If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I'm not the biggest fan of marriage. I am actually not a huge fan of divorce either, but I figure no one is really "rah, rah, divorce is awesome!" so that goes without saying. Still, I have a few idea that I think might improve marriage, and I don't mean relationship advice, but rather changing the bones of the institution.
There are two parts to my Marriage Reformation Act - Parts A and B (yes, I did steal the catchy Part A and B name from Medicare):
A. Marriage should be a five or ten year renewable contract with set terms, not a "for life."
1. To a young person (I got married the first time at twenty, which I think qualifies as young) the concept of ten years is practically like life anyway. It's a really long time. It's really hard to wrap your brain around the idea of something that goes on that long. It's like saying, "On my God, I was at the dentist's office forever!" Australia was contemplating changing it to a five year renewable contract, and that seems like a really good idea to me.
To those of you married for more than ten years, you may think ten years is nothing, but if I look back at who my best friends were ten years ago and look at how much we are involved with each other now, it is a radically different group of people. My interests have changed as well.
2. You would not be able to get out sooner, so there might be less divorce. If at year three or year eight the shit hit the fan, you would be stuck legally entangled with that person until the set time was over.
3. If you realize that your significant other is not stuck with you for life you might not let yourself go. You might go to the gym, shower more frequently, and use words like please and thank you if your mate could ditch you easily. I am betting the phrase, "I don't have to do that now that we are married," would never be uttered.
4. Last but not least, If you knew a couple was setting up a life together for just five or ten years, you would feel less obligated to buy them a big flashy wedding present. (on the other hand, renewals of vows might necessitate several presents over the years, so this might not be the win it appears.)
B. I don't think you really know someone until you divorce them. Therefore, you should negotiate terms of any potential divorce before marriage. Now, I was against prenups back in the day. I didn't want to go into something with a backup plan if it failed. But if you know the love of your life is planning on screwing you over if you leave, you are better off knowing before you say "I do." I think divorce and custody would be a lot more equitable if you agreed on the terms while you still care for each other. What is right and fair is quite different from punitive damages. I'd like to think if you love someone, no matter what you don't want punitive damages, though the divorce industry proves me wrong on this.
In sum, if you knew you could get out, and exactly what getting out meant, people might take relationships a little more seriously, and take each other less for granted.