Love

The Truth About Real Love That Wedding Vows Get Entirely Wrong

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Couple snuggling in the living room

"To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." You've heard these words of commitment, and perhaps you've even said them. These are the typical vows countless couples have made to each other for ages. Whether you're married or not, these vows are a perfect example of the impossible-to-keep commitments.

Why do our best attempts at lasting love fail? More importantly, how can we keep our promises to each other so love grows rather than withers? The quick answer is we make the mistake of committing to outcomes, rather than processes.

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Here's the truth about real love that wedding vows get entirely wrong.

1. There's a problem with typical wedding vows.

If you look closely at the wording of traditional Judeo-Christian wedding vows, you'll see they're largely focused on outcomes: unconditional love, fidelity, loyalty, and tenacity. Sure, we want these things. And we have the best intentions when we make these commitments. But the truth is that you can't control how you — or your partner — will feel every day.

Throughout a long-term, intimate relationship, you can bet there will be days when you will wake up and not feel very "in love" with your partner. Think of your primary relationship—the one you have with yourself. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes you feel pretty good about who you are. Other times, you just want to kick yourself.

   

   

This is simply part of being human. If you think you'll be in a great mood every single day, you're bound to feel frustrated and as if there's something wrong with you. Similarly, if you commit to unending devotion to your partner, you're setting yourself up for failure.

So how do we get what we want, day in, day out? How does a couple achieve the outcome of lasting love when they intend to spend a lifetime together?

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2. Couples commit to processes, not outcomes.

Implement little things you can do every day that add up to the big ticket. If you commit to going on a vacation as a couple every year, that's great. But unless the two of you sit down, plan the trip, and take all the actions to make it happen, you're not going anywhere except on a path of frustration and disappointment.

The same thing happens with relationships. To achieve the desired destination — in this case, a lasting, loving relationship — you need to commit to all the factors that make lasting love possible. You commit to the process, not the outcome. Wedding vows are wishful and hopefully good things, but they don't affect the day-to-day functioning of a relationship. That's because we don't have control over outcomes.

newlyweds sharing an private moment

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In our seminars, we invite couples to instead commit to processes in relationships. Processes are the actions you and your partner take to achieve your desired outcome. And you have complete control over them. If you practice them consistently, you will create the lasting love you want.

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3. The most important commitment you can make starts now.

It is never too early or too late to make new commitments. If you're single, you can commit to loving processes with everyone you meet. This is the single most important thing you can do to attract a conscious, loving relationship. And if you're in a committed relationship, you can recommit to new vows today. Doing this will bring you and your partner to a whole new level of intimacy and harmony in your relationship.

4. Couples commit to speaking honestly and listening generously.

When you withhold your true feelings from your partner, you may think you're trying to keep the peace. But the truth is, you've already checked out of the relationship. When you are not emotionally transparent, it creates a negative domino effect. You build up resentment and start acting differently towards your partner, which creates distance in your relationship.

When you promise honesty with each other and to listen without judgment, you are instead creating a safe space where trust and intimacy can truly flourish.

And that's when lasting love becomes not just a wish but a reality.

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Katie and Gay Hendricks are experts who have written over 30 books, trained thousands of coaches, appeared on Oprah, and hosted seminars around the globe.