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Most of us are aware of the high percentage of divorces in the United States. Some reports indicate that 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. As devastating as it is to have a love relationship end, it is compounded by the arduous process of divorce; the fighting over finances and children can go on for years, literally cleaning out a family’s assets and emotionally devastating the couple, their children and their extended families.

 Remedies to deal with and reduce this emotional and financial devastation have been sought with various degrees of success. Collaborative divorce and mediation have helped reduce some of the emotional and financial pain of divorce. The goal here is to empower the couple and create an environment where problem solving and resolution skills used during the process continue post divorce. This enables the couple to move forward as cooperative co-parents. While effective for many couples, the legal process is still stressful as couples’ struggle to dismantle and divide a life they built together. Then there are pre-nuptial agreements. Again designed to reduce acrimony and protect the assets of each party if the marriage falls apart. However, I haven’t seen any evidence that this pre-marital legal step has resulted in happier marriages or less fraught filled divorce.

 Another response to the high divorce rate is a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage the couple opts to make additional vows that make a divorce more difficult to obtain. Couples agree to premarital counseling and divorce is only granted when there is a “proved condition” such as adultery or abuse. To date, only three states have adopted this option-Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona and the percentage of couples choosing this option are extremely low. While a covenant marriage may reduce the divorce rate, does it really make for better marriages? Making it more difficult for someone to leave the marriage when, for example, there is domestic violence or abuse, seems just plain dangerous.

 Now here comes Mexico! Mexico? I admit I didn’t expect this proposal to come from Mexico which boasts a huge Catholic population. But read on…..

 “Reuters   9/29/2011 2011-09-30T00:22:53

MEXICO CITY — Mexico City lawmakers want to help newlyweds avoid the hassle of divorce by giving them an easy exit strategy: temporary marriage licenses.

Leftists in the city’s assembly — who have already riled conservatives by legalizing gay marriage — proposed a reform to the civil code this week that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime.

The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple stays happy. The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits.

“The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,” said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill.

“You wouldn’t have to go through the tortuous process of divorce,” said Luna, from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has the most seats in the 66-member chamber.

Luna says the proposed law is gaining support and he expects a vote by the end of this year.”

In the divorce support groups I have facilitated over the years, this idea has certainly surfaced more than once. Many group participants thought they would have exercised this option had it been available. Some argue it makes sense; we renew our driver’s license every five years and there comes a time when many of us can no longer drive. Others say it detracts from the sanctity of marriage which should not be viewed like a license for fishing season.

On some level does this “renewal option” make sense? Couples may try harder instead of taking each other for granted. Rather than constantly thinking about “getting out” when there were problems, would the couple be more focused on how to stay together? Would the emotional connection be the glue rather than the legal? Divorce acrimony would certainly be reduced as would costs of splitting up. Contract renewals would be celebrations and affirmations. It might remove the stigma of “failing”. On the other hand, broken hearts would still abound as one could still be rejected. And possibly, this system of two year contracts could lead to multiple serial marriages (although the divorce system as it exists has not prevented that).

If you had had the option of a two year marriage with a renewal clause, what would you do? It occurs to me that those of you who are divorced, might think this makes sense, while on the other hand, those of you who are happily married might consider it ridiculous. Or how about Covenant Marriage? Does that seem like an option you would have chosen?

I once heard Phil Donohue comment, “We are a culture that loves the idea of marriage, but we aren’t very good at it.” That is true if a “good” marriage is one that by definition lasts a lifetime. I have known couples who had wonderful, productive marriages that for a myriad of reasons ended. They do not think it was a “bad” marriage or themselves as “failures” as they define the success of their union by other criteria than merely sustainability. Has the idea of a lifetime partner become impractical given our current life span? Is spending 60-70 years with the same person unrealistic for most people? One hundred years ago, when our life span was only 50 years, maybe it was easier to commit for a lifetime. Then we also chose a single career for a lifetime; now many of us experience three or four careers. Has it become unrealistic to expect “happily ever after?” Is it time to consider that maybe, even if a marriage doesn’t last throughout your life, that it may still have been a successful union?

Donna F. Ferber is the author of From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce. Now available in Kindle format for $9.99. For a limited time it is available to borrow for free!!  Click here for more information and to purchase or borrow.

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5 Comments

  1. barbara on the 14. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    reminds me of the renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead who believed marriage ought to be a renewable contract and that “i have been married 3 times and each time to the right person.” i think she is also known for the quote “marriage is a wonderful institution but who wants to spend their life in an institution?”

  2. HAW on the 15. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    The Mexico idea sounds alot like a prenuptial agreement and the downside to those is at the time of divorce/dissolution/refusal to renew circumstances may have radically changed making the original agreement grossly unfair, such as the birth of children and one parent staying home and foregoing career advancemen t. Lots of things are unforseeable at the time of a marriage unless you have a crystal ball.

  3. CJ Golden on the 15. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    My first marriage lasted ten days shy of 25 years – it was not, in any manner, a “failure”. I grew and learned much in those 25 years. So did he. And we have two fabulous children one of whom now has two children of his own.
    How can that ever be a failure?!?

    • admin on the 15. Jan, 2012 remarked #

      I agree. Yet so many women believe thAT “FOREVER” is the only way to gauge a successful marriage.

  4. Jonathon P on the 23. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    A big thank you for your blog article.Really looking forward to reading more. Awesome.

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