Marriages aren’t like fine wines. They are not harvested in vineyards and they do not always get better with age. However, many marriages far exceed any expiration date. According to a recent article by Matt Richtel, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and columnist, modern marriages—which divorce at rates upward of 50%—may benefit from an exit strategy after, say, five, 10, or 20 years. Richtel said that many marriage contracts already exist. Prenuptial agreements are rampant among the wealthy, some couples who live together make paperless commitments to each other, and many celebrities and politicians have legalized business/marriage agreements. In fact, the idea of contractual marriage has been picked up in Mexico, where lawmakers recently introduced the idea of renewable marriages. Good idea or bad, the law didn’t pass.
But should it have? Should the institution of marriage be updated to keep pace with other cultural advances in areas such as medicine and technology? This was the question that Richtel asked several marriage therapists, psychologists, and divorce attorneys. The responses were varied. Author and professor Pepper Schwartz commented that marriage has been getting picked apart for decades and needs to be fully examined. Today’s marriages have less connection to religion and family, which creates a weaker support system, and modern technology encourages people to expect instant gratification from marriage. Schwartz said something like a 20-year marriage contract is an option, and that nuptial contracts including dowries and financial arrangements are not new.
Dr. Robert E. Emery, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, says the problem with marriage is the expectation of longevity that it comes with. Children of divorced parents bear the immediate emotional devastation of losing one parent, or having their family rhythm disrupted. If the possibility of divorce was anticipated, and marriages were not supposed to last past a certain point, it would be more culturally acceptable and emotionally tolerable. Emery says the best way to approach marriage is to understand that it is not a union filled with unlimited sex with someone who is beyond perfect, but rather an investment of every available resource that can reap emotional, sexual, and physical rewards. “There are good reasons to be romantic about marriage,” Emery said. “The big benefit of marriage is precisely the commitment over the long term.”
Richtel, Matt. Till death, or 20 years, do us part. (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times. 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/fashion/marriage-seen-through-a-contract-lens.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
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