Reaffirming your commitment to one another can give a relationship an injection of new energy. Celia Dodd considers the reasons to do it (or not)
Taking your vows again, either in private or in public, can give a relationship new energy, a boost of confidence for the future. When a couple find themselves at a crossroads – perhaps emerging, bruised but hopeful, from an affair or a rough patch, or shifting gear as the kids leave home – it’s natural to want some way of acknowledging to one another that you’re either back on track, or changing tack.
It’s not just after a crisis that it might seem useful. After years of taking one another for granted, when day-to-day tasks get in the way of talking about the stuff that really matters, it’s good to have some concrete reminder of why you got together in the first place, and why you want to stay together.
Of course, reaffirming your commitment is no guarantee of success. Just look at the string of celebs, from Madonna to Amy Winehouse, who’ve tried it. It can even do more harm than good.
According to relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam, author of The Relate Guide to Staying Together, the key is motivation: “It should be a celebration of a relationship, reflecting its stability, rather than an attempt to create stability.
“If it’s to shore up a relationship you’re not convinced about, or to get over a crisis such as an affair, it’s Elastoplast. It probably won’t work because it will highlight the difference between what you’re saying to the world and what is happening within your relationship. That will create a tension that will actually put more strain on the relationship.”
A new commitment doesn’t have to be declared in public; a private statement or some symbolic event can have huge power. There are no rules, and infinite ways of going about it: eternity rings or a piece of jewellery you wear all the time, an exchange of promises in a place that means a lot, a second honeymoon, a joint project.
The only thing that really matters is that both sides feel comfortable. Susan Quilliam says: “If you get the other things right first, the way you mark the commitment will fall into place.
“You need to talk through why you are doing it, what does it mean, what statement are you making and what are the implications? Is this putting a seal on what exists or is it saying that one partner won’t stray again, or that you are now going to behave differently? If there is going to be some shift in the dynamic – perhaps as a result of the new commitment – it’s better to be prepared.”
• Be honest about your reasons. If it’s an attempt to create stability, don’t do it. Invest your energy (and money) in getting the relationship healed first.
• Choose a way of marking the new commitment that both partners are happy with.
• If you want some form of ceremony, whether it’s private or public, plan what to say and keep it short and simple. Spend the rest of the day doing something fabulous together.
• Talk about what happens next, and how the re-commitment might change the relationship in unexpected ways.
• Discuss how your life together may change as a result.