In the arrogance of youth, I was sure I knew all about marriage vows. After all, I’d heard the vows on tv and in movies for as long as I could remember. Ten years wiser, I realize how much the meaning of these vows has changed for me.
First and foremost in our vows, we promised to love each other for better or for worse. When we married we had already had a lot of worse for 23 and 24 year olds. Our relationship had been condemned by a large portion of my family and lost me my first job, but still we knew that we made each other’s lives better. Our day was immediately better when we saw each other and thankfully that has never changed. But better and worse isn’t just what happens to us, but also means seeing each other at our best and worst. Neither of us is perfect and you have had to see me angry, selfish, mean, and looking a mess. Somehow you have fulfilled your vow and loved me anyway.
Then there is the better. The expression “my better half” is such an understatement when it comes to you. Your caring personality, kindness, and can-do attitude inspires me on a daily basis and unequivocally makes me a better person. My favorite example of you making me stronger was such a small, but intense moment. The night we brought Omolara home from the hospital I had had about four hours of sleep in three days and Omolara had decided this new world was not acceptable and wouldn’t stop crying. As exhaustion hit, sobs started to escape me, but you held my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “We are responsible for this little one now and we have to be strong enough to care for her.” I stopped crying and found a new reserve of strength I didn’t know I had. I thank you for always pushing me to be better and for your caring and detailed personality. I like to think I help you relax with my laidback ways and silliness and together we make a great team that knows how to weather the worst and fully enjoy the better.
Second we promised to love each other for richer or poorer. I realize finances are important, but this vow always mattered the least to me. I realize this might have something to do with the fact that I married a mathematician and have my own personal financial advisor. I know you figure out how to pay the bills and even when there is not much money to go around you know how to budget the family to make it work. We’ve come a long way from our college days living on Ramen and recipes from a Man, a Can, a Plan, but you and I have remained constant. We often joke about living on love, but with you baby, I really could.
Next we promised to love each other in sickness and in health. My 23 year old self envisioned caring for each other through a debilitating illness or handicap. Now my reality is caring for each other when we’re sick and there are two lovely children who still need us to care for them. I am blessed with a teammate, who sick or healthy helps me keep the household going strong. Then there is our mental health. I had a year or longer break down when I had my career goals crushed and had to redefine my professional life and image of myself. You cared for me the entire way through my minor depression. You held me when I needed to cry it out, always reminded me of the awesome family that loved me no matter what job I had, and supported me as I made tough decisions.
The last part of the ceremony has become the most profound to me. The couple is described as “becoming one.” At the time I saw that as something physical, moving in to the same place, sharing a banking account, and a general combination of assets. Now “becoming one” means something much more abstract. So much of who I am is intertwined with who you are and vice versa. We met at the very start of our adult lives and have been shaping each other ever since. I do not know who I would be without you in my life, nor do I want to, and I know I have had just as vast an impact on your life. We both have one person whose history, now, and plans for the future are all known and intertwined.
In closing I want to add my own new vow that isn’t in the Methodist tradition but I think it applies here. In the Notebook Noah ends his last letter with a quote that always reminded me of us. “The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants the fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever.”