Modern Marriage Vows: Are We Setting Expectations Too High?
I re-watched my wedding video and started to cry. What does it mean to wed someone these days? Can we live up to someone else's expectations? Can they live up to ours? Here are my marriage vows, my commitment to Francisco, my love:
In an NPR interview, couples therapist Esther Perel raised the question, ““Are we asking too much of our spouses?” Are our expectations of modern relationships too high? Essentially, are our own assumptions setting us up for failure?
This may seem like a particularly odd topic to mention in marriage vows, but I bring this up not because these are comfortable questions, but to say that I’ve reflected on the seeming paradoxes of modern relationships. In business, people specialize: the creatives become marketers, and the numbers geeks accountants. But in marriage, one person is expected to fulfill multiple roles: excellent cook, master cleaner, best friend, sex panther, exercise coach, and committed worker day in and day out. Sounds exhausting. How can any one person ever fulfill that expectation? Can I?
And then I look back on our relationship and I think about all of the times you have consistently shown me dedication, patience, and humour. You’ve always impressed me, ever since the first time I visited your apartment and it was in order, with a bed frame and HBO to boot! You’ve demonstrated dedication when we went camping in Big Sur and you gave me your blanket when I was cold in the tent and when you organized the biggest, baddest birthday bash that I can ever remember. You’ve demonstrated patience when we hiked Mount Garrapata in Monterey and I got sunburned and screamed, “This is not my idea of fun!” as we ascended the hill. And you’ve shown me humour when you joked with me about the time in Costa Rica when I wouldn’t let you have a piece of my chicken skewer. (In my defense, it was a really small skewer). I love the woman that I’ve become around you and feel unbelievably lucky to share my life, the good times and the bad, with you by my side.
I’ve never been too fond of fairy tales - sleeping beauties, flying carpets, and white horses. The idea that a kiss from a handsome suitor will revitalize a princess - fulfill her every desire and last forever - all that always struck me as nonsense. Most mornings, I walk a mile from home to take the bus to work at UC San Diego. After a long journey back at the end of the day, dealing with people on the bus painting their fingernails, eating stinky everything bagels with cream cheese, and listening to blaring heavy metal music coming out of their headphones, as I approach the stop, I see Cisco in his big white Forerunner, waiting for me, cold Pamplemousse La Croix in hand, demonstrating that act of service - my prince has arrived, time and time again. It’s easy to pick someone up one time, a one off, it’s hard to do that consistently, every day, without complaining, and with patience even when the bus comes late. You are there and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, your love, your commitment.
I believe humans have this deep desire to feel accepted, heard, and while I can’t promise you that I will always say the right thing at the right moment, fulfill all of the roles expected in the modern day relationship 100% of the time, I will say that I want you to be happy, fulfilled, and I will constantly strive to better myself and our relationship.
Perhaps you said it best when we were playing tennis and you asked, “Will you play ball with me for always?” Yes, Francisco, I will.