Mistaken Identity: Wisdom, And Not Strength, Is The Key To Successful Relationships

Dear Visible Man,
     My woman and I are both in our twenties and have been together for some time.  We are now considering getting married.  However, I am in a serious conflict with her in that she does not want to say the words “honor and obey” in the wedding ceremony. 

     We were both raised up in the church.  I believe that as the head of my household, it is important that my spouse respects me and follow the road in life that I will walk and support the home that I will make for us.
     I have read your website.  You seem to be a strong black man and the head of your household. Do you have any words you want to share?  Maybe she will listen to a neutral person.

Still Waiting

Seattle, WA
Dear YOUNG MAN,
     First, I want to congratulate you for having the wish and desire to take the journey of matrimony.  The marital bond/contract is not to be taken lightly, as creating a lifelong relationship is one of the most serious commitments you will make in your life.
     I find it interesting that in reading my website, you would find my opinion worthwhile in this decision process. Your review of my website has led you to believe that I am a strong man and the head of my household.
     The reason I am curious about your beliefs is that the website doesn’t speak to my personal beliefs, but to my professional aspirations and clinical interests.
     In addition, your writing seems to affirm my “neutrality,” but there is an underlying assumption that I would be in agreement with your position.  Such an assumption would deflate any perception of my supposed neutrality.
     That being said, I will, as you requested, write a response to your concerns. HOWEVER, I will address my response specifically to you and NOT to your bride to be. If I were to make any recommendations to your fiancée, it would be: “listen to the psychological self.”
So in speaking directly to you, let’s clarify the issues:
  • There is conflict because your fiancée is either reluctant, hesitant, or outright refusing to utter the words “honor and obey” as a featured part of your martial vows.
  • There is an internalized belief system that as the man, you are the head of the household.
  • Other internalized beliefs include a need for your spouse to respect you and follow your road in life and support the home you will make for your family.

     In researching marital vows that are similar to what you are seeking, I came across the Form of Matrimony, which originated in 1662 and was revised in 1928.  The words to be spoken by the groom are different from those being spoken by the bride.  It follows:

Groom- “I take thee (name of bride), to be my lawful wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Bride-“I take thee (name of groom), to be my lawful wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

In 1980, the words were revised and left to be identical for both groom and bride with the exception of “to love and to cherish.” The groom now says “to love, cherish, and worship” and the bride continues to say “love, cherish, and obey.”

     In 2000, the vows in Common Worship was changed to have both groom and bride to state “to love and to cherish,” but it was left to the bride and groom to choose whether to add “obey” when the bride makes her vows.
YOUNG MAN, the key concept in the 2000 revision is the choice of the bride to replace the clause and include “obey” if she so desires.  Your bride to be clearly does not desire to do so.  The key questions to ask yourself are these:
  • Why is it important that my spouse obey me?   Why do I need her to obey?
  • Why am I not listening to her wants?
  • What does the unwillingness to listen to her wants indicate about potential conflicts in our relationship as husband and wife?

YOUNG MAN, I would encourage you to examine your concepts regarding “leadership, strength and head of household.” A wise person has the humility to listen to the words of his/her spouse.  A wise person acknowledges not only his/her strengths, but also his/her weaknesses.  Furthermore, A wise person does not seek leadership based on gender; it is in one’s wisdom that leadership in the household is a shared commitment by two individuals, who have made that contract to God and each other, and witnessed by their family and friends, to honor, love and cherish until death do them part.

YOUNG MAN, a wise person does not seek respect from another or seek to fulfill a “need” for obedience.  A wise person understands that respect lies within the self. If the source of respect comes from another, then it can just as easily be taken away. Respect from a loved one is earned and not demanded via obedience.  A wise person understands that the sense of security that lies within a relationship based on mutual earned respect is strong and will be there during the hard and difficult days that will lie ahead.
Take the time to ask yourself the following questions:
  • If marriage is a lifetime commitment, why am I willing to obligate my relationship to a structure that is guaranteed to work towards its failure?
  • As I look around my community, what are the structures that reinforce marriage instead of weakening it?
  • Am I willing to let go of past teachings and seek another structure that may reinforce my relationship?
  • Do I want a life of leader/follower?  Or am I willing to consider a structure that is different?

YOUNG MAN, for you to be successful in your marital walk and to find the life and the security in the relationship that you seek, have the willingness to want to stop “living in fear.” Instead of walking a “road” that was created by others, have the willingness to create for yourself and your bride a new path, one that is yours and yours alone—a path that you can be proud of.

     Have the willingness to view your marital relationship as one of equals in the journey. Instead of obedience, seek partnership.  Instead of your word being “law,” strive for openness in communication, reinforcing the freedom of its flow.  Seek out strategies that will lead to a healthy and vibrant relationship.
     Focus on teamwork as your approach to problems.  Be willing to not only expose your strengths, but your weaknesses as well.  Let it be known to her that the both of you are signing up for this lifetime contract.   Be willing to enter into this blessed union with all eyes open and everything out on the table for both parties to see and comment.
YOUNG MAN, I leave you with these words: have the willingness to be exposed and vulnerable to your mate.  Are you prepared for the journey following matrimony that lies ahead?
     It is wise to question the wisdom of marriage in this time of your life.  Continue your walk and in doing so, focus on the experience, and not the destination.  If you seek lifelong commitment with a person in this journey, seek to broaden the meaning of what you want in your martial relationship.
 If you truly are seeking obedience in your relationship, perhaps more consideration should be given towards the marital contract as well as to the reluctance of your bride to be.
A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.
-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

The Visible Man

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