If not, then I leave it to point them in the right direction. Read it to them annually, at graduations and at their weddings.
Have you ever heard couples discussing their wedding vows? Perhaps wondering if they should include “honor and obey” in the words they exchange? That seems silly to me because it overlooks the essential components of EVERY long-term relationship.
What follows is how I try to live my marriage, and through my marriage interact with everybody. It wasn’t always this way – as a young man, my greatest weakness was a lack of compassion and an inability to see the second order consequences of my habit of hurting other people.
What are the most important ways that we honor each other?
First, and most importantly, is a commitment not to hurt other people.
Relationships fail when we get caught in a cycle of keeping score, tit-for-tat and not breaking the chain.
We don’t even need to be in the same room with each other to perpetuate this cycle. When I hear about marriages through third parties, I can feel the pain that the couple is creating for each other.
So I offer: I’ll do my best not to hurt you and ask that you forgive me for the many times that I’ll fall short.
Small children understand forgiveness instinctively. Each morning, I get a fresh start and, hopefully, I see each morning as a chance to get a little better than yesterday.
Now, my children will be like me in many ways. This means that they will arrive at adulthood with habits that will torpedo their relationships if not addressed. The most toxic of these habits is enjoying subtle retribution and justified anger.
So I offer: When I feel pain, I know it will be because I you have touched one of my many limitations. I vow to turn that knowledge inwards and try to make incremental progress.
I’ve been married for close to a decade. By chipping away a little bit each day, I make progress and, together, we strengthen our marriage.
It is my improvement, not my position, that makes me fit for leadership, and shows that I’m worthy of being honored.
Being honored for experience is great but being forgiven is much more valuable than being honored.
In a successful relationship, my errors are forgiven, rather than acting as triggers on top of 5, 10 or 15 years of repressed, mutually reinforced pain.
My dearest, I promise that I can handle the truth.
In life, we are tempted to protect others from the truth. This is a mistake and you will find that your strongest relationships are built on being open. In sharing our individual truths, we can work towards understanding what rings true as a couple.
The wisdom of these lessons becomes clear when you invert them.
Relationship failure is characterized by retribution, blame outside of myself and suppression of truth.
I failed many times before I learned a better way.
In order to shape my reality, I started by accepting it.