The vows are everything

When asked if she would ever marry, Audrey Hepburn responded, “If I get married, I want to be very married.”

Strictly speaking, this isn’t possible. There’s no difference between dead and very dead, and there is no spectrum spanning from “sort of married” to “moderately married” to “very married.” But sometimes that which is not technically possible is nevertheless profoundly true.

I love Hepburn’s words because they are precisely how I see my own marriage. It isn’t a perfect marriage, but we are nevertheless very married.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Very MarriedI’m nearly finished writing Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity. It’s my second book, and it’s scheduled to come out in September from the wonderful Mennonite publisher, Herald Press. Although I was reluctant at first to write about my marriage – the book is a blend of personal narrative, theological reflection, and cultural commentary – I’m thrilled with the way it’s turning out. The process of researching and writing it has strengthened my own marriage, and I’m hopeful that the book might do the same for readers as well. (It’s available for pre-order here.)

I can tell you right now that it’s not going to be one of those books offering ten secrets or seven keys or one mind-blowing mystery to save your marriage. To be sure, some of those books offer sound advice and valuable wisdom. It’s just that I have begun to suspect that the most important words about marriage aren’t found in a self-help book, but a prayer book.

I’m talking about the words that are spoken, before God and grandmother, to establish the covenant of marriage. The vows to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – until death.

The point of a wedding isn’t for two people to publicly profess their love for one another. That much is obvious. The point is to promise that they will keep loving one another, come hell or high water.

Our vows:

• gave us the courage to seek out marriage counseling when we nearly destroyed our relationship with immaturity and indignation.

• gave me the wherewithal to walk away from temptation when I realized that I had developed a dangerous crush on a friend.

• give us a safe harbor in which to learn the ways of kindness, forgiveness, trust, and compromise – day in and day out.

It’s that simple, but it’s not easy. Marriage is hard.

Even the happiest marriages require a great deal of work, largely because marriage demands that we forsake our deeply-ingrained human tendency toward selfishness. The only way we know how to stay “very married” is to cling to one another, and to the promises we made in that church on a hot summer day in 2002. We find such joy in mutuality, such grace in faithfulness, such freedom in fidelity.

For us? The vows are everything.

Reading Time:

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13 Comments

  1. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    this looks like an important book & I totally get wanting to be “very” married!

  2. Lynn - Encore Voyage

    We will celebrate 35 years in May – We are very, VERY married, for the same reasons you share. Many have asked us if we will renew our vows sometime. Nope – The ones we said in the first place are working quite well, thank you!

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      You’ve been married nearly as long as I’ve been alive, so it’s heartening to know that the reasons I shared resonated with you!

      Happy anniversary. 🙂

  3. Julie

    Such an important topic in an era when people are undermining the value of vows! Thank you!

  4. Deirdre

    We celebrate 22 years this weekend—looking forward to your book!

  5. Susan Kipp

    What a wonderful piece. I wish someone could whisper this in my ear 10 times a day! Can’t wait to read your book.

  6. Susie

    Field notes- what a great title! Not “mythical methods to Fix It All”, but notes on what’s worked for us. I love it.

    • Katherine Willis Pershey

      Oh, thank you. I love the title. It was actually totally key in helping me figure out just what kind of book I was writing. Once it had that “field notes” subtitle I felt so freed up to just name what I’ve experienced and observed, without the pressure to be some self-styled expert. Glad it resonated with you. 🙂

  7. Zack

    Fabulous Work with Grate Blog I Like This Article. Thanks

  8. Bobbi

    This was so refreshing. Thank You! Well said! We too, are celebrating 35 years in May. So are several dear friends. My parents 55 years in September. Other friends, 65 years. We’re not all still married because it’s been easy, or we have the perfect spouse. You’re absolutely right. We made a vow/promise to each other, & most importantly, to God who instituted the marriage arrangement. Thanks again for your refreshing post! 🙂

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