As I write about love this week, I went online for all things related to it. What better place to start a search like this than celebrity wedding vows. This one — certainly NOT my favorite — still kept snagging my attention:
I vow to keep the spare toilet paper in the bathroom instead of in my office closet. I vow to keep an open mind about moving to the Valley, and I vow to learn how to make a brisket and spend more time in the kitchen. As your wife, I vow to keep you happy, healthy, and fit – whether you like it or not. Remember, you are marrying a personal trainer so deal with it.
There is so much meaning packed into these four sentences that they could be a whole study. Light-hearted, affectionate, private — the passion in this pledge is not the readers’ or listeners’ privilege to see at first glance. This woman is pledging to her new husband her passion for his comfort, aspirations, pleasure, happiness, health, and growth. She calls him to be a man in a certain adult way that can only be done by his equal.
I believe that when most people in the US contemplate marriage, they start with chemistry — do we have the sexual spark, the erotic and romantic attraction to get it on! If I squint just right, can I make you look like the type of body about which I fanaticize? Are you enough like or unlike my childhood or adolescent or pornographic crush that I can find happiness? I have known women who suffered considerable back pain and repeated implant surgeries to fulfill some pornographic fantasies of their boyfriends, only to discover that they were actually not compatible in any way. There is nothing bad, wrong, sinful, or disgusting to be sexually interested or sexually driven in relationships or in casual physical experiences. It is, however, irrational to limit our understanding of passionate love to sexual preferences, urges, or desires.
When a young mother looks out the window while doing dishes and cannot see her child where she thought he would be in the yard, she can find herself outside at the curb in 30 seconds snatching him off his tricycle without even knowing how she got out there. That is passion. When the boy’s dad works late and really wants to get home to be with his family, but swings by to visit his supervisor in the hospital after a heart attack — in part because he knows the guys kids are far away and have not made it back – that’s passion, too. The feeling of joy when a guy sees his girlfriend’s affection for her cousins? Passion.
Not all passion is big nor is all of it lust. We can be thankful for that. But, big or small, that autonomic desire for others, for their well-being and happiness, is passion. Passion is a catalyst in that it prompts action. It promotes initiative.
I recently heard passion in an account of a young man who ran into his high school crush. I saw it again in the husband who helped his disabled wife remove her coat. Passion was evident in a friend flying to be with her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law celebrated a birthday together. I see it in the eight dozen cookies made on a Sunday evening for classroom teachers in a middle school by a parent who knows that they need to know some love on a Monday. I experienced passion in a meeting of colleagues who are working to resolve big employment issues in our state.
Passion is tricky, however. When I was scouring the web for celebrity marriage vows, I also came across this one:
From the moment I met you, I wanted more. I wanted more of your infectious smile, I wanted more of your adorable giggle, and I wanted more of your love. You had me hooked from the beginning…I know that we met on The Bachelor so that I could fall in love with my best friend. Every day, I am encouraged by your love, and as your husband, I promise to always put you first. I promise to be the best father I can be to our children, and I promise to always make you laugh with my silly faces and ridiculous voices…I love you, and I’m going to love you for eternity.
This vow is another example of the current state of marriage promises. Later this week, I will write about commitment, but here I want to emphasize passion. This example is somewhat more serious than the first, but still affectionate. The passion, however, seems somehow hollow to me, less mature than the earlier example. Perhaps I read it this way because smiling, giggling, silly faces, and odd voices don’t add up to much in my book. Maybe on a so-called “reality” show they do.