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Susan Pease Gadoua Headshot

What Marriage Really Needs Is for Us to Get "Whys"

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MARRIAGE QUESTION
alamy

This week in headlines, we heard that Mexico is introducing legislation that will potentially put time frames around marriage with the minimum contract lasting two years.

There are now approximately 26 countries throughout the world that recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships and same sex marriages.

While I see these nuptial changes as positive evolution, I feel that we still have a one-size-fits-all model for partnering in a culture that increasingly celebrates our differences. These newer proposals are simply time-limited and toned-down versions of the same thing with the same expectations.

The elephant in the room (or, should I say at the altar) is the question that has, to my knowledge, never been asked and that is, "Why are people creating these special unions?" My guess is that no one asks "why" because it is assumed that love is the only answer anyone would give -- or the only right answer -- to that question. Yet, there are many additional unspoken reasons people have for tying the knot.

Let's examine just the most surface level of demographics (age, socio-economic status, and family size) and see what happens. Do those who marry out of college marry for the same reason as the empty nester divorcees do? Do those who come from meager financial means marry for the same reason the wealthy do? Do those who want to find a good parent for their children marry for the same reason as the couple who accidentally got pregnant does?

In all of the academic and media discussions about marriage and divorce, there has been no distinction between any of these groups or classes. The unspoken assumption is that everyone who marries at 25 is doing so in order to have kids, raise a family and live happily ever after. I suppose people don't think further ahead than that because divorce is not supposed to happen.

But divorce is happening and it is here to stay. In fact, I think one of the main reasons it is so common is that people have not asked themselves why, other than for love, they want to marry. And marriage, if it is to thrive, sorely needs an overhaul.

If it were acceptable for people to wed for a variety of reasons, perhaps we would see contracts of 20 years for a parenting marriage,* five-year renewable contracts for a financial security marriage, and two-year renewable agreements for companionship marriages.

*(parenting marriages could be renewable but, given that kids and co-parenting are a major reason spouses fight and ultimately divorce, most may not want to renew the contract).

Then those who married would go into the union knowing exactly what was expected of them and how long it would last. Rather than a one-size-fits-all institution, people could pick the type and length of marriage they truly wanted. Marriages with an agreed upon agenda and end date would then terminate naturally.

Instead of holding everyone in the culture to a single standard "forever," which is at the very least unfair if not impossible, people in this modern model of marriage would be set up to succeed.

And then everyone would live happily ever after.