What you really mean when you said “I do!” on that alter
I do! I do!! I do!!!
After all is said and done, there is still so much more to say and do. I do marks the beginning of many doings, it is a commitment to take responsibility of the other person’s happiness. I am not yet marriage, but I know this for sure. Everyone does to some extent.
I may not have the experience of marriage yet, but through learning by questioning, observing, reading and reflecting on the experiences of people, I have accrued knowledge on the subject matter which is worth sharing. I cannot justify my eligibility to talk on this topic any more than an unmarried pastor or a priest can justify their rightfulness to administer marriage advice and oversee marriage rites.
If I am qualified to talk on this matter to both my married and unmarried audiences who are reading this write-up, then you too can, even if you are unmarried. In fact, the earlier you begin to discuss the topic of marriage at least within yourself, the better it would be for your marriage in the future. I even suggest you go beyond discussion to actually living a sort of married life if you have the intention of getting married eventually.
And how do you do that? It’s simple, create a programmable mental family prototype and work with different simulation scenarios. That may sounds complex, but it really isn’t. Such a program could simply be an evolving set of what, when, how, where, why and which questions which you attempt to answer. You can apply the same approach in your everyday life and be able to live in advance, considering that events are characterized by the need for decision making. Actual events may be somewhat different from your mental models but you will discover that you are better prepared to response to them if you practice the exercise.
Given that marriage is a long-term project, I believe that this exercise is worth investing time in. I will write a detailed post at later time on this subject. For now, irrespective of your status, I believe the subsequent section will provide you with useful information on marriage. So I will appreciate if you read along as I write….
What you were really doing when you said “I do”
When you said “I do”, what did it mean to you then? And what does it mean to you now? I may not know your exact answers to these questions but I surely know that irrespective of what your answers are, you are either thankful or living in regret and hoping for a positive change. I hope that the earlier is the case for you.
Do you (name) take (name) to be your lawful wedded wife/husband? Do you promise to love, respect and honour her/him throughout years to come? These questions or a variation thereof, are the questions to which you answered “I Do”. You probably didn’t even give the questions a thought at that moment. You simply couldn’t wait to have your fiancé for a wife. But I believe that you gave it a thought during your marriage classes and had come to a conviction that you were set for it.
Now let’s look at it closely once again. Lawfully wedded wife/husband does not take a genius to figure out. You simply agreed to the legal contract in which you were about to enter with your spouse to be. This alone was a very serious undertaken and I believe you didn’t enter into lightly. As unromantic a notion it is that marriage is a binding contract, that is exactly what it is at the most fundamental level. That part is therefore settled, you shouldn’t have any problem keeping it – it is already in effect. It is the second question that is complex and possibly overwhelming to give much thought to – to love, respect and honour.
When it comes to love, you should not have problem loving your spouse. That, I believe, is what motivated you to get married to him or her in the first place. Except of course you got married for the wrong reasons, say out of lust, for money, or because you felt time was not on your side. Love is a commitment, a commitment to yourself, your partner and God. So loving your partner should be an easy part of a good marriage. Liking him or her all the time is another story.
The respect and honour parts of the vow take some serious work. Honour is not much different from respect. It is simply respect in motion. Respect is something that can ebb and flow. You therefore need to work on maintaining or growing the respect you have earned from your partner before you got marriage. Be mindful of changes in character, behaviour and values. Your partner expects you to become a better person with time and not to become less of the man or woman that you were before you took the vow.
As long as love, respect and honour stay the same on improve in marriage, the vow “I Do” will remain what it is – a true commitment. Otherwise, it may gradually or even suddenly become I Don’t, or I would rather Do with someone else other than you. Sadly this happens too often in today’s society, many marriages are failing. Some, due to cultural, social or religious factors are rather standing feebly on the twisted vow, I Wish I Didn’t Do. I hope that yours is a good story to tell, one worth being thankful for.
Planning the Future
A lot about marriage life entails planning, just like everything else in life. In fact, the planning for marriage life begins long before marriage – during courtship at the latest I would say. Take for example, I had conceived in my mine, since teenage age, of the kind of woman I would love for a wife, the type of family I would like to have; the number of children, their upbringing, and the kind of relationship I would build with my family among other things.
Through time to this day, I have sustained this mental roadmap, drawing on inspiration from families I observe around me to add refinement to my plans. In marriage, such planning becomes the responsibility of you and your partner. The outcome may diverge considerably from your conception but what is important is that your decision is informed by an evolving mindset. Such decision is likely to be more successful than one carried out without prior preparation.
When it comes to marriage and planning, most people plan for their engagement and wedding day. Too often, that is where it stops. What about after that? Not thinking about and planning for your future together can cause problems in marriage. But whether you have began long ago or just about to begin your planning now, you are on track. Take some quality time together with your partner to really think about what you both want for your future together, both as a couple and as individuals. Be flexible with your plans, allow rooms for changes.
Sometimes you may plan and everything changes along the way. When your plan fails, re-plan but be willing to yield to God’s plan when He steps in. It may be that God wants a different plan for you and for your marriage. When this happens, clinch on to faith, it is an even better plan. God’s plan is the best plan. Remember that He is the master planner, and never makes mistakes. He can see what’s best for you. Trust in Him, be obedient to Him and patiently wait for Him to carry out his plan for you and your marriage. While you are waiting, don’t stop loving your spouse, this is one thing that God demands from you from the moment you maid that vow.
Keep the status quo
It is not uncommon for couples to begin to lose some values and characteristics that were present at the early stage of their relationship during marriage. With some relationships, this could even begin to happen at an earlier stage of courtship. You must constantly watch out for a degradation of love in your relationship and act to stir up the flames and keep it alive.
You may say that love is seen in action and as such the “butterfly in your stomach” can fly off and it wouldn’t matter. You are not entirely right. Love is a feeling and that is equally what emotion is. Emotion however, when expressed, can translate to either good or bad action. Ultimately, the kind of feeling you create in your partner will determine the way he or she acts. Create sweet feelings and you get sweet actions, bad feelings and you most likely would get corresponding actions.
You know you have acted in love when you are able to generate that sweet feeling in your partner, that anxiousness in him or her to be around you often. This will eventually return to you in sweet actions. That sweet feeling is the beautiful butterfly, an expression of love and I don’t believe anyone is insensitive to love. Remember that the butterfly was there in your stomach at the initial stage of the relationship and greatly contributed to your impression about your partner. It was why you had always wanted to be around him or her. You probably were just friends until love came along, camouflaged as butterfly in your stomach, almost melting your heart away.
I suggest you keep the butterfly, and if you have lost it, get it back. Begin to act with love. Express your feelings clearly and lovingly to your partner, in words and actions. You and your spouse should work on project bring-back-the-butterflies and get that emotional fuel to ignite your love life back on track. Didn’t you like it as it was when you were still dating or courting? Or do you feel that you have outgrown harbouring a butterfly? Or is it children, work and other engagements that have made you to lose the beauty of your relationship in marriage?
Seriously, it doesn’t matter how and when you lost it. It’s never too late; you can begin to work on bringing it back right now. Here is a starting point:
- Recall the sweet things you use to do together in the past and get back to them without shame or fear. Be creative and add new fun stuffs that you can imagine.
- Are there any important ground rules, say for fair fighting, that you have forsaken? Bring them back in.
- Spice up your love life. Are you having enough sex together? You probably did this a lot when sex was religiously forbidden for you. How come you are dawdling now that you have both the divine and legal permission to consummate your marriage?
- Be soft and gentle in your approaches, even a soldier will not do otherwise to a loved wife or husband.
- Dine and wine together, you must have done this regularly in the past and it kept your friendship vibrant. It still can now.
- Take a look at the seven cardinal points I believe are necessary for a healthy relationship and see where you are failing.
As you do these, I believe that you would bring back the butterflies and keep your marriage blooming with beautiful romance. Love is a feeling, fine it.
Have a beautiful relationship!