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Archbishop writes in The Sun on Marriage and The Vows

Archbishop of York

Tuesday 14th February 2012

The Archbishop reflects on Marriage and the vows undertaken, For the question isn’t, “do you love...?”, but “will you love...”

 “The Vow” is a film, released just before Valentine’s Day, which tells the story of a married woman who lost her memory after a car accident.  She didn’t know she was married and felt no affection for her husband.  He had to woo her all over again.  Would she fall in love with him a second time?  The film is based on a true story.

You don’t need a car crash to fall out of love.  In England and Wales, there were nearly 120,000 divorces in 2010.  No one knows for sure how many cohabiting couples split up, but it’s likely to be far more.  In many cases feelings had become vapid or hostile, routine had overtaken passion and daily life was a grind.  100,000 children were affected.

Why?  To start with, expectations are much higher than they were a century ago, when life was shorter (47 years for a man and 50 for a woman), working hours were longer and standards of living were lower.  Marriages were almost invariably ended by death, not divorce.  Marriage in the 21st Century probably requires more care and attention than it did a century ago. 

If you have watched TV programmes like “Don’t Tell the Bride”, you will see that brides in particular expect everything on their Wedding Day to be perfect.  Woe betide anyone who fails to interpret their wishes correctly.  After that there’s the unspoken assumption that from then on it will be roses, roses all the way.

I’m all for romance, but please don’t expect your partner to fulfil all your dreams, solve your problems and supply everything that’s missing in your life.  That’s simply not realistic.  It takes two.

When you get married in church – and more people are now choosing to do that – the Vicar will ask you and your fiancé a question: “Will you love, comfort, honour and protect him/her?”  The answer is, “I will.”  Contrary to many newspaper articles and TV programmes, the answer to the question is not “I do”.  For the question isn’t, “do you love...?”, but “will you love...”

Loving is as much an act of the will as it is a feeling; as much a deliberate choice as a spontaneous sensation; and it has more to do with giving than getting.

2012 is a leap year.  Traditionally anyone can pop the question.  Apart from making the obvious remark, ‘look before you leap’, I want to encourage people who are contemplating the great adventure to propose a lifelong, loving commitment.  Nothing else matches it. 

And for those who are already married, here’s a ten-point daily checklist to ensure that the promises you made to each other on your Wedding Day are as vibrant as ever:

1.    Think of something about your spouse that you really like.

2.    Be ready to put in to the marriage more than (you think) you get out.

3.    Say something endearing.

4.    Be ready to apologise.  Sorry is a great word for healing wounds.

5.    If you really must criticise, be specific – don’t generalise.

6.    Don’t keep old scores.

7.    Pray for a sense of humour and enjoy having your leg pulled.

8.    Say thank-you regularly.

9.    Don’t covet your neighbour’s partner.

10. Count your blessings.

 Many couples choose this passage from the Bible to have read at their wedding: 1 Corinthians 13. 

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

On your wedding anniversary, try reading it again and substitute your own name for the word ‘charity’ throughout.  And may God bless you and your family, now and always.

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