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Living Together but Not Married? Consider the Power of the Vow

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My marriage vow kept me from making a grave mistake. Without it, I would have lost a lifetime of love. This special promise is powerful — and we need it for many reasons. If you’re living together but you’re not married yet, consider the power of the vow.

I’d been married less than two years and was already contemplating divorce. Had it really been such a short time since my husband, Jeff, and I stood at a church altar and said our wedding vows? In my fancy ivory dress and with 200 family members and friends watching, I’d vowed “till death do us part” to Jeff. I’d promised to stay with him forever: for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

And yet there I sat with Jeff, dividing our record collection as I planned to move out. 

When I married at age 24, I hadn’t surrendered my life to Christ, and God was not part of my life. Consequently, I knew nothing about true love. When I found myself physically attracted to another man and realized he was attracted to me, I was confused. How could I love my husband and be attracted to this other man?

I didn’t know the difference between unconditional love and pure physical attraction. Because of my lack of knowledge, I thought I’d made a mistake by getting married. Never mind that I still considered Jeff my best friend and respected him as a person. Never mind that I still loved him. 

Even though I was obsessed with this attraction to another man, and even though I was accustomed to following my feelings wherever they led me, two things saved me from making a life-altering mistake: a Christian book in our apartment that explained the true meaning of love … and the wedding vow I’d made. And of course, God was reaching out to me through that book and the vow.

I still remember staying up all night reading the book Jeff’s mother had given him. I’d been packing and getting ready to move out of our apartment when I came across it. Its promise to clearly define love appealed to me. After I’d read it, I looked into the mirror of our apartment’s bathroom and said to myself, I made a vowIt doesn’t matter what I feel at this moment. Feelings come and go. Vows and unconditional love are supposed to stick around.

My marriage vow kept me from making a grave mistake. Without it, I would have lost a lifetime of love. This special promise is powerful — and we need it for many reasons. If you’re living together but you’re not married yet, consider the power of the vow.

Vows protect you

Maybe you’re like the 59 percent of evangelicals ages 18 to 29 who said living together was no big deal — it’s morally acceptable even if the couple doesn’t intend to marry. You say you love each other and don’t see the need for the whole wedding thing . . . at least not right away. 

You say you’ve made a strong commitment, just not with the marriage trappings? Unfortunately, that isn’t enough because people are inherently selfish and sinful (I know I am!). 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Because our worst selves can lead us to make choices we regret, we need the wedding vow to protect us from ourselves. It’s a needed restraint that helps us maintain our commitment. 

It’s much easier to move out of a person’s life when you haven’t made a public commitment to the relationship in front of your guests, your entire family and, of course, God. Unfortunately, moving out may be a decision that could wreck your life. 

Proclaiming your commitment — your covenant — through marriage protects you from you. If you’re simply living together, you don’t have the extra accountability, the boundary the vow provides. Most of us can’t even stick to diets without external help. We need the marriage vow to hold us accountable in those times when we want to do the easy thing, the wrong thing, the foolish thing. And when we keep our vows, we give ourselves a chance to grow as individuals and as a couple. 

I’m living proof that a wedding vow can protect you from foolish behavior and strengthen your relationship. 

Vows can improve your life

Research shows that marriage provides health benefits that living together does not. I know that keeping my vow and staying in my marriage has made me a much happier person. 

Because I honored my vow, I’ve been dearly loved and cared for by a man who has seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve shared passion, purpose and spiritual growth with the love of my life. I’ve raised four children and shared a business with a man I trust completely, totally. I would have lost all that if the power of the vow hadn’t stopped me from leaving.

In fact, I shudder at the thought of what my life would have been like without Jeff. He brought me back to church, which led me to surrendering my life to Christ. My husband’s example of forgiveness and unconditional love for me after I hurt him modeled the love of Jesus. 

Would I have followed the Lord if I’d chosen divorce? Would I have learned the true meaning of love? Or would I have gone from one man to the next, looking for the fulfillment that only comes from God? 

Vows strengthen trust

It took a long time for Jeff to trust me again after my emotional affair. But he did, and we decided that affairs and divorce would never again be an option. We could disagree and be extremely angry, storm off somewhere and still know that we could return. 

Over the years, as we faced unemployment, a traumatized son, our children’s frightening medical emergencies, a low bank account, our son’s suicide and my debilitating health condition, we knew we could depend on each other. Life throws a lot your way. It’s easier to handle it all with someone you trust, someone who has vowed to stay with you no matter what.

Without the commitment of marriage, will your trust of each other be strong enough to survive life’s tough seasons? Or do you need the power of the vow?

Living together but not married? Try the vow

If you’re living together, you’ve made no vow before God and the world. You have no protection from yourself. You have no basis for trust. Without the benefits of marriage vows, how long will your union last?

Thanks to the vow I made, Jeff and I are still married. I’m so glad I made that promise, because it set me up for a happy life filled with love. Our adult son, Ben, even wrote a poem about our marriage that compared our love to ancient Redwood trees, which live for thousands of years. 

If you, too, want the kind of love that lasts, the kind of love that God designed, make the marriage commitment. If you truly love each other and want to be with each other for the rest of your lives, declare it! Use the power of the vow to safeguard your relationship. Give yourself a chance to grow together for a lifetime, like two redwood trees. 

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There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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