My Promises

scoutSign“Do you promise to water my mom’s flowers while I am gone?”

It is what my wife asked a full week before leaving on a quilting retreat.

“Sure,” I told her.

“And clean the litter box?”


Note what happened here.

I promised to do something but I did not promise to remember to do it. It is the difference between intending to do something and actually doing it.

A gap I struggle with.

She knows this.

“Do you promise to not forget?”

“Only if you promise to remind me.”

But here is the thing, she is the one who promised to water flowers while her mother was in Arizona for the winter.  It is not a promise I made, yet it is a promise I am compelled to keep and I might add, a promise I am compelled to remember.

But marriage is all about promises.

The day we said I do, we made a lot of promises to each other.

Big promises.

On these we have done well. We stayed true to each other. We supported each other during rough times and kept each other from getting too carried away during good times.

But nothing in that marriage contract spoke to the little annoying things: like watering a mother-in-law’s flowers or cleaning the cat litter boxes. In our marriage vows, no little promises were articulated and no small commitments listed and absolutely nothing was mentioned about having to remember any of this stuff.

It is like we promised the big stuff and let the little stuff slide.

I don’t think that was wise, because it is the little stuff that gets you in trouble just as much as the big stuff..

I suppose that is the purpose of courtship. You spend enough time with each other to learn how reliable the other person is and over time you come realize that if someone can be trusted with the little stuff, they can be counted on with the big stuff.

But when we were courting there were no flowers to be watered and no cats to make a mess  – but back then we were young and head over heels in love, so doing the little stuff seemed easy.

It is only with time that doing the big stuff became easier and doing the little stuff became harder.  As the years went by, we learned to live with each other’s minor demands and petty infidelities, like forgetting to clean the cat litter box.

But as those same years passed, the weight of the minor transgressions became more and more of a burden.

Like planning a long weekend with your buddies and forgetting to tell your spouse that you would be gone the same weekend she will be gone – so the litter box did not get cleaned and the flowers were not watered.

“You promised!” she said when she discovered this.

Odd that she remembers my promise but did not remember her promise to remind me.

Author: Almost Iowa

44 thoughts on “My Promises”

  1. I like to think that I forget to do stuff I promised because I’m so focused on other stuff. That seems better than “absent-minded”, or the even worse “I’m getting older and can’t remember shit.”

  2. I have to use the “promise to remind me” phrase a lot too. Unfortunately, my husband has an excellent memory so he always does remind me. I need to think of another phrase….

  3. It’s a common problem, Craig: You forgot to read the fine print. It’s even smaller in wedding vows than it is in buying a house. –Curt

    1. Reading the fine print gets harder with age, that is for sure. Yesterday, I couldn’t read which hotel shower tube was shampoo and which was conditioner. There is a metaphor somewhere in that.

  4. When I was in Liberia, this problem didn’t arise. If I asked any Liberian to do anything — whether it was asking the houseboy to bake bread, or a surgeon to visit a patient — the response always was, “I will try.” Sometimes, what I asked was done. Sometimes it wasn’t. But if it wasn’t and I asked about it, the response always was, “I tried.” It only took a year in-country for me to begin utilizing such a valuable tool.

    1. A friend of mine spent quite a bit of time in China. There, the answer to every request is yes, even when it is no. You simply have to understand the subtle difference between yes and “yes”.

  5. You’re missing an opportunity here. Which friend is the best gardener you know? Call him/her and ask them to water the plants. Who is crazy in love with cats? Ask them to feed and clean. See – done, and you’re off on your weekend. 🙂 Yes, those vows – better or worse. They come up and need to be addressed as the years go by. 🙂

  6. “It is only with time that doing the big stuff became easier and doing the little stuff became harder. ” Such wisdom, Greg. This is so true!!!! We do the “remind me” thing too, until reminding turns into nagging. *Sigh* Hope you both enjoyed your time away and the cats and plants survived. 🙂

  7. This is why me and the ol’ chain just use a shared Google Calendar and like twelve alarms on our phones to remind ourselves and each other to do crap. Technology ftw.

  8. Promise is a funny word. It has nothing to do with proms. And like a premise it still needs to be proved. Or that is improved ? Hmmm I think I will put it in a safe place until it can be improved. Hmmm now where did I put that ?….. Oh well. Now where was I ?…

      1. As long as you were not rebaffled and rebuffed. Vocabulary can be a funny experience. Vocabulary and vocabules can sound the same. However sometimes you have to duck them both. Not to in anyway imply some listeners are overly sensitive. However some duckers are overly slow and very sensitive to the impact of the result of vocabules and other such occurences.

  9. I’d never seen the difference between big and small promises that way. But I do remember learning to tell my kids “I’m not promising but I will try. ” Didn’t help. They still always insisted “Mum, you promised.” Maybe we get younger as we get older.

  10. “Do you promise not to forget?” 😝

    Perhaps a good response to that would be something along the idea of, “I can’t promise to not forget, but I can promise to TRY not to forget.” 😂

  11. Promise, promises. Such a true take on marriage. Well said… even if you made it up… based on real life events, perhaps?

  12. “It is only with time that doing the big stuff became easier and doing the little stuff became harder.”

    I decide if we go to war with Canada. My wife can handle all the little stuff.

    1. If we go to war with Canada, I hope they invade us and push all the way to Texas before anything happens. That way, we can resolve our differences someplace warm.

  13. Ah, you say you write fiction, but this is truer than true can be. Marriage – the big promises and the small ones. I think they count as the same. Truthfully. ;-0

    1. Perhaps we should distinguish between “promised” and “got promised” because there are so many promises that I don’t quite remember making. 🙂

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