On your wedding day there are many kind and loving words spoken.
Promises are declared.
Vows are made.
Congratulatory well wishes flow.
This is how it should be. It is a day to celebrate love.
There are, however, three words among all that are said, essential for a growing, deepening, and intimacy filled marriage.
Your first thought might be these words are, “I love you”. Certainly those are important words not to be taken for granted or spoken flippantly. But love can be a fickle thing. Sometimes we feel loving, sometimes we do not. Sadly, many who “fall” in love, “fall out” of love as well.
The three essential words I have in mind, implicit in the wedding vows you exchange, are in the form of a question: Do… you… choose?
It is a moment of truth question that will be repeated more often than you might think.
I wish I could say the vows you make on your wedding day will be sufficient to last a lifetime. They are not. Promises are not easy to sustain. A growing marriage requires we answer the question, “Do you choose?” on a daily basis. Today, “Do you choose?” may mean negotiating your needs with respect, not seeking to have your needs met at someone else’s expense. Tomorrow, “Do you choose?” may mean risking confronting, apologizing, or forgiving. And the day after that, “Do you choose?” may mean putting your partner above all other distractions and temptations the world has to offer. You will answer this essential question over and over and over again by your actions, for by such choosing the very foundation of your marriage will be strengthened.
There is an enormous difference between being committed to being married for what marriage provides you, and being sacrificially committed to the wellbeing of your spouse.
I have met many people committed to the “institution” of marriage. They choose to be married. They don’t want to be single, or be a divorced parent, or partition their wealth, or do their own laundry, or be alone on Saturday night. They may even be afraid not to be married. In that sense, they are committed to marriage. But notice these are all self-serving reasons. One or both partners remain in their marriage primarily for what it provides them. Somewhere along the line, one or both partners wavered in their commitment, choosing themselves more than the other. Eventually, life gets sapped out of such marriages and they wither, need deprived and bitter with resentment. “Love is not selfish, it does not seek its own way,” the Apostle Paul reminded us.
For marriage to thrive, this commitment to the other must be mutual. No one can choose for the other or for both. That is why your wedding vows are repeated – each to the other.
Choosing your spouse daily is about mutual sacrifice. Intimacy is about mutual need satisfaction. Answering, “Do you choose?” means making sure your partner feels heard, even before you speak. It means assuring they are safe and valued and affirmed and loved and most essentially, chosen.
© 2015 Dr. Daniel L. Baney