A recent article on Science of Relationships outlined a list of ten research-based wedding vows. Based on findings, Samantha Joel outlined vows that, if followed, would best guarantee marital bliss. The below list of 12 vows is adapted from the original.
1. “I vow to think highly of you, and seek to know and appreciate you for who you are, as well as who you aspire to become.”
This vow draws from research on the power of imagination, more specifically, the use of positive illusions or imagination, as a creative force, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Based on the findings of Dr. Sandara Murray and colleagues, partners who maintained positive illusions of the other and their relationship were more likely to eventually create it. When you view your partner in a positive light, whether you do so consciously or not, the benefits include not only giving your partner a personal feel-good, but also increasing their sense of security in relation to you. There’s even an added benefit in that this may increase your our own sense of security and satisfaction in the relationship.
2. I vow to support your personal growth, and my participation in promoting your growth as connected to my own.
Based on research on the Michelangelo Phenomenon, partners who make this vow approach their partner’s growth similar to Michelangelo, like a sculptor who believes he or she is not the creator of the masterpiece, rather a willing participant who takes part in revealing what already exists — through the power of their belief in you. This is, you may say, a precious gift, not to mention a powerful way for one human being to use their imagination on behalf of another. In relationships, giving and receiving are ultimately one, which is why giving that is not reciprocated to some degree … at some point … is at risk of depleting, much like a bank account in the red. When your partner grows, though it may bring challenges and discomfort, you also grow … and the person you become is in ever better position to promote the continued emotional (spiritual), physical and mental growth and wellbeing of both self and other. This suggests that partners should focus on increasing their energy to believe, inspire, look for what motivates, make requests, etc., and simultaneously to avoid focusing on what the other needs to “change” per se (and avoid trying to take credit when partner is successful).
3. “I vow to honor your freedom as a choice maker, that though we are a partnership, your choices are ultimately your own to make.”
This vow draws from findings on autonomy. Yes, it’s true that we are social beings at heart with yearnings to matter and create meaningful connections; however, it is equally true that we yearn to matter by being valued for who we are, our unique contributions, and so on. This is an exercise of our powerful capacity to make choices. Our sense of safety in a relationship is always challenged when we perceive (whether real or not) that our choices are not our own. As human beings first and foremost, partners need (not want) to feel the choice to make any changes is theirs to make. Though change is inevitable and healthy, nothing activates human resistance more than perceiving that we “have to” change for reasons that stem from, fear, such as to gain approval, to avoid upsetting or angering the other, to avoid being shamed or criticized, and so on. Valuing autonomy is the best protection from syndromes such as codependency, rescuing, narcissism, and other addictive relationship patterns.
4. “I vow to be interested in and understand your wants and needs, fears and challenges, dreams and aspirations.”
A growing body of research notes that partners who are thoughtfully responsive are assets in a relationship. They promote a sense of trust, security and safety that stabilizes, strengthens and promotes longevity in a couple relationship. In fact, if you want your relationship to last, the trait of highly responsive, that is, being caring, understanding, validating, may be the most important one to look for in a partner! That makes sense when you think of it, right? Isn’t this what you and your partner did so well and so easily in the first phase of falling in love with one another? Remember how this intensified positive emotional states of feeling that you — and your love — were important, significant, valued by the other? Recall how feeling so loved fostered a send of shared closeness, attraction and reciprocity? How you couldn’t wait to see and be together, and do things to make the other happy? No surprises here. As human beings, partners love knowing they are loved and desired, and an indication that their dreams and aspirations are important, can be an indication that they are loved. Responsiveness promotes a sense of closeness, of not being alone to face the challenges that come with realizing dreams, and that’s huge. When both partners are responsive toward the other, it facilitates a careful balance of giving and receiving in ways that increase each partner’s sense of value and relevance in the relationship.
5. “I vow to love you in ways that convey, from a place of joy, I genuinely want you to be happy, to have what you want and need.”
In a conscious-love relationship, partners learn to purposefully stretch to enhance one another’s sense of safety and security in the relationship through actions that express their love and desire to meet one another’s needs for happiness and fulfillment. In doing so, each partner increases the chances of fulfilling their own. Conscious love is an expression of love through actions that each partner consciously takes to enhance and enrich one another’s lives and their relationship. It is also a conscious choice to live life mindfully, in moment to moment interactions with one another, as objective observers, creators and choice makers of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors…noticing what works or doesn’t work to produce the positive results they want. It is based on research findings that show, more often than not, what obstructs joy and happiness is a way of thinking that love relationships should be easy, when in truth, like all great achievements, they require sacrifice. In the same way that you would not expect to succeed in your career or goals without sustained and continuous effort, partners need to fully accept that the same laws of physics govern their happiness and fulfillment in this perhaps more vital of all human relationships (okay, I’ll admit I’m biased…). Research on sacrifice shows that sacrifices work, that is, as long as the sacrifice stems from love and wanting to make the other happy. Perhaps the most damaging of actions that partners take is to developing patterns of “sacrificing” that are accompanied by thinking patterns that build resentment and potentially acting out. In which case, it’s likely better to not sacrifice.
6. “I vow to be present for you, emotionally, mentally and physically, when you reach for me in challenges and triumphs.”
This vow means to be a secure and safe attachment figure, one who is there for the other, reliably, dependably, for support. for you for support the person in your life who you most strongly rely on for support. Perhaps no relationship is more intense, complex and challenging in its ability to discombobulate our otherwise healthy ability to think clearly and intelligently, make sound choices and engage common sense. When our bids for connection with our partner fail to elicit the caring response we yearn for inside, our body’s autonomic nervous system activates distress signals, whether we’re aware of them or not. This speaks to partner’s willingness to grow, to heal self and their past relationships, in order to break free to make changes to the way we relate to our self and partner (and the core beliefs that keep these patterns in place) — as well as our brain and body’s built-in capacity for making change throughout life. Together this means good news for the science of relationships and the ongoing possibility for engaging life in ways that bring about personal transformation and healing.
In Part 2, six more vows.