The idea of walking down the aisle to a man who promises to love, honour and cherish you “until death do us part” is so romantic. But, really, it’s just not that helpful.
Besides the fact that one in three marriages end up looking more like War of the Roses than The Notebook, wedding vows like this are too vague to be useful. And they have way too many loopholes.
When it comes to making an agreement with someone you plan to spend almost every day of your life with, and who will often hold the key to your happiness and safety, it’s a good idea to talk specifics upfront.
After seven years of marriage and listening to the marriage highs and lows of countless friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers, this is what you really want a man to promise you on your wedding day:
I [insert man’s name] take you, [insert your name] to be my lawfully wedded wife.
I promise to be your safe space, where you will always find respect and compassion. I will always be on your side.
My interests and career will not always come before yours; I do not need to be more successful than you in order to feel secure. Rather than resenting, or even sabotaging your success, I will support it, celebrate it and be proud of you.
I promise that I will not expect you to become my mother. If I don’t know how to iron my own shirts, cook for myself (and for a family), or use a vacuum cleaner, I will learn because you are my partner, not my housekeeper.
Should we have children, I promise to take equal responsibility in all areas of their lives and wellbeing. I will not see them as competition for your time, attention and affection but as a commitment and privilege we share together.
I will not expect you to make any sacrifices to your career, financial independence, or social life that I am not prepared to make myself.
I promise to pay my fair share of childcare.
I promise to respect your need for leisure time as much as I do my own.
If you become the primary carer of our children, I promise not to say that I work harder than you or that I am more tired or more stressed. I will never walk in the front door and say, “This house is a mess, what have you been doing all day?”. And I will not utter the words “That’s not my job”, as if we decided that the kids — and anything related to them and their needs — is automatically your job.
I expect that our life will be different after children. If I miss our free time and the fun we used to have, I will understand that this is a consequence of the choices we made together. I won’t blame you for not being as fun and spontaneous as you used to be. I won’t resent you for having to fulfil my family obligations during the times when I would prefer to be doing something else.
I promise to honour every childbearing scar and stretch mark on your body as a tribute of our life and love together. I will tell you that I am proud and grateful for the children you produced, rather than make you feel insecure for the way it changed your body.
Just as I will not always look the way that I do today, I will not expect you to either. You are not my doll or my trophy so I won’t ever complain to my mates that I wish you were ten years younger and hotter. I promise not to make you feel devalued or unattractive as you age because my love for you is far deeper than the transient physical beauty of your youth.
I promise to tell you if I fall out of love with you rather than have an affair.
I will never be cruel, disrespectful, controlling or abusive. I will laugh with you and share my secrets with you, and I will always make you feel safe and comfortable to share yours with me.
Some people will claim that these vows are asking too much, but if you are marrying someone who truly sees you as an equal life partner, then these promises aren’t at all demanding. In fact, they are the bare minimum of what you should expect.