Before we got engaged, I was pressuring Jordan to do it. I was 27, convinced that if marriage was not in our future, then there was no point in continuing. What I didn’t realize was what I really wanted to know. I still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to marry me or not. Once he proposed, and I realized his answer was yes, I was faced with a question I hadn’t really given much thought to—Do I want to get married?
I wasn’t questioning of our relationship–I knew I wanted to be with him for the foreseeable future. But it was that foreseeable part. What about all the unknowns? Was I really going to stand up in front of everyone I know and commit to another person for a lifetime, knowing how much I don’t know about what the future holds? Knowing how out of my control it all is? Knowing how bad the odds are that something like this could last? Knowing how much I have changed in the past seven years and how much Jordan has changed in that time as well? Isn’t it kind of disingenuous to make that kind of commitment?
It felt like it to me. After all, I don’t simply want to remain married to my husband for the rest of my life. I want to remain in love with him, I want our love to grow, and keep growing. I want us to have a healthy and dynamic sex life, I want us to have harmony and peace in our home, I want us both to be given the space and time we need to develop our passions and projects. I want it all, and I know how rare that is. And I know how much work it takes. Because I have been working on it with him for the past seven years.
Unlike a lot of my accomplishments, my relationship with my husband is something I can say easily I am very proud of. I was single for many years, convinced I would never find love. So I know how it can sting to hear someone speak about their great love life. But I am not proud because of fate. We have both worked incredibly hard over the past seven years to keep our love alive. A lot of sacrifices have been made on both sides, and we have both had to grow, heal, and transform in a myriad ways to keep our connection to each other.
But even though we have a great relationship, the idea of the marriage vows scared me. I think it might be because of the way we met. We started talking one day at a party and have been together ever since. It was easy to find things in common—we attended the same elementary, middle, and high school in New Orleans, where we still live together, with a community of people that are still among some of our closest and oldest friends. Since I had known who my husband was since I was 8 years old, I thought I knew him. We were always running in similar crowds but were never lovers or even really friends. If you had told me just 30 minutes before we started talking that I would end up marrying him, I don’t think I ever would have believed you. Even now we look at each other and sometimes get another wave of surprise. Like, wow! I can’t believe my person in life is you!
Remembering this, I felt discomfort making a vow like till death do us part—couldn’t the same shock happen the opposite way? Couldn’t I be just as blindsided one day by the reality that we shouldn’t be together any longer?
But the more I thought about it, the more my understanding grew. The answer to this question is yes, but that doesn’t mean a wedding shouldn’t happen. I have come to understand the ritual of marriage as just one among many human traditions where we attempt to create permanence where there is none, where we grasp at eternity even though our time is brief, and where we attempt to forge acts of infinite, unconditional love even though as humans we are so finite, so submerged in our individual conditions. The act of committing my whole self to someone else, to summoning all the devotion I can muster, to reaching deep into my reserves of compassion and patience and humility over and over to keep the fires of our love burning bright—these acts are sacred, because they are an attempt to transcend the mundane aspects of my humanity.
I quickly realized I wanted us to share in the writing of our own vows. We started with a brainstorm of words and values that we share and prioritize in ourselves and with each other—self-love, devotion to God, humility, humor, honesty, community, the land, and integrity. After that, I wrote a draft, and he edited it, as he often does with my writing, and we went back and forth a bit. I am so happy with the way they turned out and to share them with you now.
A week into married life, I realize how important it is to me to share these vows even more publically. I have committed myself to the ritual of maintaining and open, honest, unconditionally loving, sexually monogamous relationship with another human being yall! I been practicing the past seven years but now I feel the weight of the commitment more than ever. I want to share that commitment with all of you. I want accountability here. I want all of yall to know that I am going to do my absolute best.
Do you vow first and foremost to love yourself, to be kind and gentle with yourself, and devote yourself fully to your own personal divine connection? We chose this to be first because this has always been a firm touchstone in our relationship. Before we even present an issue or conflict to the other, we check-in with ourselves—is there a way we could love ourselves more here, be more gentle, and be in better relationship with our individual sense of the divine?
Do you vow to always turn towards your passion and follow it with hard work and dedication, and to support your partner in doing the same? Jordan and I are both self-employed, and very driven by our passions and this is something we also put at the forefront, because we know it’s vital to each other’s happiness.
Do you vow to be honest, especially when it is difficult, to be vulnerable, especially when you feel hurt, and to speak from your heart, even when your belly is full of fire? Communication, communication, and then, even when you don’t feel like it at all—a little more communication—honest, vulnerable, and from the heart.
Do you vow make time for one another, even when it may feel like there is none, to listen to the words of the other, reflect upon them, and make changes when they are needed? Creating time. See #2, workaholics. We both have a way of dissolving into our passions and missing times to connect. Being willing listen, to really hear, and ultimately to change patterns of behavior is vital.
Do you vow to play and to laugh, to enjoy the little things, to cherish each other, and to always say yes when asked for another embrace? Silliness and love go so well together. Like sprinkles and rainbows.
Do you vow to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and eager to apologize? I feel like I am always learning when to retreat and re-center and when to assert boundaries.
Do you vow to put each other’s commitment to one another above all other things, to stand for each other in times of trouble, and to act from a place of trust even if it feels broken? Ultimately, if something is going to last, it means you have to persevere through times when it doesn’t feel good, or right, or like the other is fully there. Sometimes you have to be the anchor. Sometimes you have to be the force that lifts the weight from the bottom of the sea.
Do you vow to contemplate, regularly, what it means to love and what it would mean to love better, with greater integrity, with more compassion, with deeper trust, and with full dedication to God? For me, this vow and the one above work hand in hand. I discern whether to remain committed based on the answers I find contemplating these questions, and then re-commit with greater clarity.
And do you vow, above all else to love Jordan/Kezia, with all of your heart and your soul, with your hands and your feet, with your words and your deeds, sharing in the love that reverberates through each other and to all of those present today, devoted to one another and to the dream of a more loving, harmonious world? In summary, this is what we think it means to love—and we are going to do everything we can to do it.
I know a lot of people have a lot of different kinds of feelings, values, and philosophies that come up for them around the concept of marriage, or even long-term relationships/partnerships in general. So I just wanted to share a little about how I found meaning in the process. And now that I am married, I know that our journey is really just beginning. I would love to hear from yall what your struggles and triumphs have been.