Divorce Vows

Divorce Vows

A Marriage is an agreement and public recognition that a particular partnership between two people is different from all others. Across cultures and time, the formalization of that agreement often comes with a set of vows outlining the guidelines by which the partners agree to live and commit themselves “for better or for worse.”

We have all seen weddings where those vows create a powerful bond and truly lay the groundwork for future interaction between two people, and we have all seen weddings where those vows felt like part of a fiction intended to tug on the heart strings of the audience, and of course we have all seen marriages where the terms are reinterpreted, where the traditional “until we die” clause becomes a metaphorical death, or the partnership itself is reevaluated as a “mistake,” leaving the couple free to dissolve or radically renegotiate.

I know first hand what a touchstone those vows actually provided me as I navigated the ups and downs to be found in every mature relationship. Those vows remind us of our best selves. They remind us of who we want to be, or at least of who we wanted to be when we were at our best and most optimistic. I am sad to have been in two “renegotiated” marriages, and when I lost that touchstone a second time, I decided I would replace those Wedding vows with my own Divorce vows.

These Divorce vows establish a new set of rules, a new set of promises, that outlined my intentions and guidelines for this new relationship with my Ex. They crystallized my vision of the person I hope to be, and as the divorce process unfolded they helped remind me of who I am. They continue to keep me on track. Here they are:

[Dear Ex], I promise to prioritize the health and well-being of our children above all other considerations. I will treat you with respect, kindness, and compassion, and I will always give you the benefit of the doubt, choosing to assume the best intentions when your actions and words seem ambiguous or contradictory. I will conduct myself with honesty and integrity and will continue to be worthy of your trust and friendship. I will honor our past love and protect its memory from corrosion by pain, anger, disappointment, and revisionist history. I will live my life to its fullest and will allow you do the same, free of judgment or attempts to control or invade, and I vow to keep these promises in good times and bad, for better or for worse, until the day I die.

I’m proud to have done this, and I’m proud to be living by it, returning to my best self in moments of doubt or in moments when her actions and words truly have been at best “ambiguous or contradictory.” I am also saddened because I was offering an incredible gift, hoping even in divorce to expose some deeper part of who I am, hoping still to be seen and honored and appreciated, but her reaction was completely neutral, almost dismissive, and the implied invitation to return the gift with a similar set of vows was never accepted.

I invite you to take this idea and make it your own. I’m hopeful that you may be inspired as well if you are renegotiating your relationship. Use it to remind yourself of who you want to be, even in the face of pain and confusion, for better or for worse. Do it for you and not for anyone else, recognizing that maybe nobody will care besides you.

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