What Are You Really Promising When Taking Wedding Vows?

Updated on April 6, 2019
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker has known many people in life whose behaviors have caused unnecessary problems and wants to help them.

For as long as I can remember, couples have been vowing their eternal love and commitment to one another on their wedding day. The words may not always be the same, but their intent is to make clear that a couple promises to stay together no matter what happens in their future life together.

Therein lies the problem because as been stated many times, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions!

People hear the promises couples make to one another during their wedding ceremonies time and again in real life, in movies, and on television. Unfortunately, when words are repeated this often, those hearing them become numb to their meaning. This can true even of the couple that is saying them.

I know this because the words “until death do us part” had no real meaning for me until my young husband passed away suddenly. I had never even considered the fact that it would be death that would end our relationship. When it happened, it was a total shocker for me!

Since that time I have wondered how many others marry and make promises to one another without truly understanding what they are committing to for the rest of their lives. I’m guessing that at least half of those who marry really don’t “get it”. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many divorces

For this reason, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss marriage vows and explain their deeper meanings. Numerous people have told me that it’s amazing that I’ve been happily married for 32 years, so I feel qualified to share these thoughts!

Couples should clearly understand the meaning of the vows they take when marrying because they are to be taken seriously.
Couples should clearly understand the meaning of the vows they take when marrying because they are to be taken seriously. | Source

To Love and Cherish From This Day Forward

These words or similar ones are stated found in most wedding vows. They indicate that each partner is promising to love the other above all others for as long as he or she lives. That’s a huge commitment because couples make it without knowing what the future holds for them.

The problem is that over time people and circumstances change. Therefore, the person one marries is rarely the same as the one he or she ends up living with many years later.

Intentions may be the best possible ones in the beginning of a relationship, but the truth is that it is very hard to know another person intimately until you’ve lived with them for awhile. This makes it very easy for people to hide their bad or undesirable habits and behaviors before marriage.

Once the wedding is over, people tend to let go and relax. When they do, the ugly truth rears its head. This can make “loving and cherishing” an increasingly difficult thing to do unless partners are willing to compromise, accept each other for who they are and learn to tolerate offensive behaviors.

Before marrying couples should seriously consider issues such as what each partner would do if one

  • turns out to be an alcoholic or drug addict,
  • is a reckless spender and the other is frugal,
  • doesn’t like the parents of the other,
  • is a workaholic who ignores the needs of his spouse or
  • develops a serious illness?

These issues and more have caused many to divorce and have proven that keeping this vow is much more difficult than it may seem at the time of marriage! Thus while nobody can know the future, couples should understand that things like those above can and do happen to people. They should be willing to love and cherish whether such things might happen or not.

If they cannot do this, they should not marry.

Wedding vows mean that couples need to stick together in bad times as well as good ones if their marriages are to last.
Wedding vows mean that couples need to stick together in bad times as well as good ones if their marriages are to last. | Source

To Love and Honor

This wedding vow may sound easier to commit to, but it really isn’t because love only exist swhere there is fidelity, trust, respect and a true balance of personal values.

To be able to honor someone, you must believe that they are worthy. This means they must prove that they are good, decent people who are willing to do their part to make sure that the marriage functions properly.

A wife who sits around eating bonbons and watching soap operas all day while her husband slaves away on a job that requires long, stressful hours is not doing her part. The same is true for a husband who takes on the roll of decision maker simply because he is the one earning the money for the family.

Each person must work to maintain the relationship, raise children and keep the family home intact. Responsibilities should be shared because each partner wants to make life better for the other.

  • If one washes the dishes, the other should dry them.
  • If one puts the sheets in the washing machine, the other should help him fold them.
  • Both should be responsible for raising the children and making sure the family has enough money to live on.

This is what a true partnership looks like. The highest honor you can bestow on another person is to show that you love them enough to sacrifice yourself for them.

When this behavior is reciprocated, a couple will find great satisfaction and happiness in their relationship.

For Better or Worse, For Richer or Poorer, In Sickness and Health

Vowing to stay together "for better or worse, for richer or poorer and in sickness and health" means that people are vowing to stick together no matter what. These words sound like music to the ears of many, but what they really are saying is that each person is promising to sacrifice himself for the well being of the other if need be.

That’s a pretty serious promise!

  • If I lose my job and can never find another, will you still love and stay with me, even though it means doing without many of the material things you would like to have in life?
  • If I get a long term, horrible disease, will you stand by me, hold my head when I’m vomiting, clean my waste, bathe me, feed me and support me financially, even if it means this situation will go on for years?
  • In short, will you promise to stick with me no matter what happens in the future that may cause you extreme stress, health and financial problems and other issues?

People who marry seem only to think about the “better, richer and in health” portions of this vow when making it, but they should understand that these things only represent half of the deal.Very few are able to overcome the negative sides of this vow, but those who do are the ones who truly love their marriage partner.

Those who make this promise need to understand that their partner expects them to honor it. When they don't do this, marriages come crashing down.

Marriage Is a Big Commitment

The whole point of this article is to remind people that marriage is more than a ceremony and a piece of paper. It is important promises that two people make to one another that are meant to seal their commitment to creating a well-balanced and joyous life together.

I know a couple who have been married for many years. They worked together to raise a family and crate a loving home. About twenty years ago, the wife was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. She ha had to live in a wheelchair ever since. To make life better for her, the husband added an entire section onto their house to make functioning easier for her. He lowered counter tops, built a drive in shower, added ramps and purchased a van with a lift. As time progressed, her situation became worse. Recently she had a massive stroke that left her paralyzed on one side. He's had no choice but to place her in a nursing home, but he drives 50 miles each way most days to be with her.

I once told him I thought he was a wonderful , loving husband. His response was "Well, she's been a great wife, and I know she would have done the same for me if the situation was reversed".

This is what true love and real commitment looks like. There are no resentments. There is only joyous love.

If people would understand that things like this can happen before marrying, they would enter their relationship with a clear vision as to what they might have to do to create a successful relationship.

Even under the best of circumstances, marriage is not easy. However, those who truly love their spouses and manage to keep their vows find that it is the most satisfying relationship they will ever have.

Do you think couples should clearly understand the commitments they must make before they get married?

See results

© 2019 Sondra Rochelle


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    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      16 months ago from USA

      Yep...there definitely are no guarantees in life, but it helps to understand potential consequences before "jumping the broom"

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      16 months ago from USA

      Agreed...and thank you.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      16 months ago from Chicago

      Excellent article.

      "The problem is that over time people and circumstances change." Very true! No one on their wedding day expects to get divorced.

      However every healthy person with an ounce of self-esteem has boundaries and "deal breakers" which vary from person to person.

      For the most part only God truly offers us "unconditional love".

      No one would blame someone for filing for divorce if their spouse physically abused them, cheated on them, molested their children, engaged in numerous criminal behavior, disappeared for weeks at a time, alcohol/drug/gambling/porn addictions which disrupted their household stability, constant toxic emotional/verbal abuse..etc.

      Not many people "sign up" for those types of challenges.

      When we change our circumstances change.

      "While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions." Stephen R. Covey

      It takes two people to make a marriage last and only one to end it. There is no amount of "work" or "communication" which can overcome being with someone who does NOT want what you want.

      I believe there are four basic reasons why couples get divorced.

      1. They chose the wrong mate. (They're too incompatible)

      Human beings make mistakes in all areas of life including selecting boyfriends/girlfriends and even spouses. Many people have never taken the time to figure out who (they) are let alone know what traits they want or need in a mate for life.

      2, They got married for the wrong reasons.

      Some people got married because they had an "age goal" to be married by, all of their close friend were getting married, there was an unplanned pregnancy, an ultimatum was given, parental pressure, someone was in the military and about to be deployed, the couple had been together for years and figured (why not?)

      A marriage based upon circumstances is likely to fail.

      3. A "deal breaker" was committed in the eyes of one of them.

      In other words there was a "line crossed" or action done in which someone deemed utterly unforgivable.

      4. They fell out of love/stopped wanting the same things

      Over time we're either "growing together" or "growing apart". There is no neutral. Honest communication is the GPS for relationships it lets you know which direction you are heading towards.

      Having said that there times we couples are unable to compromise.

      Imagine your mate told you they wanted to have children before you wed them and two years later they say they no longer want children.

      Someone receives their "dream job offer" but it requires relocating to another country/state or extensive travel away from home a few years into the marriage and their spouse has no desire to move or remain in a marriage where they are alone for the most of the time.

      One person has a mid-life awakening and decides to pursue their "bucket list" with vigor like wanting to backpack in Europe for a year or cash out to buy a RV to live in and drive across country...

      Sometimes having an empty nest may reveal a couple no longer have an emotional connection. In other instances it turns out someone had been unhappy and only stayed for the sake of the kids.

      Mandatory pre-marriage counseling might help couples choose better spouses for themselves. However that still would not instill "unconditional love" or eliminate unforeseen deal breakers.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      16 months ago from The Caribbean

      This discussion really needs to take place in detail before the vows are taken. Each couple, and each person who makes up that couple, has ideas that needs to be explained and understood in their effort to agree on what commitment is, You have done a great job of opening up the discussion.


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