Will your wedding day be tradition-filled?

Susan and her husband got married on a Saturday. They didn’t know that was bad luck in the English culture.* They based our choice on when the venue was available and when they thought most of our guests could make it.

The good news is that it poured rain all day. That’s considered good luck in the Hindu customs.* Obviously, they had no control over this!

Susan wore a hand-sewn white gown* and carried a lovely bouquet of flowers.* She had no veil,* no garter,* nothing old,* nothing new,* nothing borrowed* and nothing blue.* traditional wedding

The vows they exchanged* while gifting each other rings* were quasi-traditional in that they included being together in sickness and health, and richer and poorer. Yet, they strayed from the normal, “for better or worse” in favor of the rugby terms “tries” and “knock-ons” (This was Susan’s husband’s idea being that he’s a huge rugby aficionado).

Because she’d been working with divorcing people for four years by then, Susan and her husband agreed to skip the “until death do us part” line* to avoid promising something they might not be able to live up to (Some of you are undoubtedly thinking that that isn’t very romantic, but read on).

At their reception, Susan and her husband had a beautiful cake.* They got the top layer of the cake from the baker on their one-year anniversary.*

At the end of the ceremony, Susan threw the bouquet and the guests threw rose petals at the newlyweds.* Then, they went on a brief honeymoon* and when they got home, Susan’s husband carried her over the threshold.* And they’ve continued to live “happily ever after.”

*Every asterisk represents a nuptial tradition, belief or custom. Although there are quite a few listed here, there are many more that determine how and when people get married. This is true across the globe.

Some of the oddest wedding traditions are rooted in warding off evil spirits, or are based in practices of a time long ago. This includes the language we use. The term, “Best Man,” for example, is said to refer to the best (defined then as strongest, best swordsman and most capable) man to help steal the bride from her neighboring community or disapproving family. Yet, we still condone using these traditions because it’s “romantic,” and make those who don’t follow along, “un-romantic.” This thinking makes no sense, however, once you dig to find out why we do the things we do.

Flowers are thought to cover the bad smell of the woman at a time in the 1500s when people bathed once a year in May (the reason June is the most popular month to wed is because people smelled better than when they would in October).

So, why is all this so important? The reality is that we are prisoners of tradition to the extent that we don’t stop and ask why things are done this way. We just continue blindly following these traditions whether it’s breaking a glass  or putting henna on our hands  or beating the groom’s feet with fish.

If you are planning to marry in the upcoming wedding season, ask yourself why you are incorporating certain customs. Do these customs really make sense for you personally? Are they customs you truly want to include, or will you be like Susan and her husband and pick and choose those that feel more pertinent?

Then start asking a bigger question: “Is my marriage going to be based on tradition (this refers to the romantic, love-based model) or is it going to be more personalized?”

If this question intrigues you and you are curious what that means, you may want to take a look at  The New I Do. We talk about wedding and marriage customs a fair amount, and we encourage everyone to “Question tradition.”

We believe in concepts like conscious coupling and planned parenthood, rather than following blindly as if in a trance. You may still choose the old traditions and marriage path but you would be choosing deliberately versus being guided by a script you don’t know anything about.

For more on wedding traditions and how they originated, here are a couple of websites to check out. We hope you’ll think out of the box not only on your wedding day but for many years to come. Mazel Tov!

https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-traditions-superstitions-facts-triviahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_customs_by_country

After her husband cheated, here’s what a mom of six did instead of divorce

Melissa*  was devastated when she learned that her husband, Jon,* had had a tryst with her brother’s wife (and her best friend).

This single act was like an Atomic bomb going off in the middle of the entire family. Nothing would ever be the same. Nothing. But, because they had six children under the age of 15 together, they were inextricably tied to each other for the next decade or so.

Although Jon admitted it was a really stupid thing to do (and, of course, swore he’d never do it again) Melissa felt like she couldn’t let him off the hook that easily.   She was angry, hurt, sad and scared.  She wondered, “How could he be so stupid?” “Why would he have hurt me so deeply?” And, if he did it once and she forgave him, what would stop him from doing it again? After all, they’d see each other at family events.

Melissa’s head was a constant swirl of questions and confusion. She felt tremendous pressure to make a decision. She kicked Jon out for a day but quickly realized that it would be impossible to run the household and get all the kids taken care of without him.  

Although Melissa let Jon back home, she made it clear that she was probably going to ask for a divorce. The mere thought of this sent her into a tailspin of deep depression. There were no good choices. She was facing having to choose between a rock and a hard place.

That is, until she found out about the Parenting Marriage concept.

Suddenly, there was another option on the table. Rather than having to choose solely between staying (being angry and untrusting, or trying desperately to put it all behind her quickly—which she knew she couldn’t), or leaving (which would create a whole new set of challenges), there was another viable alternative.  Melissa described this new concept like a “pause” button.  And, she said, it gave her room to breathe and a renewed sense of dignity. She added that, for the first time since this all happened, she felt like she was on an upward trajectory and she felt better right away.

Melissa reached out to me to let me know what this Parenting Marriage concept gave her:

1) My power back. All the infidelity therapy stuff really encourages you to get the healing done rather quickly and while I forgave him intellectually, my heart just wasn’t there. This buys me time to continue raising my kids in the exact same way while explaining to my husband that I can’t give him my “romantic” heart right now.

I’m pretty introspective and I like to have a long time to think about things and figure out what’s best. This option allows me to say “don’t make any passes at me right now. We are in a parenting marriage which means we are focusing on the kids while I figure out if this is what I want.”

2) If I never fall back in love with him, he is used to living like this and the decision can be his if he wants to or not. It removes the shock of a potential split. It allows us to ease into it.

3) We have a high needs teenager that needs us both right now. It is my stepdaughter and his daughter and she is in and out of alcohol/drug treatment. Splitting right now would not be good for anyone, but especially not her.

This type of situation could work quite well for us. Our marriage has always been very respectful (besides the infidelity), we fight fair, and we put the kids first.

The knee-jerk reaction when someone cheats is to split up and eventually divorce. [Shifting] to a parenting marriage allows time for introspection…I don’t know, maybe it’s not healthy, but I haven’t felt this good since it happened. It removed the shame and the fear of a possible divorce when I’m not even sure that’s what I want. Really, it’s strange, by putting a label on it from romantic marriage to parenting marriage, it removed the pressure I was feeling to just “get over it” and allows me the time I need to heal from this.

Thank you again,

Melissa

Parenting Marriage isn’t right for everyone. Perhaps it isn’t right as a long-term solution.  But, making a decision as big as whether to end your marriage from an overly emotional place doesn’t usually end well. This option is giving Melissa a chance to step back from all the drama, put any decisions on hold, and wait until her head is clearer to decide what’s next.

*(not their real names)

How to stay together ‘for the kids’

It’s January, and we’re in the middle of  Divorce Month.

If you are not among those motivated to file, you may wonder why anyone would split up in the middle of their kids’ school year. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

If, however, you are considering divorce, you would likely say that the holidays were more than you could stand in a loveless (and likely sexless) relationship; you may have wanted out months ago but, as fall approached, decided you didn’t want to ruin the kids’ holidays, or have to share the news with your extended family. Now, however, you feel like enough is enough. With the turning of the calendar page, many people’s first resolution is to move forward with a filing, determined to make this the year to be true to themselves and take charge of living the life they want to lead. Waiting much longer, they’re afraid, might do them in completely.  

With fingers perched on the button that will change the fate of their marriage (and their life), the last thing they want is for someone to come along and talk them out of it or try to make them feel awful or ashamed about wanting to make a break.

We have no agenda on whether people stay or leave their relationship. In fact, Susan has a saying: “The world doesn’t need more married people. The world needs more authentic and happy people.” But as we discuss in our book and as we have discussed before, there is a little-known but growing alternative to divorce.

Divorce does not harm kids, per se. There’s ample research that divorce isn’t the worst thing parents can do to kids: Fighting terribly and subjecting them to your vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst; staying married in such a state is actually worse for kids than if you actually got divorced. There are many people who divorce and, because they handled their emotions well, the children also did well. There are also many couples that do significant damage to their kids by staying in an unhealthy relationship and trying to “make it work.”

But, because it is also true that a two-parent households typically have some significant advantages over two separate, single-parent homes, it’s worth asking: What if you could stay for the kids and lead your own life — possibly even having outside romantic relationships?

We know what you’re thinking: People do this already; it’s called an affair. We’re well aware that romantic affairs go on illicitly, but what we’re suggesting is that this can also happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way. It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” without staying stuck in a bad relationship. As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend and co-parent to co-parent, friends maybe, and lovers no longer.

During the past six years, dozens of couples across the U.S.have  transitioned from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional model. Many find it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and the need for having clear agreements in place is paramount, but it can be done if you both want the same things and you have a “good enough” relationship.

To learn about couples who’ve made this option work, read more here.

Want to have a parenting marriage? Learn how by ordering The New I Do:Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels on Amazon, and, while you’re at it, follow TNID on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Should modern marriage have modern goals?

(This article was inspired by a recent interview Susan had with FoxNews radio personality, Vipp Jaswal that may be heard here)

Marriage-1074x483

Are you happy and fulfilled in your marriage or are you pre-
tending? Do you
fantasize about life as an “independent?” Would friends and family be shocked if you announced that you and your spouse were divorcing?

Of the 60 percent of intact marriages (give or take a few percentages), many are not what we would consider good or healthy relationships. Yet, people stay because they made a commitment, or because they’re afraid to leave the kids with the other parent, or because they would face financial ruin if they split up.

 Given that we now live in a time of so much choice, older people aren’t staying so much any more. Gray divorces (those Americans over 50-years-old) have doubled since 1990.  But what if, rather than change your marital status, you change the status within your  marriage? What if rather than focusing on having the “love of your life,” who fulfills all of your needs, you focus on having a high functioning relationship that fulfills a good portion of the key areas in your life? What if you could preserve your legal union but expand your life from this home base?

Of course, not every marriage could handle these kinds of changes and, before elaborating on this idea, I feel it’s important to distinguish between a “bad” marriage and a “good enough” marriage.

In a “bad” marriage, one or both people feel unsafe in some way or things do not improve despite attempts to help the relationship (or, your partner blocks you from getting help in which case, the marriage is surely doomed).

A “good enough” marriage is one in which you and your spouse have a basic trust of one another as co-parents, for example, or you feel comfortable relying on each other financially, socially or simply as a roommate.

If your marriage is good enough, try talking to your mate about changing your agreements and goals for the marriage.

An example of this is transitioning from a love-based partnership to a purpose-based relationship. One Colorado couple, Cynthia and Dennis, went from having a “traditional” marriage to a Parenting Marriage because they decided that the romantic part of their relationship had expired but their kids were still young enough that they both wanted to be as present as possible. Since they co-parent well together, this arrangement has really worked well.

Some couples have chosen to live in separate homes, while others have agreed that they won’t have children and they’ll focus on creating wealth by being DINKS (double income, no kids). Still others will stay married in order to share experiences, travel, co-exist in the house, or take care of each other. Betsy and Warren Talbot exemplify the couple who at one point were focused on earning to their maximum potential. They are traveling the world and have started a blog/website called Married with Luggage. Last we heard from them, they were in Spain.

In researching our latest book, The New I Do Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, we uncovered seven alternatives to the love-based model we’ve come to equate with conventional marriage.

They are: Starter Marriage, Companionship Marriage, Parenting Marriage, Living Alone Together, Safety Marriage, Covenant Marriage and Open Marriage  (link is external).

With the exception of the first model (which is not a legal option because it’s against public policy to plan the demise of a marriage), all of these options are being practiced in one way or another with people throughout the Western world (even in the U.S!).

These alternatives have helped many people remain in their marriages by allowing couples to taper their nuptials to their own needs. If marriage in general is going to survive, it surely needs to change. If you feel your marriage needs some changes in order to survive, you may want to research one of these options.

Tweaking the way we relate within the institution of marriage is truly a way to have your wedding cake and eat it, too.

Before filing for divorce, try this

divorcecoupleOne of the benefits of cleaning out email inboxes is finding old but important emails. Susan came across an email from a year ago that she had forgotten about. It included a CNN article that she and two other divorce experts were interviewed for called, “In January, ‘ex’ marks the spot,”  written by Sarah LeTrent.  The psychiatrist, attorney and Susan shared with the interviewer that January is one of their busiest times of the year (along with September).

Family law attorneys have been calling January “Divorce Month” for years. In fact, the first Monday of January—when the bulk of the calls from would-be divorcees come in—is even dubbed “Divorce Day,” or D-Day for short.

It’s true. After the holiday season when family obligations have been met, when both spouses have had enough pain and hurt, or when the one who’s contemplated divorce for a while wants to start the new year in a more authentic way (one that doesn’t include their spouse), January seems like the perfect time to get the dissolution wheels in motion. Thus, unhappy couples transition from the holiday season into the divorce season.

We all know that we could reduce the numbers of divorces if couples would refrain from filing their petitions to end the marriage.  While that might make society feel better and more secure in the belief that the divorce numbers were declining, it wouldn’t improve the quality of these troubled marriages: It would only prolong the agony and postpone the inevitable.

But there’s a third alternative that, until now, has not been well-explored and that just might provide the relief husbands and wives are looking for: Stay married but change the rules of the marriage.

A Marriage of Independence

In our recently book, The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, propose getting away from purely love-based marriages and revisiting purpose-driven marriages.

What we found in our research is that the couples that went from a tepid or unhappy love-based marriage to a Living Apart Together (LAT) Marriage, a Parenting Marriage or even an Open Marriage fared quite well in many ways. Staying married prevented these couples from experiencing the financial devastation that often accompanies divorce, and it was also a win for children, other family members and friends.

Let’s explore some of the facets of these alternative marriages:

A Living Apart Together entails couples living in separate homes so there will be more expenses and more logistics of coordinating schedules, but it also means that each spouse has a space to get away to. It might even mean they have down time from parental duties, and that they can maintain a sense of independence.

In a Parenting Marriage, couples simply change their job description from romantic partner to co-parent. Disentangling emotions and expectations to a more platonic relationship can be tricky yet not having to fight over who keeps the house or how much time each parent gets with the kids, combined with keeping the household intact for something larger than yourself (your kids) can make the experience much more manageable than divorce.

Finally, the most radical and definitely the trickiest option is that of opening up your marriage to other people. Some of you reading this will recoil at this idea, but, in the research for The New I Do, Susan and Vicki spoke with several couples that swore it was by taking this radical step that their marriage was saved. In some cases, the pairs kept their unions open for the duration; in other cases, the couple got what they needed and closed their nuptials back up. Either way, an Open Marriage is not for the faint of heart (or the jealous!).

If you’re interested in creating a Living Apart Together, a Parenting Marriage, or an Open Marriage, here are just 5 of the more than 50 qualities they identified that you’d need to be in place in your relationship for it to work.

1. You like and trust each other.

2. You communicate well.

3. You feel the benefits of this choice outweigh the costs.

4. You make the choice together as a team.

5. You don’t need others to like or agree with your choice

As a society, we are seeing more marriages trending away from a “traditional” model that isn’t working for far too many toward creative solutions that don’t entail divorce. Susan and Vicki offer four additional alternatives in the book as well (Starter, Safety, Companionship and Covenant).

To read more on alternative marriage models, please pick up a copy of The New I Do here.

Another version of this article was previously published on psychologytoday.com

 

What marriage offers that living together doesn’t

Family-leaving-house

For the first time in literally thousands of years, marriage in our Western culture has viable, socially acceptable, competition while the pressures (and necessitation) of marriage have diminished greatly.

In the past 50 years, the marriage rate in the U.S. has fallen dramatically. In 2008, a mere 26% (one quarter) of people in their 20’s were married as compared to 68% (two thirds) in 1960.

We have not stopped coupling in our culture (although staying single is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice for younger adults). Instead, increasing numbers of up-and-comers have rejected tradition not legalizing their unions; even when they go on to have children.

Having lived with serious boyfriends at different points in their lives, Susan and Vicki understand this choice and believe in many ways, it makes sense. There are things you learn about togetherness in general and your partner in particular that you might not learn any other way. There is also a stronger sense of commitment (albeit unspoken in most cases) in a relationship when you live together.

What’s the advantage to shacking up over marriage? You can have a lovely relationship, be very committed in the moment, and yet, if or when you break up, you can simply go your separate ways back out into your single worlds. It’s certainly easier and cleaner to split when you don’t have all the legalities to contend with: Maybe just a few dishes, airline points or pieces of furniture to split, but nothing small claims court can’t handle.

But here’s the rub: Big problems emerge when couples make other kinds of long term commitments that do bind them legally—like buying property together or worse, having children together—without having protections in place. As outdated as marriage can be, one thing it does do is provide important protections to both parties if a breakup occurs.

No one knows that better than the one who got the raw end of a real estate deal (with no recourse) or the one who got booted out on the street with a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old.  While there are laws that protect children in those situations, there are not the same protections for partners as there are for spouses.

As the pendulum swings toward a less structured paradigm, we’ll likely start seeing and hearing more about this kind of fallout. And it won’t be pretty.

Why can’t we have more options than risking so much by coupling but avoiding marriage or opting for security by marrying someone we may not want to be with forever? It’s not as if it’s never been done before.

The Romans had three different levels of marriage: Confarreatio, the most formal option had more religious overtones; Coemptio, was a less formal and more business-like union; and Usus, was an informal marriage that occurred by default when a couple lived together for more than a year. (Confarreatio and Coemptio required ceremonies but Usus did not have a marriage ceremony).

Throughout history, people have married for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with love—primarily for business and monetary gain, for political gain and to procreate. Love was even seen as an impractical emotion in these relationships. The Greeks, seeing the insanity caused by those in love, coined the phrase “lovesick.” Indeed, some cultures even described love as dangerous when it came to setting up stable family structures.

Having spent the past two years (and more) researching the subject of marriage for our book, we can tell you that informal changes are actually happening to the institution behind closed doors.

Unbeknownst to family, friends, and clergy, young couples tying the knot are agreeing to themselves the conditions they want to see in place. Ryan and Lisa is one such example: These 30-somethings are marrying with a purpose and an end date (rather than out of love “because it’s what you do.”). They agreed to have children together but they also agreed that their marriage would end when the kids are out of the house (the option to stay married was there, but not the expectation).

At the other end of the age spectrum, unapologetic third-time marriers (many of whom are Baby Boomers) are stating unequivocally that they want only the best parts of marriage. How are they doing this? Many are vehement about maintaining their autonomy. Some are choosing to live in separate houses, others are asking for open marriages, and still others are quite frank about needing practical things like someone to grow old with, someone with insurance benefits or someone who has financial security.

Far from breaking from traditional marriage, these seeming rebels are reverting back to ways of old. Yet, because they fear being judged, many of these couples keep these arrangements secret. But why? Are they really doing anything wrong? Are these couples harming themselves? Are they harming anyone else? Are they taking anything away from anyone?

If you think about it, marriages based on love often have the most fallout because love is fragile. Love can easily turn to dashed expectations (especially since expectations are so much higher for lovers than they are for friends), jealousy, betrayal and even hatred. These are the things that crimes of passion are borne out of.

Now, this is not to say that love has absolutely no place in marriage, but perhaps love shouldn’t be in the number one spot. Perhaps we should rethink purpose-driven marriages rather than emotion-driven ones. Perhaps we should give individual couples the right to pick and choose aspects of relationship that they want rather than assuming that monogamy and forever are right for everyone. As things stand now, those who don’t play by the current rules are told they are doing something wrong, or they are looked at as odd, damaged or unlucky.

Whether you agree with this article or not, we hope this topic will get you talking with others about the shame-based all-or-nothing paradigm we have now.

We received a terrific compliment recently from a TV talk-show producer. He said that before he read the book, he was against the concept. He fully expected to disagree with us. But, when he read the book, he realized that what we said made good sense and he thanked us for writing it.

If you’d like to open your mind and read more about these ideas, pick up a copy of The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels. If you know someone who’s just about to get married or re-married, do them a favor and get them a copy of The New I Do. And, finally, if you or someone you know is considering ending his or her marriage, tell him or her to read this book first. There may be a creative solution to the marriage’s problem in its pages.

 

A new way to save your marriage for yourself — and your kids

divorcecouple

What do you do when you feel that the love you once shared with your mate has disappeared with no possibility of revival, but you adore your children and can’t imagine spending even one day apart from them?

Until now, the options have been:

1. Stay miserable in your marriage in service of giving your kids a stable home;
2. Work “harder” on the marriage in therapy and convince yourself that if you can somehow see your spouse differently or tap into the part of you that fell in love with him or her, you’ll be fine;
3. Have an illicit affair that makes being home seem more tolerable;
4. Divorce and just accept that you can’t see your kids every day (but feel consoled that you get to talk to them on a daily basis).

Maintaining a romantic bond for years on end is challenging, but adding kids to the mix and keeping a romantic connection the entire length of the relationship is extremely challenging, if not impossible (even with all the great advice books out there on the topic).

Admittedly, there is no good choice when your marriage is over. There are just less-bad options.

The alternative The New I Do proposes doesn’t offer a cure-all for the troubled relationship, but it does provide a better lifestyle option for what we believe matters most — the children. It’s called a Parenting Marriage and it is pretty much what it sounds like: A non-romantic union centered around raising healthy kids.

Some of you might be thinking, “That’s not what marriage is supposed to be about.” Others of you might be thinking, “That’s what we already do. How is this Parenting Marriage different from traditional marriage?”

A Parenting Marriage is different in some significant ways, not the least of which is that it’s a conscious choice the couple makes together, as we saw San Francisco Valerie and Clark Tate do in last week’s post, not simply a holding pattern they have fallen into.

Couples stay stuck in a bad marriage for a few reasons. Sometimes they want to avoid having a difficult conversation about their marital blahs for fear of hurting their spouse. Yet, the hurt and devastation caused by not talking (and having the cliché nightmare ending) is far worse.

Another reason is that it’s not socially acceptable to stray from the love-based model that lasts forever. In fact, we deem a marriage “successful” by how long it lasts. How ironic that we hold those who have unhappy and unconscious marriages as acceptable or even normal, but we ostracize those who create conscious agreements to change the purpose of their marriage.

Another reason is that there has never before been a map or language to help people create a Parenting Marriage. It’s like the difference between having GPS and not having it: couples might eventually find a place that feels right in their couplehood, but with this marital GPS, they can see exactly where they want to go and how to get there.

Marriage is changing in so many ways these days and the rigid paradigm of Ozzie and Harriet is going by the wayside at breakneck speeds.

People are beginning to realize that they have the option to stay single or to get divorced without shame; they have the option to marry later or marry several times without shame. Now, couples are starting to see that they can renegotiate the terms of their marriage without shame.

While a Parenting Marriage isn’t right for every couple, it’s certainly worth looking into.

Here are the key elements:

1. Both spouses agree and accept (and this acceptance is crucial) that the marriage they used to have is over. That is, the love-based relationship is over.
2. Both spouses agree that the primary purpose of their marriage now is to be good co-parents and raise healthy kids in as stable an environment as possible.
3. Together, both spouses will tell the kids honestly and openly about the changing nature of the marriage so that they don’t have to wonder.
(Note that some couples need a temporary break—a time-out, if you will. One couple lived apart for 18 months.)
4. Both spouses agree on the terms of their new marriage. Examples include one sleeping upstairs, the other downstairs; agreeing on a schedule of time with the kids; agreeing to separate financial obligations other than those that impact the family (mortgage, insurance payments, etc.); agreeing that in their free time, they can go anywhere, see anyone and do anything they wish; that each can have another relationship but that no one is introduced to the kids without prior permission.

 

Thank you, Indigo Books, Toronto, Canada!

We appreciate Indigo Bay Bloor  hosting us for a reading of The New I Do and for giving us such great shelf space in your relationships section! We were also encouraged by the many people — women and, especially, men — who stopped by to chat with us about their thoughts about marriage. Several told us, “Thank you,” for writing our book, which reminded us that we are indeed on the right path.

TNID_Indigo

 

 

IMG_1026

IMG_1032

IMG_1034

Ready to Occupy Marriage?

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it that way.”

Marriage, in its current state, is not working.

Don’t believe me? Look at the stats.

With anywhere from a 40% – 50% divorce rate (depending on who you talk to) and a 23% decrease in numbers of those marrying from 1960 to today, it’s obvious that lifestyle trends are shifting away from “forever after” unions.

Should we sit back and do nothing more than watch the institution die a slow death? Or should we mobilize to take action?

If marriage had nothing to offer, it would be fine to let it go by the wayside. But an updated version of marriage could offer couples and families quite a lot in the way of social and emotional stability, financial well-being and more.

Some of you may be thinking, “Change marriage? We can’t change marriage! There are religious edicts and legal statutes that have been in place for years—centuries even!” Therein lies the problem.  We continue to think we’re all supposed to fit into a size “Small,” yet we live “Medium,” “Large” and “Extra Large” lifestyles.  Not to mention that we also live longer these days than we did in 1215, when “until death do us part,” got added to the vows.

On September 18, The Census Bureau released new data showing that, despite including same-sex couple stats with married couples (in its largest household survey to date), there was no reversal in the long-term national decline in marriage.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center and one of the authors of the Census Bureau report stated, “The projections really suggest that there’s more than just a delay going on here. People are more likely to be never married and stay never married as they reach middle age. That’s a significant change.”

PewMarriage1

We can continue to defend “Traditional Marriage,” which perpetuates a narrow model designed for an elite (and straight) population, and continue to set marriage up to fail, but we’d do better to be more inclusive of the myriad needs we have as an evolving culture and thus, set marriage up to succeed.

By offering creative alternatives like having a starter marriage or a parenting marriage, matrimony will appeal to a wider audience. Accepting concepts that have been considered blasphemous by some in our culture—like making it okay to marry for money, having term limits, or opening our minds to open marriage—would make marriage more practical and realistic.

Something’s clearly gotta give if marriage is going to make it.

If you’d like to join the cause or simply learn more about the Occupy Marriage Movement,” please visit The New I Do Facebook page.

You may also want to check out the just-released book entitled, The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, 2014).