Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Term limits for marriages?

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Interesting idea: term-limited (but renewable) marriage contracts. As pointed out in the articles, contracts are already common in marriages (pre-nuptial agreements), so the idea is around. Matt Richtel recounts his findings as he explored the idea with various marriage experts:

IT makes little sense to explore a new era of family values based around Hollywood couplings. Or, worse yet, around mere rumors of the way movie stars conduct their marital affairs.

But might there be seeds of something worth considering in one such rumor, that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes signed a five-year marriage contract?

It’s a dim data point but not an isolated one, suggesting people are rethinking marriage, at least around the edges. Prenuptial agreements, a different sort of contract, are on the rise, as is vowless cohabitation. The ages at which people marry have hit record highs, 28.7 years for men and 26.5 for women. And gay marriage has provoked widespread conversation about the institution’s meaning and place.

Last year, several lawmakers in Mexico City proposed the creation of short-term, renewable marriage contracts with terms as brief as two years. The idea was to own up to the reality that marriages fail about half the time.

Is marriage headed for an overhaul? A fundamental rethinking? Is it due for one?

When the Mexican legislators proposed their idea, which was not passed, the archdiocese there called it “absurd” and said it was anathema to the nature of marriage. I decided to put the questions to a different group: the people who study marriage and divorce. I was motivated not just by trend lines but, as a child of divorce, by ghosts.

I asked whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract, my own modest proposal that, as in the one from Mexico, acknowledges the harsh truth that nearly half of marriages in the United States end in divorce and many others are miserable. The rough idea: two people, two decades, enough time to have and raise children if that’s your thing; a new status quo, a ceremony with a shelf life, till awhile do us part.

But despite having proposed it, whimsically, as a journalistic expedition, I found myself surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts I spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.

“We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all the environmental conditions, writ large, have changed,” said Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington and author of books on love, sex and marriage. “We haven’t scrutinized it. We’ve been picking at it like a scab, and it’s not going to heal that way.”

The kinds of things that are changing: we’re living longer; we live apart from families and are less inclined to religion, both marriage support systems; technology makes it easier than ever flirt or cheat and fuels instant gratification (“I will absolutely invest in this marriage after I watch this cat video”).

Over all, divorce rates . . .

Continue reading. This should be of particular interest to the Red States in the Bible Belt, which have the highest divorce rates in the country, divorce apparently being include in their righteous defense of “traditional” marriage (which, I have to point out, is totally unlike many Old Testament marriages: polygamy seemed relatively common).

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

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