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.