Sunday, May 12, 2013

IIWK: Marriage Contracts: To Expire or Not To Expire?

It's a concept I've long considered: marriage contracts with a durational limitation, like all other contracts in our world. Sure, copyright contracts (especially in the US have an excessively long duration (long after death), but they still expire. Not marriage contracts, though.

I was originally introduced to the concept through one of many science-fiction novels (sorry, I don't remember which one). Instead of signing a marriage contract "until death do us part," why not put a term on it?

It's not a crazy idea.

Marriage licenses we're first issued in the Middle Ages, when most people were living to a quarter of the age they are today. "Until death do us part" meant you had maybe a dozen years--two if you were lucky--with the person, before one of you passed on. Only in the last two centuries or so have lifespans grown to the point where the terminating clause is a rather daunting concept.

Most people these days don't even spend 40-years at one job, let alone their entire lives.
Now, I'm not suggesting there should be a limit on how long you can be married to any one person. If you're doing well when the term comes to an end, then by all means, renew it like any other contract.

But if you're not, if your desire to be united is waning, then be given the opportunity to part amicably, instead of wasting time and money tearing through a difficult and exhausting divorce.

I'm twenty-six. About a third of the people I know who graduated high school with me are either married, have kids, or both. I can't conceive of being ready for either event. Signing my life away to spend with someone isn't even something I'd be willing to think about right now. But signing away ten years? Yeah, I could do that.

I know the statistics on marriage, and I'd expect the same about most people in my generation. Those numbers have been ground into us by our parents, our families and our schools. Fifty percent end in divorce.
What I don't know are the reasons for said divorces. I don't think that's included in more of the force-feedings we've endured. But I can make some good guesses: infidelity, loss of income, loss of child, loss of love (usually referred to as "falling out of love"). I'm sure there are more, but I'd say those are probably four of the top ten.

Loss of a child is not something easily worked through, so I won't been so bold as to suggest both partners could try to hold on for the remaining period of their term. The other three, on the other hand, I will be bold enough to suggest such a thing, with this addendum: married but separated is not the same as divorce (especially when taken for the aspect of infidelity).

Half of all marriages ending in divorce is an ugly statistic, regardless of which side of the coin you look at (half of all marriages reach the terminating clause). Given a shorter term than death, I see no reason why that statistic shouldn't improve.

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This piece marks the beginning of a new series here on DreamClassier, entitled "If I Were King (of the World)." All parts of this series will be available here.

2 comments:

  1. Hm. This is an interesting thought, though one that I have to admit that I'd be afraid of. If it were one of those contracts that could just expire, what would happen to property and everything else?

    Would be quite the mess for the new husband/wife that someone fights for the house and loses, for example. Them having to be around all that bad feeling.

    You've put good thought into this, of course. Made it an interesting read.

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    1. I would expect any such contract would include all those things about divvying things up, pretty much doing away with the need for a pre-nup.

      I think the driving concept behind this is that when the contract is up, both partners can part on good terms, because the fact that it was ending doesn't come as a surprise to one or both of them. The contract has a finite, absolute date, something you can put on your calendar; you can plan for it, whether you decide to renew or not. From what I've seen (though not experienced) is that divorces don't ever happen on anyone's schedule.

      Thanks for asking that question, so I would remember I had an answer for it (or that I didn't spell it out on the page as clearly as I had in my head).

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