Break Your Vows

Sometimes, the things we promise ourselves are the very things holding us back from freedom.
Break Your Vows
Image: Knar Bedian / Flickr

Has anyone ever told you that it may be healthy to break your promises? No, I’m not talking about going back on your word or taking your wedding vows lightly. I’m referring to a different category of vows—the kind of promises that people rarely acknowledge.

Our most powerful promises are usually ones that we never speak aloud. We may not even be conscious that we’ve made them. Most of our lives are dictated by such subconscious vows. They represent the “guiding voices” that sabotage our relationships and determine how we react to stress.

They represent the “guiding voices” that sabotage our relationships and determine how we react to stress.

Take Sara as an example, who was raised by an abusive, overbearing mother and a loving, but passive, father. Survival in her home meant walking on eggshells. She daily risked the wrath of her mom, who could lash out with cruel insults and beatings at the drop of a hat. As a 12-year-old girl, Sara made vows that profoundly impacted her future choices. For example,

I will never appear weak. I’ll never let my mom see me cry again.

I’ll never marry a weak man who can’t stand up for me.

If my dad didn’t protect me and God didn’t protect me, then I can’t trust anyone—especially men.

Sara’s “vows” make logical sense given her upbringing. Her home wasn’t safe, and her parents weren’t trustworthy. Yet, she continued to live by these unspoken vows well into adulthood, her relationships marked by distance and guardedness.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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