You may not have heard of this movement before because I have only recently made it up, so before you vote, I’ll explain it.
First, what I mean by marriage: two adults (I honestly don’t care about the gender) consenting to be legally, emotionally, physically, sexually and financially bound together until one of them dies. If you get married in your twenties and you both live to be 90 — that means you’re looking at 60 – 70 years with the same person. All of their good qualities, annoying habits, sicknesses, health, meltdowns, crisis, bad days, good days…for 65 fucking years. I mean, even if someone is THE BOMB, 65 years is a long fucking time.
And then there are the millions of people who get married and decide that it sucks and then they get divorced – but not before they endure complete financial and emotional devastation in the process. And if they have kids? Yeah. It’s messy. There is just so much pressure and its such a hassle to disentangle yourself from a marriage.
So I have an idea that could solve lots of problems. Lets make it so that marriage isn’t necessarily forever. I propose to make marriage a finite period of time. So when you get engaged, you negotiate for how long you want to be married ahead of time. Lets say its five years — I recommend this for the first contract. It’s kind of like being in the army, where you sign up for an amount of time and during that time, the other person has your ass – exclusively and all the stuff that normal marriage is about. Then at the end of the time, you have the option to sign on for some more time, or split up the assets according to the original contract and amicably and legally go your separate ways. This way, if you marry somebody you wind up hating, you know you only have to deal with them for another couple of years and nobody is surprised or angered or shocked or all judgey that you aren’t renewing the contract. If you made a good decision and your spouse is a keeper then you’re going to do everything in your power to ensure they want to renew the contract, so you’ll be a nicer person. You won’t have the leeway to think, “So what if I haven’t taken out the garbage in 16 years? This person is stuck with me, so I can be an asshole whenever I feel like it.” You’ll try harder.
Say you’re in a five year contract and you’re coming up for renewal in a year. Things are pretty good and you like your spouse. Are you going release some huge, putrid fart in the bed when you wake up right next to the other person? No. You’re going to save it because you want your contract renewed. Are you going spend all the money on bobble-heads or porcelain figurines of turtles or Taco Bell Chalupas (yes, please) or are you going to tone it down? Are you going to make sure your partner is satis.FIED in bed, or be a three minute man? Are you going to think twice before you say something you don’t really mean, and say more of what you do really want, dream, hope, care about? Yeah. Yeah. People in happy marriage contracts will constantly be working on the relationship and focused on it, knowing it can all be over soon if they don’t and it can keep getting better if they do. And people who are miserable can see the light at the end of the tunnel, get their stuff together in an organized and professional manner, renew their Match.com subscription and start looking for the next contract. They’re going to be a free agent!! Bring. it. on.
I’m just thinking the finite contract lengths would inspire people to be more civil, more kind, more respectful to one another in marriage. Sick of your partner or fallen out of love or out of lust? That’s okay. The contract will end. You can bear it until then. Then you have the option to do what you want to do without being a total asshole within a marriage you aren’t happy with. And how about when you get old? People change. Maybe the person that rocks your world at 30 makes you want to kill yourself at 60. Or you have insane sexual chemistry with a person that you’d never want to raise kids with. No worries!! You can find the right mate for you at every stage of your life, and have the commitment and consistency of a monogamous relationship. And once people got used to this thing culturally, there wouldn’t be all these bitter divorces. People would understand that relationships between two committed adults are really important for human welfare, but that they don’t have to last forever. They can end. And amicably. Or they can keep going, but on terms can be forever renegotiated, so everybody is getting what they need.
And for those few people who wind up renewing over and over for years and years, til death do they part, awesome! Romantic! You made it! And it makes it even cooler that all along the way you had the freedom to go and you didn’t. It probably means more than a traditional marriage that stays in tact for 50 years but the people don’t even talk to each other any more. They were just too lazy or too religious to do anything else.
So now that you understand my idea, it’s genius, right? The only thing I haven’t really figured out yet is the kids part. That gets a little tricky. What to do with kids that get made within the contractual period? Because I think kids are best off with two parents that love them, and each other, to death and that stay together happily until forever. But as we’ve discussed already – that isn’t easy. So maybe there is a special class of marriage contracts that specify the couple will want to parent children together and even if the “marriage” ends when the contract is up, there is still the understanding that both will be totally committed (and contractually obligated) to co-parent until the kids reach adulthood. Kind of like what happens when people get divorced now, except without the expectations that parents stay together forever.
I guess my plan will not win fans with genealogists – it would make family trees a fucking nightmare. People would end up with 10 or 12 step parents and a million half siblings, but that could be really good times. It might also make Christmas card lists dicey, and people would have maybe 10 or 12 weddings in their lives, so you’d probably be at somebody’s wedding every Saturday. On the other hand, maybe there wouldn’t be so much damn pressure on Your Big Day to make it perfect. And you wouldn’t burn bridges and sever ties because someone didn’t want to sit next to the cat at the reception or wear a feathered hat as a bridesmaid. Or if your best friend got preggers while you were planning the wedding, you wouldn’t care because you might have another one in a few years. The world would be full of parties and weddings that weren’t so damn complicated and were just fun! And finite! Maybe even Stedman and Oprah would have done a 5 year “official” stint together, if they didn’t have to commit to forever. No. Probably her lawyers would spend 5 years just to negotiate the thing.
You may think this isn’t romantic, but methinks it’s actually the most romantic idea of all. I hope that if I lived in this world of finite marriage contracts, BD and I would be one of the couples to keep signing up for more until we were 70, when we contracted to drive off a cliff together, happily, on a mutually convenient date. I don’t know about you, but I like it.
Okay, so NOW all in favor, say aye….