Program makes couples rethink vow meanings

‘Until death do us part’ is a promise sworn by countless couples on their wedding day. But how many of them fully grasp the concept of such a permanent commitment? Engaged couples seeking help in writing their wedding vows need to look no further. Annette Mahoney, a clinical psychologist licensed since 1992, along with eight advanced graduate students in the Ph.D. clinical psychology program at the University, are now offering a free program to help students with vows. This nine-session program is organized around the traditional vows. Each session’s topic is centered on a component of the traditional vows, such as ‘for better or worse,’ or ‘in sickness and in health.’ Other topics include: -Promising to Love, Comfort, Honor and Keep -For Richer or Poorer -Forsake All Others -Building a Family -Until Death Do You Part ‘We’ve organized the program around the standard vows that have been around for centuries,’ Mahoney explained. ‘And then we’re going to try to help the couples really talk about what those vows mean to them, and how their spirituality helps them think about and understand what they’ll actually do in each of the topics.’ Open to the Bowling Green community free of charge, the wedding vows program will run from now until May. Couples will meet together with one graduate student during each session at scheduled times that are convenient for them. Mahoney believes the happiness induced by engagement and weddings sometimes clouds the minds of couples. In the midst of wedding plans, crucial subjects are often overlooked. ‘I think that when people are headed into marriage, they’re usually really happy and it’s hard to anticipate and really talk through some of the things they may encounter, like financial problems – for richer or poorer. Or if you encounter sicknesses – you’re not sick right now, so why do you really stop and think about it?’ Mahoney said. ‘What we’re really going to try and help people to do in each of the sessions is think about ‘What would for better or for worse be like for us?” she added. Emily Padgett is one of the eight graduate students that helped to create the program as a part of an advanced course in the Psychology Department. Adding the spirituality component to Mahoney’s list of sensitive topics, Padgett stressed the importance of communication. ‘Religion and spirituality – people kind of stay away from it at times. It’s about respecting each other, and it’s a touchy subject. If it’s an important part of people’s lives and they’ve never really been shown to talk about or have been encouraged to talk about it, then people like us can help them get there,’ she said. Padgett also emphasized that the program does not aim to change the spiritual views of couples. ‘We certainly don’t have an agenda to break anybody up,’ she said. ‘We’re not going to teach them anything about religion or spirituality. We want them to use their spirituality and religion as their own resource, personally and as a couple. We just want to be able to facilitate that,’ she said. Another graduate student, Jeremy Cummings, is looking forward to the program. ‘I think it’s going to be exciting because the vows have been sort of passed down for years and years, and I think a lot of people don’t think about what they mean,’ Cummings said. ‘It gives couples the opportunity to think about what it really means to love, honor, comfort and keep each other, what is means to be with each other for better or for worse,’ he added. Senior Ryan Davis, and his recently-graduated fianc’eacute;, Stephanie Guigou, are one of the three couples currently signed up for the program. Though they have not yet attended their first meeting, Davis feels that discussing the meaning of vows is important. ‘I feel like a lot of people might rush into things or not know if they’re ready, but I think that’s why it’s important to have a standard. Go over your vows–if you have a strong faith, know what your faith says about getting married. Have a standard of what you and your spouse will live by.’ Whether couples are planning on using the traditional vows, or looking into writing their own, the program will certainly allow couples to explore the practical applications of their eternal promises. Interested couples should contact the Psychological Services Center at (419)-372-2540, or call Dr. Mahoney at (419)-372-0282. The resounding message coming from Mahoney and the graduate students was simple -talk. ‘Marriage is a big commitment,’ Padgett said. ‘Couples might be able to save themselves a lot of heartache and some trouble if they’re able to learn to talk about these areas of life before they get married. People need to talk about everything before getting married.’