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Conveniently, I had decades of research at my fingertips to help us figure out what it really means to be a good spouse.
Research on positive illusions shows that it's helpful to see romantic partners in a positive light -- to appreciate their positive qualities rather than ruminating about their flaws. In the second part of this vow, my partner and I are promising to support each other's attempts to grow and improve ourselves over time.
This vow draws from research on responsiveness, which involves sensitively meeting your partner's needs. Once we figure out what each other's needs are, my partner and I promise that we will try our best to meet those needs. Research on sacrifice shows that it's important not to make sacrifices for avoidance-based reasons, such as feeling as though you "should" be giving something to your partner.
This vow is based on what it means to be a good attachment figure: the person in your life who you most strongly rely on for support.
This vow covers the other side of being a good attachment figure: being there for your partner when they're not distressed.
This is the closest that our vows come to representing the traditional vows about being together "for better, for worse"; in other words, to stay committed to each other. With this last vow, we draw from research on the emotion of gratitude.13 When people feel appreciative of their partners, they're happier and more committed to their relationships. After the wedding, we're planning on getting these engraved and hung up in our hallway, to remind ourselves regularly that we made these promises. And by the way, if anyone else likes the idea of having wedding vows that are based on research, feel free to use these. This article was originally written for Science of Relationships: a website about the psychology of relationships that is written by active researchers and professors in the field. People exhibit a whole host of emotions and behaviours, all of which are highly influenced by our environment. As my partner and I sat down to think about our own vows, clearly we had a lot to consider.
We believe that each of these promises is going to help us to achieve long-term marital bliss. Not only does this sunny outlook lead to better relationship satisfaction, but positive illusions help partners to feel better about themselves.1 So, in the first part of this vow, we're promising to always see the best in each other. This is called the Michelangelo phenomenon, and research shows that supporting your partner's changes to their self in this way is very beneficial both for the partner and for the relationship.2 Importantly, I'm not promising to help my partner improve in the way I want him to improve, but in the way he wants to improve himself, and vice versa. Although humans are social creatures who both need and enjoy relationships, it's also important for us to maintain our individuality.


Striving to meet each other's needs is a cornerstone of healthy relationships.4 However, you can't meet a partner's needs if you don't know what they are. Both partners are better off when any sacrifices are made out of approach motives, such as genuinely wanting to make your partner happy.5 So, with this vow, my partner and I are promising each other that when we do sacrifice for each other, we'll do it only with love and care, and not with reluctance or resentment. Basically, my partner and I both want to know that we can take risks, make mistakes, and come home to a supportive partner at the end of the day. Research shows that by having this committed outlook -- where we intend to stay together through thick and thin -- we should be better able to deal with any adversity that might come our way.
Being communally-oriented means that you contribute to your relationship based on what is needed and based on what you have to give.11 In other words, it's about being a team player.
And when people express gratitude to their partners, their partners feel appreciated, that makes those partners feel happier, more committed, and more appreciative themselves. You can click on the relevant italicized term, which will link you to an article providing a more complete description of that line of research.
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So, of course, I've given a tremendous amount of thought as to what it really means for my partner and I to marry one another. If these promises are the essence of what it means to be married, then what exactly do we want to promise each other?
In other words -- and this may sound completely over-the-top nerdy to some -- we decided to write some research-based vows. Understanding one's partner is the first step to being responsive, which is why we each promise to seek a deep understanding of one another. If and when we can't make sacrifices for the right reasons, it's probably better not to make the sacrifice at all. This is because, when a couple sees themselves as a permanent partnership, their perspective on problems tends to shift from being about "me against you" to being about "us against the issue". With this vow, we're promising not to "track and trade," keeping careful tabs on each other to ensure that we're each contributing to the relationship fairly and equally ("I did the dishes yesterday, so you should do them today"). A number of scientific studies into the subject have highlighted that behaviour as specific as how you smile and even what colour clothes you wear affect your chances of being that sought after Romeo. Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don't really know why they're so meaningful.
When people feel forced or coerced into making choices -- like they didn't have any real choice in the matter -- they're less happy and less fulfilled. Instead, we're promising to always strive to contribute what we can, based on the needs of our partner ("You got home very late and had a stressful day -- I'll do the dishes tonight").


So in this vow, my partner and I are promising to never take each other for granted, but rather to appreciate what we have and express that appreciation to each other often.
Here we have compiled a list of the most important things, along with the science to back it up.
Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share for each other.
And, as you might have guessed, that lack of happiness is problematic for relationships.3 In this vow, my partner and I are promising to avoid pressuring, guilting, or otherwise coercing each other into making decisions, striving instead to always respect each other's right to make choices for ourselves. A safe haven: An attachment theory perspective on support seeking and caregiving in intimate relationship. Relationship influences on exploration in adulthood: The characteristics and function of a secure base. When giving feels good: The intrinsic benefits of sacrifice in romantic relationships for the communally motivated. But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. We decided that we wanted to make more specific, behavioural promises: things we can strive to do for each other that would help us to not only remain together, but also happy and fulfilled in our marriage. The benefits of positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships. Close partner as sculptor of the ideal self: Behavioral affirmation and the Michelangelo phenomenon.
Perceived partner responsiveness as an organizing construct in the study of intimacy and closeness. Giving up and giving in: The costs and benefits of daily sacrifice in romantic relationships. Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. I suspect that it's really these vows -- the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family -- that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.



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