things aren’t going well, I am still your special one. That I have room to mess up and that this relationship is worth struggling for.”

We have data that tells us when we have a secure emotional bond we have a resource that keeps on giving and leads us into emotional balance, better health, resilience to stress, and a more positive sense of who we are.

And, oh, it brings us joy! We are wired to feel a rush of joy when we move into the vibrant connection that we call intimacy. It’s our brain telling us that we are home, where we are meant to be.

I wish all the couples who will marry joy and secure connection – and the time to really explore what they need and want to give in a love relationship – so their vows are a compass that can guide them over the years.

RELATED: On Their Wedding Day, A Groom Tells His Bride The 2 Things Required To Keep Him Happy — 'She Should Run'

Dr. Sue Johnson is the Director of the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. She is the author of multiple best-selling books, including Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

This article was originally published at Dr. Sue Johnson's Website. Reprinted with permission from the author.