Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don’t really know why they’re so meaningful. Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share with each other.But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. I suspect that it’s really these vows — the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family — that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.If these promises are the essence of what it means to be married, then what exactly do you want to promise each other? You could always go with the traditional marriage vows: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better for worse… but, these seemed a bit too vague for the discerning tastes. So the best way to go is the more specific, behavioral promises! Below are the ten promises that couples can make to each other, that will help to achieve long-term marital bliss:1. “I promise to respect, admire, and appreciate you for who you are, as well as for the person you wish to become.” Research on positive illusions shows that it’s helpful to see romantic partners in a positive light – to appreciate their positive qualities rather than ruminating about their flaws. Not only does this sunny outlook lead to better relationship satisfaction, but positive illusions help partners to feel better about themselves. So, in the first part of this vow, you’re promising to always see the best in each other. In the second part of this vow, you are promising to support each other’s attempts to grow and improve ourselves over time. This is called the Michelangelo phenomenonand research shows that supporting your partner’s changes to their self is very beneficial both for the partner and for the relationship. Importantly, you are not promising to help your partner improve in the way you want them to improve, but in the way they want to improve themself, and vice versa. It’s all about supporting the partner’s own personal goals.2. “I promise to support and protect your freedom; because although our lives are intertwined, your choices are still yours alone.” This vow draws from research on autonomy. Although humans are social creatures who both need and enjoy relationships, it’s also important for us to maintain our individuality. In particular, we need to feel like the decisions we’re making are truly coming from usWhen people feel forced or coerced into making choices – like they didn’t have any real choice in the matter – they’re less happy and less fulfilled. And, as you might have guessed, that lack of happiness is problematic for relationships. In this vow, you are promising to avoid pressuring, guilting, or otherwise coercing each other into making decisions, striving instead to always respect each other’s right to make choices for ourselves.3.  “I promise to seek a deep understanding of your wishes, your desires, your fears and your dreams.” This vow draws from research on responsiveness, which involves sensitively meeting your partner’s needs. Striving to meet each other’s needs is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. However, you can’t meet a partner’s needs if you don’t know what they are. Understanding one’s partner is the first step to being responsive, which is why you need to promise to seek a deep understanding of one another.4. “I promise to always strive to meet your needs; not out of obligation, but because it delights me to see you happy.” Research on sacrifice shows that it’s important not to make sacrifices for avoidance-based reasons, such as feeling as though you “should” be giving something to your partner. Both partners are better off when any sacrifices are made out of approach motives, such as genuinely wanting to make your partner happy. So, with this vow, you are promising each other that when you do sacrifice for each other, you’ll do it only with love and care, and not with reluctance or resentment. If and when we can’t make sacrifices for the right reasons, it’s probably better not to make the sacrifice at all.5. “I promise to be there for you when you need me, whenever you need me.” This vow is based on what it means to be a good attachment figure: the person in your life who you most strongly rely on for support. With this vow, we’re promising to reliably be there for each other when one of us is distressed: to be each other’s soft place to fall, or what researchers call a “safe haven”.6. I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune and celebrate your triumphs. This vow covers the other side of being a good attachment figure: being there for your partner when they’re not distressed. Basically, you both want to know that you can take risks, make mistakes, and come home to a supportive partner at the end of the day. Letting your partner go out and conquer their goals, knowing that you’re there in the background cheering them on, is called being a “secure base”.7. “I promise to keep our lives exciting, adventurous, and full of passion.” Here, you can draw from research on self-expansion theory, showing that couples are happier when they engage in new, interesting things together. Basically, you’re promising each other not to let our relationship fall into a rut. You’re going to keep courting each other, keep traveling and exploring together, and keep sharing novel and interesting experiences with each other for the rest of our lives.8. “I promise to persevere when times get tough, knowing that any challenges we might face, we will conquer them together.” This is the closest vow that comes close to representing the traditional vows about being together “for better, for worse”; in other words, to stay committed to each other. Research shows that by having this committed outlook – staying together through thick and thin – you should be better able to deal with any adversity that might come our way. This is because when a couple sees themselves as a permanent partnership, their perspective on problems tends to shift from being about “me against you” to being about “us against the issue”. Researchers call this “transformation of motivation”: commitment helps people to stop treating conflicts as zero-sum, instead keeping the wellbeing of their partner and their relationship in mind. So, by acting like a team, you’ll be in a better position to face challenges together.9. “I promise to treat you with compassion over fairness because we are a team, now and for always.” This vow draws from research on communal orientation. Being communally-oriented means that you contribute to your relationship based on what is needed and based on what you have to give. In other words, it’s about being a team player. With this vow, you’re promising not to “track and trade,” keeping careful tabs on each other to ensure that we’re each contributing to the relationship fairly and equally. Instead, you’re promising to always strive to contribute what we can, based on the needs of our partner. You trust that our respective efforts will more or less balance out in the long run. Communal strength, or this willingness to give to the relationship without much concern for what you’re receiving in return, is associated with a whole range of positive relationship outcomes.10. “I promise to show you, every day, that I know exactly how lucky I am to have you in my life.” With this last vow, you draw from research on the emotion of gratitude. When people feel appreciative of their partners, they’re happier and more committed to their relationships. And when people express gratitude to their partners, their partners feel appreciated, that makes those partners feel happier, more committed, and more appreciative themselves. It’s all a wonderful cycle of goodness. So in this vow, you are promising to never take each other for granted, but rather to appreciate what you have and express that appreciation to each other often.Photo Credit: Getty


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here