What do you think of when this part of the wedding vows is repeated? Do different scenarios of better and worse situations come to your mind or does your mind glaze over because you have heard this vow repeated time and time again your entire life?
I, (name), take you (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, 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.
Take a minute to think about it. What are some life happenings that would be considered better? In my mind, ‘better’ could mean that finances are plentiful, kids are healthy and intelligent, loving feelings continue years into the marriage, and life goals are being fulfilled left and right. When I consider what worse may look like, I think of financial disappointments, difficulty with childbearing/infertility, loss of affection, and unfulfilled goals and dreams. These are just a few examples; but, regardless of what ‘better’ or ‘worse’ will look like in your life, you will go through both – the better and the worse.
Wedding days are filled with blissfully happy expectations of better things. Being together will, obviously, be better than being apart! Most couples talk about plans for the future and dream together about what great things lay ahead for them. It is a rare couple, at least among young couples, that spend time talking about the difficult days to come as they do the exciting ones. While we should not go into a marriage with the expectation that it is going to be terrible, it’s wise to enter into a lifelong covenant with a healthy and aware understanding that some days will be worse rather than better.
As I mentioned in an earlier post titled Unhealthy Jealousy, I have wanted children for several years now. When Eric and I were dating, we talked about being parents. We discussed baby names and things we wanted to teach them as they grew. At the time, I wanted four kids and he wanted six. Either way, we expected to have a large family and a house full of life.
However, we have celebrated several years now without little ones in tow. Considering that having a large family was one of our strongest dreams for our life together, we characterize this portion of unfulfilled dreams as one of those ‘worse‘ parts of our marriage (though, we are still hoping and praying – if you are willing, pray a prayer for us too!). It is a trial we never expected to face and without proper perspective and prayer, it is something that can make our hearts sick (Proverbs 13:12).
During these worse times of marriage, devotion to God and each other is tested. In the midst of my hardest days, I can find my heart turning cold and my mind entertaining thoughts that are not consistent with Scripture such as, “God must not love me as much as he does my neighbors and friends. There are so many people in the world who treat their kids like trash. Why have they been blessed with kids and not us? God must be punishing me for something I thought, said, or did when I was younger.” These are the kind of thoughts that can creep into your mind when you are not constantly bathing your mind with God’s Word. The worse days can take over your life if you allow them to do so.
When your heart is broken, it is easy to treat your spouse with vile displeasure. As your bitterness festers, thoughts of how your spouse contributed to your misfortune can consume your mind. For instance, if you someday find your home in foreclosure, you might spend hours seething over money your spouse spent on junk or all the hours of overtime he or she turned down. If your mind is left to think on ugly things rather than the things of God, the worse days of your marriage can lead to a weakening of your marriage (Philippians 4:8).
At the same time, I do not want to paint a completely bleak picture of marriage. We have had many better times together and, if we could choose, would marry each other all over again. God definitely had His hand in bringing us together. We have a similar sense of humor, we like many of the same foods, we both enjoy helping couples with their new relationships, we both enjoy the temperature cooler, we have an adorable golden retriever together who brings us a lot of happiness (and some frustration ~smile~), and our love for each other has matured throughout the years.
Yet, this post is designed to make couples think about those wedding vows carefully – and for those who have not yet uttered them, to really mean what you’re going to say.
We can never fully know what trials to expect, but we can be sure that we will face trails. The questions are: “Am I prepared to endure whatever life throws at me with this person I am about to marry? If the worse times outnumber the better, am I prepared to walk through this life with this person? Am I convinced, based on what I have observed of his or her character, that he or she would be willing to stand beside me come what may?”
Take some time and discuss better and worse scenarios with your future spouse. We often call this the “What If” game. Discuss how you both foresee handling different hardships. Lord willing, you won’t have to go through the things you discuss; but, it is better to be prepared just in case.
What are some better and worse scenarios that you and your future spouse have discussed?