When I married my husband, Shiva, we chose to write our wedding vows. It was important to us that our vows express the foundation upon which we had already created a healthy, conscious, co-committed, and loving relationship. Eight years later, our vows are more deeply rooted as integral aspects of our partnership.

“I promise to love you without reservation, when life is easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple and when it seems to be an effort. I promise to give you the benefit of the doubt and when we disagree, I will presume that I misunderstood you.” For Shiva and me, the operative word in this vow is “seems,” because it reflects our belief that personal responsibility is an essential, non-negotiable aspect of relationship. We are clear that we are each responsible for our individual life experiences. Since, outer experience is a reflection of inner reality, if inside of me I’m feeling anger, happiness, frustration or love then I am creating angry, happy, frustrating or loving experiences. If I am creating my experiences, then Shiva (or anyone else for that matter), can neither be the cause of the experience nor its cure. Because I am the architect of my life experience, it is a disservice to me, Shiva and our relationship to blame him for my anger or credit him for my joy. This awareness and practice liberates me, because I extract myself from the victim role and stand fully in my power to create.

“Today, I reaffirm these promises that we already share and I rejoice in our love and commitment to each other.” Shiva and I are, and have been, committed to personal growth and supporting each other’s journey towards wholeness. I have often heard conversations in which couples expressed that their relationship changed once they were married. Though I have not been married before, I can see how this could have happened based on my previous relationships. In the past, I pretended to be the perfect girlfriend, pretended that things an ex-boyfriend said didn’t hurt me, pretended that I was willing to accept less than I deserved in a relationship because “he meant well”… I pretended until it was too exhausting to pretend anymore. And this was when the relationship would inevitably crumble. Unconsciously, I was afraid of being abandoned because of an irrational belief that I was not worthy of having amazing love in my life. With a lot of personal reflection and commitment to transformational work, I entered into my partnership with Shiva anchored in the fullness of my self-worth. Because I was rooted in my self-worth, I was free to be me. I did not need to pretend like I did in other relationships. I now understand that I am whole and complete by myself and do not need anyone to make me feel complete, beautiful, or worthy. I do not need Shiva in my life, I choose him in every moment. Likewise, Shiva doesn’t need me in his life; he chooses to be with me. My experience has taught me that “need” operates from lack, whereas “choice” is empowering.

“Thank you for sharing your life with me and honoring and supporting my personal commitment to live life authentically and to be completely self-expressed.” Living life authentically and completely self-expressed means that we are committed to speaking the truth in every moment. It means being transparent and not hiding any emotions, no matter how challenging the subject matter. I recognize how in past relationships, I swallowed things that I wanted to say, too afraid to upset my partner. As a result, I isolated a part of myself from the relationship. At times, I would quietly stew over something “he did”. And when my partner would ask, “What’s the matter?” My response would be, “Nothing.” This response essentially punished him for the pain I was feeling and assumed that he should know what he did wrong. I can now see that I was simply angry at myself for not having the courage to use my voice. Now I understand that I am responsible for how I feel and what I experience. I know that those around me don’t cause my feelings of frustration; instead, these are my own issues that I must unravel. When I express that I am “upset” because of the way another person’s actions triggered me in a certain way, it allows me to take responsibility for the upset, work towards healing, and move beyond it.

I choose healthy relationships. It is my commitment to accept responsibility for my choices, to allow myself to be vulnerable and to express myself authentically in every moment that allows not just my marriage, but all of my relationships to expand.

by Kanoe Yim Wheeler

Kanoe Yim Wheeler is a Relationship Manager with the Agency for Dispute Resolution. She has over 20 years of management experience in the legal field. Most recently, she worked as the Executive Director with Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP. Prior to that, she was the Administrative Manager at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, LLP’s Los Angeles office where she was a key player on the Management Team supervising a support staff department consisting of over 60 secretaries.