Why must marriage be forever?

A few years ago Mexico introduced the idea of  time-limited marriage contracts, and Susan wrote an article referencing that. Her article got a lot of people upset, and the comments just perpetuated the shaming and blaming all people who divorce face from others.

Few see a problem with marriage, but lots of problems with people, like this person: marriage contracts

This article asserts that just because we as a society are unable to stay together, that indicates a problem with the institution. More likely, the problem is with us. We are self-absorbed, stubborn and lustful. Marriage is not the problem, we are the problem.

Or this person:

She also missed the foundation is God, mixed with hard work, respect, commitment, and a bull-dog tenacity to stick through the worst of times, endure it, and celebrate the best of times.

Or this person:

Marriage is not what needs an overhaul, our acceptance as a culture of immoral; cavalier behavior needs an overhaul. In general, our society condones men as philanderers, it is their nature, they can’t help it, BS. Women are encouraged to be playthings and manipulate men through their sexuality, again, that is BS. Being genuine is a lost art. We need to support each other, hold each other accountable and shun those who flagrantly disregard vows they chose to make

Or this person:

Marriage hasn’t failed us. We’ve failed marriage. Marriage prevailed in the past because divorce was nearly unthinkable and people were more willing to work at their relationships. Simple as that.

It’s yet another reminder of how few people are willing to question why we marry nowadays (and a total failure to remember how women were chattel and could be beaten and raped by their husbands and still not be able to divorce. Well, who wants to go there?

While the Mexico legislation failed to pass, time-limited marriage contracts have been proposed for year across the globe. We believe it’s time to make them a reality, an idea addressed at length in our book.

Until the, here’s Susan’s article as it appeared in the Huffington Post. What do you think?

This week in headlines, we heard that Mexico is introducing legislation that will potentially put time frames around marriage with the minimum contract lasting two years.

There are now approximately 26 countries throughout the world that recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same sex marriages.

While I see these nuptial changes as positive evolution, I feel that we still have a one-size-fits-all model for partnering in a culture that increasingly celebrates our differences. These newer proposals are simply time-limited and toned-down versions of the same thing with the same expectations.

The elephant in the room (or, should I say at the altar) is the question that has, to my knowledge, never been asked and that is, “Why are people creating these special unions?” My guess is that no one asks “why” because it is assumed that love is the only answer anyone would give — or the only right answer — to that question. Yet, there are many additional unspoken reasons people have for tying the knot.

Let’s examine just the most surface level of demographics (age, socio-economic status, and family size) and see what happens. Do those who marry out of college marry for the same reason as the empty nester divorcees do? Do those who come from meager financial means marry for the same reason the wealthy do? Do those who want to find a good parent for their children marry for the same reason as the couple who accidentally got pregnant does?

In all of the academic and media discussions about marriage and divorce, there has been no distinction between any of these groups or classes. The unspoken assumption is that everyone who marries at 25 is doing so in order to have kids, raise a family and live happily ever after. I suppose people don’t think further ahead than that because divorce is not supposed to happen.

But divorce is happening and it is here to stay. In fact, I think one of the main reasons it is so common is that people have not asked themselves why, other than for love, they want to marry. And marriage, if it is to thrive, sorely needs an overhaul.

If it were acceptable for people to wed for a variety of reasons, perhaps we would see contracts of 20 years for a parenting marriage,* five-year renewable contracts for a financial security marriage, and two-year renewable agreements for companionship marriages.

*(parenting marriages could be renewable but, given that kids and co-parenting are a major reason spouses fight and ultimately divorce, most may not want to renew the contract).

Then those who married would go into the union knowing exactly what was expected of them and how long it would last. Rather than a one-size-fits-all institution, people could pick the type and length of marriage they truly wanted. Marriages with an agreed upon agenda and end date would then terminate naturally.

Instead of holding everyone in the culture to a single standard “forever,” which is at the very least unfair if not impossible, people in this modern model of marriage would be set up to succeed.

And then everyone would live happily ever after.

  • Would you marry for a purpose other than love?
  • Would you agree to a limited-time marital contract? Why/why not?

2 thoughts on “Why must marriage be forever?

  1. Humans are pattern junkies who naturally seek clarity and order to better navigate the complexities of life. We crave clear definitions in any area, even those that are fraught with abstractions. Somewhere along the line, different tribes/groups decided on a way to organize their primary relationships, and from that starting point certain tribes/groups developed the idea of “marriage.” Along with any idea comes its definition, so it stands to reason that marriage had to be defined. As a primary and pivotal relationship, the definition of marriage requires as concrete and clear a border as possible. The most extensive border possible is forever. Cultures define marriage quite clearly as everlasting, as this actually serves to comfort and calm natural human frailties–ease vulnerability and massage the desire for consistency and reliability. Of course people seek someone to rely on for life, and as marriage has historically been defined as the pivotal primary relationship, it will be expected to fill the role of an everlasting bond.

    Why be surprised by a war against any attempts at stripping a central relationship of its accepted definition? If one’s goal is to re-define marriage, fine, but one shouldn’t make an attempt at re-defining humanities biological scope of emotional desires or be frustrated by the reality of these desires. Shame and blame are peer pressure techniques commonly used to police the public within a given culture, another way of achieving the desired order the human brain craves. The double-headed monster of shame and blame seem hard-wired into humanity. Once cultures decide to change, those being shamed swap spots with those doing the shaming (see gay marriage). Don’t expect those things to change. Try and accept what can’t be changed and focus on what will most likely inevitably change within any given culture, definitions, not what won’t change, human frailties and needs.

    *Please do note, I am not at all opposed to gay marriage or any other potential changes in how our culture defines marriage, I simple use gay marriage as an example of how homosexuals were once, and of course continue to be shamed over their desire for an expanded definition of marriage, however, now heterosexuals who battle against homosexuals on the issue of defining marriage are quite often shamed–sometimes justifiably, but sometimes without provocation.

  2. “Cultures define marriage quite clearly as everlasting, as this actually serves to comfort and calm natural human frailties.” Not all cultures Dana (and thank you for commenting). That is a mostly Western definition of marriage; other cultures have defined it in other ways.
    But, sure, a desire to define something like marriage makes sense as long as the institution still fits the definition. But when it no longer does, it’s time to reconsider how to define it, just like we have had to redefine the concept of “family” and a “woman’s role” as being a homemaker.
    Times change, people change, societies change. Rather than shame, blame and judge, let’s accept and embrace the allness of what it is to be human.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *