“To have and to hold.”
Within the marriage vows, what does that part mean?
Let’s take a look.
“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my lawful wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold,
from this day forward, for BETTER, for WORSE, for RICHER, for POORER, in SICKNESS and in HEALTH, to LOVE and to CHERISH,
till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”
Most of us are familiar with this phrase, either in parts or in its entirety. We either heard it during our own wedding and the weddings of friends and family; or, we’ve
rehearsed it in our minds, hoping for the day we look into that special person’s eyes and say all of this. . .and they repeat it back to us.
Honestly, I don’t remember saying any of this. I was so mentally and emotionally removed from my wedding day that I only remember my anniversary – the date I was married.
Maybe there are some service members, veterans, or military spouses who can relate to (and admit) that the military has a way of convincing people to make certain decisions that if they had more time and control, they may not have decided to marry that person so soon. However, because someone had orders to go somewhere else and we’ve been kicking it for this time, we might as well do it now.
Well, I was one of those ones. I started somewhat dating my husband in July 2003. We married in November of the same year.
I jokingly say, “When you know you know.” But honestly…I DID NOT know. I had NO CLUE. I can’t even say I was convinced.
To Have and to Hold
“To have and to hold.” I thought about these words as I attended a rather recent wedding. In my mind, these two knew. They’d dated for about 5-6 years; about the same number of years that my parents dated. My mom has shared with me that she and my step-father needed to know. In fact, they were so into making sure to try to get it right the second time around, that even after waiting 6 years to get married, they still waited an additional 5 years to consider having my brother. Both were teenagers right out of high school when they married and became parents for the first time; they would be in their 30s before they would marry or parent again.
Holding by some definitions means – v. to have possession or ownership of or have at one’s disposal; to keep under restraint; to prevent the free expression of; to keep back from use. If we stop right there, we can understand why some who have spoken the words “to have and to hold” are a bit confused. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Holding in Marriage
“To have and to hold.” Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? To choose someone and to physically embrace them, hug them, and hold them. That’s what the vow lightly implies. And it probably literally used to mean that all those years ago when it was pegged. But, if you’ve been married or in a relationship for any length of time, you know that the “holding” gets old. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the holding is necessary…and it feels good. But the holding (in the physical sense) doesn’t get you through everything.
Consider the other components of the vow — “for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Yeah, if you struggle with any of those elements, “holding” someone will be the last thing you’re thinking about.
Having in Marriage
If we consider the expression more closely, “having and holding” is not about the legal and physical possession of the other person, it’s the mental, emotional, and financial condition of the person that you are agreeing to take. “I will have your strengths along with your shortcomings and weaknesses.” Oh no! You didn’t believe that a person only has strengths, huh? Believe me, there are weaknesses in there somewhere, even if you haven’t seen them yet.
The old people used to say, “Keep waking up in the morning.” If you keep waking up next to the person you’re with, you’re going to find there are some parts of them that you didn’t see in the courting phase, and even some parts of them you don’t like.
“Having” is continuing to remain with them through bad decisions, lost jobs, financial hardships, and maybe even infertility or pregnancy loss. Possibly even physical or emotional infidelity. “Having” includes moments of depression, insecurity, or lack of motivation. Family sickness and death. When you look into that person’s eyes and say “I’ll have you,” you’re saying, I’ll have ALL THIS.
Nobody is immediately expecting it or wishing it on, but if you plan on staying committed for years to come, know that the “having and holding” of living doesn’t come without tests and challenges. All the things are the affairs of life…and how your partner will handle it . . . is a mystery until it happens.
Marriages Better or Worse
In marriage, the assumption is made that the most appropriate next step to becoming one is having children. But what happens when that’s not the case? I mean, you do the actions necessary to have children, but after years . . . nothing happens. After hopelessly trying for some time, what usually occurs is one person emotionally disconnects to avoid the constant disappointment of negative pregnancy tests. It’s a hard pill to swallow when a woman can’t get pregnant or when her husband is unable to get her pregnant. Egos and pride come into play. A man and woman together are supposed to equal children. But the truth is…that’s not always the case.
Many marriages have struggled emotionally because of this matter. Partly because neither person ever expected to HAVE this issue, and usually because they don’t know how to express themselves to each other and be vulnerable . . . they become calloused towards each other. But this . . . falls in the category of “sickness and health” (both physical and mental health). And sometimes the disappointment makes it difficult to “love and to cherish ’til death do us part;” especially when this struggle is usually taking place somewhere between 25-35 years old and death seems somewhere far off. It’s sometimes difficult for people to imagine that they can live in this place of disappointment until they’re 60, 70, 80 years old.
Facts of Marriage
I know the beforementioned example may seem extreme, but it is a factual reality for many couples. It’s as factual as facing financial hardships. Of course most couples today choose that both partners will work outside of the home. But work is not without demands and stress. Sometimes that stress is felt by the other partner and makes it into the home and relationship. Because a spouse is overworked or even unfulfilled with work, those experiences creep into their relationships. And what happens if someone chooses or is forced to leave their job and look or transition into something new and different? That doesn’t come without a level of stress. I don’t care how much you try to talk about it and prepare for it, in some way that change will be felt – financially or emotionally.
But those vows spoken, “to have and to hold,” do mean that you’ll have this other individual regardless of what may come. And when and if the “having” comes, I’ll hold you down until we get through it. I’ll hold you accountable until things get better or change. I’ll hold it together until we get past it. I’ll hold your hand through this because I know it’s scary. I’ll hold it together for the sake of my commitment to you. Everything that we “HAVE” together…I’ll hold with you because I know that it will be too hard for either of us to hold alone.
The Act of Marriage vs the Vow
The act of marriage and the union of marriage are two different things. The act of marriage is just what it is – an act. It is an act put on for the sake of those witnessing it. But the union of marriage goes beyond the ceremony. It’s the commitment, the cause behind the vow, and the long-expected road ahead. “To have and to hold” in just word form is a part of the act. But, “to have and to hold” in vow form is a lifelong commitment.
We have to be truthful and ask ourselves, “Am I acting or committed?” It’s usually a matter of what you’re willing to HAVE.
Nineteen Years of Marriage
Today marked 19 years of marriage for me and my husband. Since November 7, 2003, we’ve been having and holding. Having the good and bad. Holding both what was at times full and at other times empty.
I’ll be the first to admit, that the initial road along the journey of marriage was bumpy. I would probably say if we thought of our marriage road in the literal sense…those first years…we weren’t even paying attention to the GPS. We kept having to reroute. These recent years, however, have been much better. Not all smooth, but at least we are familiar with the road enough to make adjustments accordingly.
When we faced the death of my father, just after my successful book launch of Heeeyy Dandelion, we were able to work together to read the road map to get through it. I was always afraid of how either of us would respond to losing a parent. This wasn’t a road I expected to travel for some years. Now, almost six months later, I still have to pull over for services from time to time because “Grief is like glitter – even after you clean up from the event, you still find it. . . somewhere.” When I have my moments, like the three hours I had after watching the Netflix movie “From Scratch,” the hubby allowed me space to be emotional.
Still Holding and Growing
After having a pretty uneventful weekend, I expected that today would be quiet and routine; but the hubby surprised me. He called and said he was headed back to his office after conducting some inspections at work. Just a few moments later, I heard the garage door opening; and in he walks with a bouquet of sunflowers and yellow roses. My favorite. I swear, with time, he just keeps getting better and better.
I do my best to offer my husband space to be vulnerable too. Space to not have it all together and figured out. It’s sometimes hard for him to trust the space. That’s just the man in him, but I assure him that it’s safe to come out, and. . it’s necessary. But he’s probably also hesitant because I’m in a perimenopausal space, and that space can be unpredictable and dangerous. However, I am very aware of this space, and I try to be as transparent and honest about my moments as I can be. I try to let him know that it’s not him, it’s me. But, the truth is, I know that if I damage that space, it will take years for him to come out again. If ever.
Holding to What We’re Having
So. . . I told you I would come back to the other definitions of HOLD. Again, the aforementioned were quite restrictive and suggestive of control; but there are others.
Hold also means – v. to have as a privilege or position of responsibility; to make liable or accountable or bound to an obligation; to support in a particular position or keep from falling or moving; to cover (a part of the body) with one or both hands (as for protection or comfort)
That’s the kind of “holding” that kept us for 19 years. 🙌🏾
Long story short, Mr. Green and I are HAVING and good ride. That man has learned the art of HOLDING me down and COVERING me, and I hope that he feels it reciprocated. I couldn’t be the Dawn that I am if I didn’t have a partner to love and support me the way he does.
I think back to just this summer. I was gone for almost two months, juggling between a book tour and supporting my best friend through tragedy. Do you know what my husband said? “I’ve already made your reservations.”
Back 19 years ago, I had many moments where I thought I should just give it up. Once the physical “having and holding” wore off, it didn’t seem there was much more to us. I couldn’t see growing old in places I wasn’t happy. But with growth, maturity, and GOD (please don’t leave Him out)…I have finally come to realize that I would have forgone all the best parts if I would have let this go.
Listen! Saying the words is one thing. Living the vow is another. With the year we’ve had, I think I can HOLD ON to what I HAVE another 365. ~Dawn
P.S. I forgot one thing. You’re all invited to my 20-year vow renewal next year. You see…my husband has come through and given me a lot of memorable things in this marriage. But. . . that joker never gave me a real wedding! So, I figure year 20 will be just as good as any. He’ll be 60 and I’ll be 50, but who’s counting? Well…I’m not counting the years, but you best believe he’s counting the money.
No worries. I’ll go easy on him. LOL!