The other night my husband and I were out with friends. Over dinner one of our friends made a statement that really resonated with me. He jokingly talked about changing and renewing wedding vows after children leave home and become self-sufficient adults. I thought that was a great idea!
Think about your own wedding vows when you first married; maybe in your 20s like I did. Your vows may have been something like this;
I, [name], take you, [name], to be my [(optional: lawfully wedded) husband/wife], my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and obey you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live. (Credit: Wikipedia)
Now, fast forward 20 or 30 years into a marriage. Do you honestly think you would say these same vows again? Seriously?! You may have been through some good times (birth of a child) and some real bad times (think addictions, fraud, abuse, jail time?!). To love them unconditionally? Now that's a tough one! And to support them in attaining their goals? Whoa, let's put the brakes on here! What if he wanted to clean out our bank account and join a cult, while I wanted to travel the world. Would we then support each other's goals?
Okay, I know the examples are extremes, but while we applaud the starry eyed commitments of the young newly marrieds, are their vows going to be reality over time? Their early onset overwhelming passionate love for each other keeps them blissfully unaware of the unexpected challenges life throws in front of them. They have no idea how hard it is to live with someone for 20-plus years!
Research is demonstrating something differently. The trend in the increasing number of couples in the 'over 50' bracket is known as the 'Gray Divorce', and is happening despite the documented decrease in overall divorces.
Several factors contribute to the one in four of all divorces occurring among people aged over 50. These may include:
- There is less stigma attached to being a divorcee, so pressure to stay married is reduced;
- We live longer, and therefore feel there are more and different options for our future than prior generations; and/or
- Our generation makes individual happiness a priority, and obligations less so.
My husband and I love each other, but after being married for 30 years we are not so naive to believe in happily ever after. If we were to renew our wedding vows with each other it would be more like this;
I, [name], renew my vows to you, [name], to continue to be my [(optional: lawfully wedded) husband/wife], one of my friends, the father/mother of my children and one of the people I enjoy being with from this day forward. In the presence of our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be here for you when you most need me, understanding that I also have a life beyond our marriage. I promise that I do love you, even though sometimes it is hard to do so. I will support you but know that I also have my own goals. I may not always like you nor respect what you are doing but I promise to tell you the truth about how I feel. If we can continue to make each other laugh we should be good for at least another 30 years.
Your renewed vows may be a little different from mine, but you get the idea. After being married for so long just maybe these renewed vows should be based less on wishful thinking and more on a strong trust for each other, maturity and wisdom.