By Steve McIlwain
Worse, poorer, sicker.
If you’re married, you’ve said these words (or some version of them). Granted, they are not the glamorous words. They’re not the words you focused on. As you stood in front of witnesses, no matter how many or few, likely wearing beautiful clothes and a beaming smile, these words felt somewhat distant. Your wedding day typically isn’t the day to be thinking of the bad stuff. But no matter how they seemed – distant or near, weak or strong, impactful or trivial –these words remain: worse, poorer, sickness.
While most people ignore or despise these three not-so-fun items, they’re one of my favorite parts of wedding vows. I’m an optimist. I believe that everything happens for a reason. All things work for good. There is a lesson to be learned in everything. Trials are opportunities for growth.
I played competitive sports growing up so phrases like “no pain, no gain,” “anything good is worth fighting for”, and “no guts, no glory” resonate deeply with me. My favorite movie quote of all time falls right in line with this thinking: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” I realize that most people don’t share this thought of embracing difficulties. And just to be clear, I’m not in love with tension, frustration, and anger. I’m not particularly good at handling arguments, disagreements, or strain. I don’t try to make us poorer or do everything in my power to keep us constantly sick. However, in my opinion, the lifeblood of marriage is hidden within these three downers: worse, poorer, sickness.
Money is always among the leading vote getters for top divorce reasons: how to spend it, how to invest it, how much to save, don’t have enough. Our culture seems to be in perpetual competition for bigger, better, more. We need more toys. We need a bigger house. We need a new car. We need better clothes. We just gotta keep up with the neighbors.
And I get it. Financial security is important. Having an empty refrigerator, un-paid electric bill, and/or looming rent check are utterly daunting. Feeling like everyone else has the ability to purchase the things you crave is disheartening. Also, it’s nice having nice things. Are a big house, new car, and trendy clothes bad? No way. They’re great. But when those types of things replace your spouse on your list of “things I want most”, that’s when trouble starts knocking.
The question behind the money thing is this: What is more important: how much you have or who you’re with? Would you rather 1) go on an expensive vacation every year, get a new BMW every other year, always get the latest fashions, and have a house that everyone drools over, or 2) live in an old, tiny house, perform a three-part ritual just to start your car, wear clothes you’ve had since Y2K, and vacation at Motel 6 in the next town over from you? The answer is obvious; showcase #1. But what if #1 is with a distant spouse that you barely know, and #2 is with the person you literally believe you were made to be with? What’s the answer then? That answer is also obvious; showcase #1 with spouse #2! But what if you literally had to choose between the two? Ultimately where does your desire lie?
Including “poorer” in wedding vows is a powerful proclamation that the yearning for money will not outweigh the craving for your spouse. Money is an alluring entity. It can be a bottomless desire. It creeps in slowly and before you know it, your spouse’s bi-weekly automatic deposits become more important than your spouse. Don’t allow that to happen. No matter how large or small your house, regardless of how old or new your car, in spite of your Versace or Wal-Mart clothes: choose to make your spouse more important than your things. The love, depth, and intimacy you create with your spouse through “poorer” far exceed other people’s cravings, awe, and flat out jealously of “richer.”
This is Part 1 of 2. Check back on Friday, September 21, to continue reading Part 2 of Hubs Corner: Worse, Poorer, Sickness.