To Love, Honor, and Cherish

If you’re married you likely said this as part of a ceremony in front of clergy, family, and friends. If you’re single you probably hope for the chance one day. For all the faultfinding and blame marriage receives it’s funny how many of us still want it for ourselves.

On the surface this vow seems quite simple “to love, honor, and cherish”. Obviously I must love her because I asked her to marry me, right? I didn’t ask my jerk of a boss or the tatted up Goth girl behind the counter at the Starbucks. And I must cherish her, too? I mean, she did say ‘yes’. Would she have really come all this way if I were an a-hole who didn’t tell her she’s beautiful or how those jeans, in fact, do make her butt look fat?

The bookends in this universal phrase get the bulk of attention while glossing over the remainder. And in the scheme of things isn’t two out of three plenty to ask for? But speaking as someone who’s been on the other side, got the t-shirt, balloon, and complimentary photo then was summarily kicked off the ride, I can tell you with certainty the one overlooked – honor – is most important of all.

•♦•

When most of us think of honor we are immediately drawn to King Arthur, castles, and ladies in waiting. We harken back to a time when men were noble and women desired a champion. The word became synonymous with chivalry and fearlessness and to be honorable was a perquisite for becoming the valiant knight. But this is 2012 and knights are shiny things little girls dream of or what nerds dress up as on weekends. It seems honor, much like the home telephone, has no room in our modern culture.

But why has this notion fallen out of favor? Is it the undertones of superiority, sexism, and discrimination? That to honor somehow implies a form of worship, a way of placing another on a pedestal to idolize? Or is it because honoring someone or something means our wants and desires take second chair to the wants and desires of another? In other words to honor means I must sacrifice something of myself to do so and in a culture where “I” reigns supreme this is far too much to ask.

•♦•

People often comment, usually women, on the Queen’s and my relationship. They remark  “you two are so happy together”, “I wish I could have that”, or “I wish so-and-so and I were like that”. Men, on the other hand, just point out “you guys are solid”. This way they maintain masculinity while  saying the same thing. It all gives the idea, like the athlete who makes it look effortless, that what we have simply falls together without sweat or toil. But even as good as it is, getting to and more importantly staying at this point isn’t without significant effort.

To love and cherish someone doesn’t necessarily imply personal sacrifice. Love may take effort on our part, especially after he gets drunk and urinates in the ficus or when she’s ‘in one of those moods’. But aside from holding back a good tongue-lashing there’s very little skin off the back. I can love the Queen and still do things my way. I can cherish her yet maintain my own habits and behaviors, especially if they don’t affect her. I can be both loving and cherishing and somewhat remain the center of my world. But to honor the Queen: that is a different matter entirely.

To honor each other, and more particularly to honor our relationship, requires substantial forfeiture on both our parts.  The code adhered to by knights in King Arthur’s court required their conduct – in public and private – to cohere to a set standard that wouldn’t reflect negatively on the King, other knights, or his lady in waiting. But when was the last time you asked if what you were about to do honored your spouse or significant other, regardless of the impact on them directly or that they would even find out? I can love the Queen and still go to strip clubs and look at porn? I can cherish her and still flirt with the waitress at the bar. But would any of that honor her – or our relationship?

•♦•

There’s a simple litmus test I use to determine if my actions and behaviors will honor the Queen: I picture her doing the same thing and watch how I feel about it. If I would be disappointed, shocked, or  upset then chances are high she would feel the same. My reaction to this is the signal telling me if it would be honorable to her. And that’s where the sacrifice comes in. Because if I want to honor her I must set aside my wants for the sake of something much bigger. Is it any wonder why good relationships are so hard?

None of this means I get it right. I’m adept at not living up to my own standards and end up disappointing myself more than I’d like to admit. But the Queen is called so for a reason as the name stands as a stark reminder that while I may love and cherish  her – it means little without honor.

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11 responses to To Love, Honor, and Cherish

  1. Andrea Matheson

    I love your posts and started following your blog about a month ago. This isn’t really in reference to this post, but i had a question. Don’t know if you will answer, but didn’t think it hurt to try. My soon to be ex is still so attached to me emotionally even though he wants the divorce as much as I do. Why is he and how can he let go?

  2. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Andrea, thanks for following along. Can you give me any specifics regarding his behavior that makes you feel this way? I want to better understand what you’re seeing (not trying to be nosey) in him.

  3. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Kathleen, she doesn’t. But I it’s rare where I don’t use her as my editor in chief before I hit ‘publish’.

  4. Andrea Matheson

    Thanks for replying. He still confides in me a lot and not anyone else. I’ve told him he needs to find another friend to confide in and will get mad when I won’t help him. He wants to see me all the time and texts/calls me a ton just to talk. We are very civil with each other, but I feel we need more distance to move on.

  5. LB

    Love this post! It really sums up the “if you wouldn’t do it with your partner in the room, don’t do it” notion so well. I also love the part about things taking work. People seem to hate the idea of relationships taking effort. It might be a challenge, but so was learning how to read and write. With practice, things take much less effort over time – but the foundation has to be in place first. Thanks for writing this.

  6. Kyle Bradford – Author

    LB, Those that hate the idea of relationships taking work have bought into Hollywood’s idea of relationships being all about feelings and cuddly nights in front of the fire place. I’m convinced that has a lot to do with why so many marriages fail.

  7. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Andrea, I’m going to take a complete stab here. But it seems he may be lacking in the friend department. If you feel the marriage is irreparable then distance is certainly the best option. He may be in love with the idea of marriage and all that brings and he isn’t able to separate the the thing from the idea of the thing. That leaves him emotionally attached to what you represented as his wife.

    I certainly feel that a more sterile approach to your relationship might be beneficial. Otherwise he’s destined to hold onto any emotional attachment he has and will find it challenging to move on.

    Hope this gives you a different perspective.

  8. LB

    I see what you’re saying and agree. Though, we can certainly have our cuddly feelings and fireplaces. Those things just take some work and maybe even planning. People seem to hate the whole planning thing when it comes to love too (planning takes effort of course). I think the idea is that it’s all supposed to zap itself into perfect harmony without any effort on our part. Spontaneity is highly valued by Hollywood ideas of romance which is really kind of silly and creates false expectations. We work and plan for everything else in our lives, why not our relationships? In fact, don’t they deserve more effort and planning than most everything else?

  9. Andrea Matheson

    Thank you for the reponse, that helps.

  10. I like “substantial forfeiture.” It’s true. Makes me want to work harder.

    Andrea, I want to second what Kyle said about distance. He won’t move on until you do. It’s not your look out, but what he really needs is to be around male friends, and if he has none then he needs to find some, or a men’s group.

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