For better or for worse

ImageAfter the betrayal, there is so much talk about wedding vows. What do they mean once they are broken? In most wedding vows we don’t promise not to have sexual relationships with other partners, it’s implied by the word faithful. A bride and groom promise to honor and cherish each other but those vows seem to be easily forgotten. Often wedding vows are thrown in the betrayers face after the discovery of the affair:

Didn’t our vows mean anything to you?

What if wedding vows have lost their meaning? Maybe wedding vows do not actually hold value through the years. They seem easily dismissed and forgotten for anyone dealing with infidelity.

When my husband and I were married we did not say traditional wedding vows. I never actually said “for better or for worse.” The idea that I rejected traditional wedding vows for ones that I wrote is haunting in the aftermath of his infidelity. I question whether any vows spoken on our wedding day would have any influence over my husband’s behavior but maybe traditional vows would have been easier to remember.

I mean, I don’t even remember what we said in our vows unless I dig out the VHS tape and find a VCR somewhere in the attic.

Today I was digging through a Rubbermaid bin looking for a book a friend had given me almost eighteen years ago. I found a book of poetry from my teenage years and inside the book… our vows. The rough draft of our wedding vows. Chicken scratch and all. I remember deciding to write our own vows and then the eve before our wedding my husband confided that he was unable to find words to express his love appropriately and could we say the same thing. I agreed to it and I think I shared with him what I had written. I, too, had been trying to write something brilliant, amazing and full of love but felt like I was having writer’s block. I can’t remember if it bothered me or not that our vows were almost a last minute effort? My husband had always been able to express his love freely for me in poetry and love notes, so why did he struggle with writing our vows? Why was it hard for me? The struggle came from creating vows that meant more to us than the traditional ones. So this is what I came up with:

Image As we go through life may we always look back upon this day and remember why we came together today. Letting go of all my deepest fears and embracing all my faith, I promise to share this love with you always. I promise you a love that is eternal and beyond time. I promise you a love that is beyond right and wrong. This night shall always be a sacred memory of the promise of my love to you. We have inherited this legacy of love from our parents and grandparents. May their love shine through our marrriage. This is my solemn vow. I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. With this ring, I thee wed.

All these years later I wonder, were those words enough? I don’t think any vows would change the outcome. The only thing that could change his behavior and choices would have been to wake up every morning and speak those vows as a daily meditation or prayer.  Maybe vows need to be exchanged every day between husband and wife to have meaning.

I remember listening to Anne Brecht talk about a month ago about not jumping to renew wedding vows in the wake of betrayal. She actually, feels like it’s not appropriate or necessary. I listened to her explain how renewing wedding vows will not bring comfort or take on any meaning beyond where you are in the healing process. I hear her point, but I do hope to someday renew my vows with my husband. I would like to stand with him and hear him speak his love for me in his own words. Words written by him, only for me. No one else needs to be there… this time, the vows will be between us and only for us.

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14 thoughts on “For better or for worse

  1. It’s true that renewing your vows on the heals of infidelity will mean nothing in the healing process. JR and I renewed our vows 3 months after DDay. It was the 23 anniversary of our first date, so it had meaning. During that ceremony he promised to never lie to me again…which was a lie because he lied to me just a little over a week later. It simply was another act of hysterical bonding for us. Something that I thought would hold meaning…and it didn’t. This year we will celebrate our 25 wedding anniversary and we had always planned on renewing our vows with family and friends. I actually started planning this last summer and recently have decided that I don’t want to go through with it. It just seems like another attempt to forget what happened. It was meant to be a celebration of the wonderful years that we had spent together, since the last few years have not been so wonderful I feel like it would just seem fake and forced. The next time that I pledge my love to him, and have him do the same I want it to truly mean something. I want to be able to look back and know that at least the last few years had been wonderful. So who knows…maybe for our 30th.

    • I feel like the years of the affair and healing are a detour in our marriage… like the time spent here is subtracted from the amount of time we’ve been married. I feel like for the rest of my life I will have this thought of we’ve been married 15 years-1 year of the affair-3 years to heal (estimate)=11 years….. I hope someday I feel differently. But for now, I feel like I’ve lost value in part of my life.

  2. My husband wanted us to renew our vows while he was having his affair.He wasn’t sleeping with her anymore at the time of our 25th but I never could understand why. He told me he still hoped that we could have a good marriage and hoped that renewing our vows would renew the spark. I never could do it tho. I felt we needed to have a better marriage and he would do nothing to help us. I do not have any desire at this time to renew but I have consented to putting my wedding ring back on till he gets me a new one. I do however like Kayboo see that we can renew our vows on our 30th which will be three years from now. I think if we can weather this storm our 30th can truly be a great celebration. We are getting ready to celebrate our 27th anniversary in 6 days. I told our counselor when I made the choice to forgive him, I meant it and that the very fact that we are still together after the affair and recovery process is a good enough reason for us to celebrate. I will not let anyone or anything take away from me any celebration. I married him for better or for worse. Well we’ve been through 26 of the worst it’s time to enjoy the better. What I have with him now if far better then what we’ve ever had. I can’t change what he did but I can’t live i n the past either. I want to be happy with him for whatever time we have left. Every day that we are together and moving forward is worthy of celebration. Your vows were beautiful. I found ours when we moved but couldn’t read them at the time. This time when we write our vows it will be quite different but will be more from the heart then what we wrote out of a book and tired to make our own. Blessings on your continued healing journey!

  3. My & xH’s vows included “forsaking all others.” It’s like having a NO-drugs talk w/ur kids & they go & use drugs anyway!

  4. My husband asked me on our ninth wedding anniversary to renew our vows on our 10 year. He was actively cheating at the time but trying to stop. He thought if he did vow renewal in front of everyone we knew that he would be able to stop.

    So after D-day when he asked me if I would still renew our vows I said no at first. He persisted and I finally told him I’d let him know if and when I was ready. We are planning to do it on our 11 year wedding anniversary in June. We will be 18 months out from D-day #1. I’ve had moments of doubt about doing it.

    My husband has told me how very important it is for him to renew his vows since he broke them. He wants to write his vows and plans to acknowledge why we are renewing them and the betrayals. My husband is very insistant about renewing our vows. I feel it’s a gift he can give to me and to himself.

    I’m glad he wants to do it. I think it demonstrates how important our marriage is to him today.

    • I love that it means so much to your husband. I feel like vows should be more meaningful now in the aftermath of infidelity. When we married our husbands we had no idea of the strength, love and committment it would take to overcome betrayal, pain, anger. Although I have not reached a point where I feel like his affair is the “best thing that ever happened to me,” I do feel like weathering this storm has taught me what marriage is really all about. If it was as easy and perfect as I once believed–that would be unrealistic. Even the best relationships have problems to overcome.

  5. Your vows were beautiful.

    I don’t ever want to renew our vows. Words mean nothing to me now, and clearly meant nothing to Bug. I still don’t wear wedding rings – something that drives bug crazy – but he took them away from me during his affair, giving them back to me only after I found out EVERYTHING. I figure, during those months when I wore no rings, my love & devotion didn’t waver. It increased. So what’s the point? Oh. To make sure other men know I’m his.

    Still, at some point I want to be able to wear rings -but it won’t be until they have meaning beyond possession to me again.

    • Ditto. Actions, continued progress are more important. He needs to demonstrate true atonement and change for the long haul-not just months or a year down the road.
      Also, I simply have no need to renew vows that I did not break. If he/they feel the need, fine. To each his own. But it just seems like overcompensation to me and I’d rather he not focus on something that reminds me of how completely he failed me. I have enough reminders. But who knows? This recovery thing is so fluid, I may just change my mind next month….

    • I took off my engagement ring for awhile and that was big for me. I am the woman who wears her rings to bed, while washing dishes, 24-7. I am wearing it again… But you are right, words are just words–actions are what matter most.

  6. I took off my ring too, for a while. My H didn’t like the feeling of his wedding ring, so I think he stopped wearing it after one or two years of marriage. Now we’re both wearing the ring again and that feels good.

  7. I did not realize that the entire time we were engaged he was cheating on me. While we were planning our wedding, taking engagement pictures, writing vows…he was seeing her. Then, 8 months after we were married, one year ago, he cheated on me again. We were divorced one month ago. What a mess this has been. All I know, is that after he cheated the last time, the wedding, the vows, the rings…they meant nothing to me anymore.

    • I am sorry to hear your story… It’s unbelievable how present and loving they can be in our relationships all the while f-ing their mistress whores. I look back at the time he was cheating–the pictures of us–we looked happy. He looked just as normal as any other photo except now I know he was fucking her, lying to me, making a mockery of our wedding vows and completely self-destructing. That year was a waste of my life. Nothing I said or did mattered or was valued. I hope you find true love.. a man that is honest and good to you.

  8. My h wants to renew our vows he was having an affair shortly after purposing through our wedding till may of 2012 when it all came out. It was with my ex best friend. But im still having a hard time with what I should do. I dont think us renewing our vows will help but I also dont know what else I can do to help with the healing we have kids and I feel like all our memories involves her on the side and I hate it!

    • I was on a conference call with Anne Brecht (the author of “My Husband’s Affair was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”) and she spoke about renewing vows. She and her husband (he cheated) are opposed to renewing vows. His argument is that he didn’t ever stop believing the vows or loving his wife (despite what you read in the book). I get their point, but I do believe when my husband and I are ready we will renew our vows. I think they will be more meanngful. I am not there yet… but getting closer every day. My advice would be to wait until you are ready. If you are still struggling on a day-to-day basis and healing then you may not be there yet.

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