Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Until the Legally Predetermined Period Has Ended, Do We Part?!

During a recent Shadowrun game (a dystopian role playing game), the issue of marriage came up. Matt was telling me that in the Shadowrun world that marriage is becoming archaic, that the marriages that do exist are purely secular, and that such marriages as polygamy are allowed. Somehow, from this, we ended up on the topic of marriage in today's world, a topic we're both interested in for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we're, well, married. For whatever reason, issues of marriage have always been of interest to me. I love shows like Sister Wives, and maybe my almost obsession with issues of marriage comes from having been once divorced. I don't know, either way, this is a topic that commonly comes up between us.

During that conversation, we broached the subject of contractual periods of marriage. I know, this is a touchy subject largely because the institution of marriage in the western world is a religious one, even though it's controlled by secular bodies and many secular people get married. I think it's also appalling because our culture has this silly, antiquated notion that the only reason to get married is to have a family--defined by two parents (of different sexes) with children, and excluding couples without children, or same sex couples.  Would you believe that young people, of the millennial generation, still say they want to get married to "have a family"? This is their go-to answer, not for the number of other reasons, like companionship or economic stability, but to have a family. This is something students in English 111 say, across the board. It's unbelievable to me.

Anyway,  I still think that contractual periods of marriage is an interesting idea, one that would reduce the divorce rate considerably. So this morning, when my lovely friend Amberly posed this Psychology Today article "Getting Marriage-Whys: What We Really Need to Change," by Susan Pease Gadoua, my interest was immediately peaked. The article talks about the "one-size-fits-all institution" of marriage, discussing, you guessed it, the idea of periods of contractual marriage--something under consideration in Mexico, it would seem. She says, "Instead of holding everyone in the culture to a single standard forever, people in this model of marriage would be set up to succeed. And then everyone would live happily ever after."  And largely, I agree with her... though I do have some problems with her ideas.

Imagine a world where you could be married for a certain period of time, renew your marriage or not, and be free without the stigma of divorce to seek a more satisfying union elsewhere. That would be ideal, wouldn't it?  My biggest problem with this ideology is that it doesn't take into account such issues as the pain that would be caused if one spouse or the other didn't want to renew. Right now, you make a choice and are stuck with it forever, unless you get a divorce, but pain is inevitable either way, right? So, is it really better than divorce? I don't know. It also doesn't take into account the financial feasibility of this option, which in my opinion is quite low.

What I do know is that a happy marriage is worth the promise to stay together forever, without the worries that having to renew a marriage contract would include. Matt and I have a very happy marriage, and though we have problems, I'm not sure I would want to deal with having to renew my marriage license, like I do a driver's license. Though Matt and I have gotten into a lot of conversations about the fact that a marriage license is one of the only licenses that doesn't have to be renewed. Ironically, the law assumes you may go blind, or be unable to drive, but it fails to assume that you may grow discontent with your marriage. Good job, government.

I think, rather than contractual periods of marriage, that putting stricter regulations on getting married in the first place would be a more reasonable answer. Maybe don't let 18 year olds get married?  Maybe make the legal marriage age 25 or after the successful completion of your first college degree, which ever comes first?  There was a time not all that long ago that people getting married at 18 wasn't a problem. People divorced less then. Today, it's a problem--and for the record, I also think young people shouldn't be able to go to college until they're 25 and have some life experience by which to be able to appreciate said education, but that's another blog post entirely.

So take a minute to read the article and then tell me what you think. You've got my opinion!