To Love, Cherish, and Paint: the Unspoken Vows

Before we marry, if we are wise, we spend some time thinking about the vows we will make before the Creator of all. It’s serious business – in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part. We look at the one we have agreed to marry – what if she is in a terrible accident and needs care for the rest of her life? Could I do that? What if his great job goes away and we are poor from that point on? Could I do that? Do I have enough love, do I have enough commitment, to stay with this person even if things don’t go easily? During the engagement period these questions keep us awake at night, and rightly so, because we are about to make a big, big promise and embark on a life-changing journey.

There are lesser considerations, though, ones we don’t even know to imagine, and, assuming one has really thought through the big issues appropriately, those turn out to be the day-in-and-day-out stuff that shape our lives. Those turn out to be the things we must accommodate, compromise on, love-each-other-anyway over, and, yes, negotiate if we are going to continue to live together like we promised. I’m talking about snoring and having a terrible sense of direction and night owls vs. larks and preferring a hotel near the airport vs. one downtown (although probably no other couple disagrees about that but The Husband and me) and whether the TP should unwind from the top or the bottom of the roll. I’m talking about paint, people.

The walls “before.” Photography can be so forgiving — in real life, they were scuffed and faded and dingy and sad.

The Husband and I were married about five years before painting ever came up. We were renting a house and made a deal with the owners that we would paint the interior if they bought the supplies. About an hour into the first session, The Husband looked over at me, with my smudges on the woodwork and drips running down the wall and paint in my hair, and said, “Hmm. Maybe you should do something else and I’ll do the painting.”

And that’s how it has been in this marriage ever since. The man is a pro – he could paint in a tuxedo. And he doesn’t mess around with any of that taping-off-of-edges business. He does it all free-hand and the results are beautiful.

Trouble is, he is a busy guy. Our bedroom was last painted twenty years ago when we moved to this house. All of the other rooms have been painted at least a time or two since then, but the master bedroom kept getting pushed down the list, which it shouldn’t have been, but there you have it.

Then the unexpected happened – The Husband got deployed to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery. It occurred to me toward the end of that month that it was a perfect time for me to paint our bedroom – I could sleep in our college son’s bed while he is gone and The Husband wouldn’t have to be inconvenienced either. Only problem: I’m a terrible painter. Still, I thought given enough patience and painter’s tape I could probably do a decent-enough job and at least it would be DONE, right?

My mother made this for The Husband and me when we were married. This is the sixth house it has lived in with us. I think the master bedroom is the most appropriate place to be reminded of our vows, don’t you?

So, on a Thursday morning I started hauling stuff out of our bedroom. The phone rang.

The Husband: “Guess what? It turns out I’m getting a few days off. I can come home tomorrow afternoon and stay until Sunday evening!”

Me: Silence except for slightly anxious breathing.

The Husband, amused: “What’s wrong? You don’t have to get your boyfriend to leave or anything, do you?”

Me, vaguely: “No. It’s just…”

The Husband, worried: “What? Is something really wrong?”

Me, vaguely: “No.”


Me, brightly: “Um, do you feel like painting this weekend?”

See, he didn’t know when he said, “I do,” that he was saying, “I’ll paint. I’ll clean out that thing that always clogs up in the dishwasher. I’ll put up with how you categorically refuse to handle firearms or ride bumper cars.”

How could he know that twenty-seven years after promising to love and to cherish it would mean using practically his first time off in a month to drive 400 miles round trip so he could spend most of it painting our bedroom?

He couldn’t, but he’d promised, so he did. It’s in the vows, unspoken, but it’s in there.

The result of about twelve hours’ work. We are pretending that the floor has new, brown-ish carpet.

Did you and your mate make any unspoken vows? When did you discover them?

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  1. Teresa
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    So funny. I love the Christmas lights on the outside of the house but I can’t put them up. I offered to help and he just looked at me with this expression, “How can I say you hinder rather than help without saying you hinder rather than help?” But after 22 years I knew what that look meant so I went in and had a cup of coffee!!

  2. Sylvia
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I like the new color!!

    My husband paints. Because he wants to. Being an obliging wife, I usually let him. 😀

    He said, I do – what he meant was I do iron my shirts … and I don’t want you to touch them. Another sacrifice, but hey, I’m obliging on that too. He does lots of other useful stuff too.

    What he didn’t mean was, I do repair the doorbell and the dishwasher, and the … But hey, he irons. and paints. And bakes cakes. What more could a wife want???

    • Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      Exactly, to all of it.
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