Couples who marry in the Catholic Church exchange vows on their wedding day. Two couples who have remained true in good and bad times, in health and sickness, for a total of 50 over years look back and reflect on the meaning of their vows.
I take you to be my wife/husband
John: When I got married I didn’t think about the meaning of this. I was focused on the excitement of entering into a relationship with my wife. On reflection, after 18 years, I got a glimpse of how God loves me despite my weaknesses.
Joyce: Although we are both Catholic we appear to have more differences than commonalities. I made a vow to take my husband in spite of his unusual and annoying ways.
I accept that he does not like to socialise and can spend hours reading and learning new stuff. I accept that he is perennially late and sometimes sleeps without brushing his teeth. I accept that, although he knows I like Korean dramas, he will not watch them with me. I accept that he can have a huge anger while driving.
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad
John: I was at first hesitant to share my emotions and feelings. Later I came to realise the relief whenever I shared about my work. This reflects the reality that my spouse is really no different from me – we share one flesh and one body. And when my wife is in the wrong or commits an error, I have learnt how to correct her without leading to an argument or quarrel.
Joyce: There were times in the past when I nearly called it quits and my vows were the least of my concerns. When I was seven months pregnant with our firstborn, money was tight because we overspent on our wedding, our home, and our car. Since I had a threatened miscarriage during the first trimester, I relied on my husband to drive me to work. One early morning he came home drunk.
Unfortunately, I did not have enough money for a taxi ride. I hurled hurtful words at him and knew he wanted to hit me. We had a heated argument and I demanded to split up .
I found solace in the rosary and was relieved when he asked for forgiveness. This meant that he loved me. That comforted me to stay married.
In sickness and in health
John: In 2008 I was hospitalised for an undetermined viral infection. I was constantly in a foul mood due to the medication. My wife took my unpleasantness with patience, confidence and assurance that everything will turn out fine.
Recalling this, I realised how blessed I am to be in a relationship with my wife and the reality that we are really one flesh. To think that some problems are mine and some problems are my wife’s is an illusion.
Joyce: In 2010 I had a caesarean operation. My recovery was slow and difficult and my husband painstakingly cared for me. The vow to stay together means that in pain or comfort we remain faithful.
I will love you and honour you
John: Initially it appeared to be a promise that I was making to love and to be with someone for the rest of my life. After 18 years, in hindsight, this is not really a promise but a lived reality when I entered into this three-way covenant between me, my wife and God. It feels like a prison experience at times and there is no way out. But the day-to-day joys, frustrations and pleasant surprises tend to balance things out and remind me how blessed I am to have been gifted by God with a loving wife and two children.
Joyce: We have gone through a lot and have evolved as a couple. Now I understand why we had to go through difficulties – it is so we would grow in love. The wisdom I have gained through our tumultuous relationship was the privilege to love my husband unconditionally. As I learned in Marriage Encounter, the decision to love is a choice.
There will continue to be challenges but I know that God will give me the grace to forgive my husband endless times and to stay married.
All the days of my life
John: We are on a journey. We have uncertainties, doubts, bright expectations. One thing is for sure, Someone is in full control and marriage is a platform that He gave my wife and I in order to experience and share the magnanimity of this thing called “love.”
Joyce: I am grateful to my parents and in-laws for having the grace to stay married for 50 years. I believe that their choice to remain in marriage has spiritually nurtured my own marriage. I tell my children that one of our greatest legacy is our selflessness, forgiveness, unconditional love and desire to stay married for the rest of our lives.
The names of the couple have been changed.
Read more : The marriage vows