The Saddest Way To Fulfill All Of Your Wedding Vows

Following your vows will help you survive the inevitable end to a marriage.

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Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash

No matter how much love and effort you put into it, every marriage is destined to end. If you are happily married, you may disagree with me. You may think your marriage will last forever. Sadly, it will not. This knowledge should not keep you from having a great marriage. You can use the inevitability of the end to ensure you enjoy every day of your marriage.

During the nearly 24 years of my first marriage, I rarely thought about the possibility of my marriage ending. I didn’t think it would ever end. Then, the unthinkable happened, and I was suddenly widowed. I remember the awful moment that day when it occurred to me I was no longer married, and it seemed unfair.

I’m sure anyone I mentioned this to assured me I will always be Patrick’s wife. I knew deep in my heart I was still his wife. But, legally, I was no longer married. The first time I had to fill out paperwork that asked for marital status was another slap in the face. I was no longer married.

Later it occurred to me we had kept all of our marriage vows. Knowing I fulfilled my marriage vows was a great feeling, and I wear it like a badge of honor.

To have and to hold

I, Danell Edith Boyles, take you, Patrick John teNyenhuis for my lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward,

‘To have and to hold’ refers to showing your spouse affection and ensuring sexual intimacy in the marriage. Patrick used to tell a joke about newlyweds putting a quarter in a jar each time they made love during the first year of marriage. After the first year, they would take a quarter out each time they made love, and the punchline is the jar would never be emptied.

If I’m honest, I did not fulfill this vow as often as Patrick would have liked. I know this is true in many marriages, but I was surprised it wasn’t always as easy as the first year. There were many times I took him for granted. Not because I didn’t love him, usually I was just tired. The funny thing is, saying yes was never a disappointment.

My advice to any married couple is to make this aspect of your marriage a priority. Trust me; there may be a time when you desperately wish you could have a do-over of all the times you said, “not tonight.”

Luckily, in the last few years of my marriage, I consciously worked on this vow, and things were going well. I regret it wasn’t always a priority, but I am comfortable knowing Patrick loved me, and I loved him.

For better, for worse,

There are ups and downs in any marriage. We waited six years to get married so we could finish school first. Patrick married a teacher, and two years later, I was unemployed and unsure about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. He stood by my side as I found a new career that paid significantly less than my teaching salary. And he supported my choice.

Patrick always looked forward to having a mid-life crisis so he could buy a cool sports car. Fortunately for me, a mid-life crisis never happened, and he kept driving his Volkswagen camper bus. He was a very stable person and didn’t have many low periods, but I would have been there if he had.

For richer, for poorer,

Patrick and I had a comfortable life, but we didn’t always make the best financial decisions. We tended to spend money before we had it rather than saving for special purchases or vacations.

During the first 2/3 of our marriage, I spent time gambling. I spent Saturday nights playing poker with my siblings and cousins. And I frequently went to one of the local Indian casinos. Eventually, I won a $6,000 slot jackpot, followed closely by a $5,000 slot tournament win, and this was the beginning of the end.

If you have a tendency toward a gambling addiction, winning a large jackpot will make you think you are made of gold. I kept burning through money, some in the form of credit card advances until I finally acknowledged I had a problem. When I admitted my problem to Patrick and promised him I would stop, I knew I would because our promises were important. He did his part and continued to love and support me unconditionally.

Several years later, I was going through a difficult time at work and let my addiction take over for a little while. This time when I admitted my problem to Patrick, he became sad and angry. I had broken my promise to him. My gambling relapse was the lowest point in my marriage. For the first time, I became worried my husband might want to leave me. As always, he remained by my side.

In sickness and in health,

I think Patrick and I divided up these vows. He stayed with me while I battled depression, had a hip replacement, had a hysterectomy, and various other ailments. I can count on one hand the number of times he was sick during our marriage. Patrick was the picture of health.

Patrick rode his bike or went for a run nearly every morning. For years he rode his bike to work. Some days he would arrive home, hook up the bike trailer and ride to daycare to pick up the girls. He also lifted weights at least three days per week. He was a physical therapist and took fitness and health very seriously.

I expected him to live to a ripe old age. The fact he died riding his bike is the saddest irony.

Until death do us part.

Does anyone ever really stop to think about this vow? Patrick and I always assumed we would grow old together. And I assumed I would be the first to go. I never imagined that he would die at the age of 49.

I wish I had even one more day with him. I wish my daughters had their father. But I have no regrets. And I believe that is because we took our vows seriously. I knew he loved me, and he knew I loved him.

The lesson I learned is you can’t count on time. I’m not advocating you go through life worried about death; that’s no way to live. But, it doesn’t hurt to imagine if you suddenly had no more time with your spouse. Would you have any regrets?

Life after being widowed

There is nothing in the wedding vows about the time after death has taken one of you. A lot of widows vow never to marry again. Many people believe you can only have one true love. I’m afraid I have to disagree. There is life after loss. I believe Patrick would have wanted me to love again. And I knew my heart could expand to love another. I say expand because I will always love Patrick.

I married Bruce 3 1/2 years after Patrick died. I made the same vows, and I plan to keep them. I know we will have ups and downs just like Patrick and I did, and that’s okay. We both believe in the vows we took.

Widow, Mother, Wife, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. Recovering Republican trying to find my way.

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