Should marriage have term limits?

Should marriage have term limits?

Knock on wood, I’m very happily married and have been for 14 years. I’m pretty sure my wife feels the same way. J It’s not always perfect, but we still have a lot of fun together and look forward to doing things in the future together.

We aren’t unique or special in any way. Most of our friends are (or at least seem to be) in strong marriages. But I’ve been kind of shocked at how many people we know that are getting a divorce or are cheating on their spouses with no real regard about being caught. In fact, it seems that some of them hope to be caught in order to get out of the marriage.

And for whatever reason, the divorces, even when these people have a bunch of kids and both want out, have been total slug fests. They’ve been trashing each other verbally, one got his spouse arrested, another completely cut off his wife financially and refused to pay for the kid’s school.

Divorce rates are actually declining, mostly because people are choosing to get married at a much older age than the past (I think you should have to be 30 to get married, but that’s a discussion for another blog post). Yet still many marriages are falling apart and the notion of soul mates that are together for life seems to be more of a phony line pushed by greeting card companies than something strapped in any sort of reality.

I’ll get calls from people that would like to get divorced, but don’t think they can afford it or simply want to wait until the kids are grown. In other words, they’ll spend another 10-15 years being miserable and wasting their life away instead of going through with the tough call to get divorced and slowly, but steadily improve their life.

So all of this has me thinking. Should there be some sort of term limits for divorce? When you get married, should the State require you to enter in to a marriage contract and limit how long that contract can be in place? What if it was a 10 year period and after that first ten years, the two of your had to agree to renew the marriage and if not, it would be over?

The biggest problem with that is that there would be tons of divorces, but is that a bad thing? What if the marriage contract required you, in advance, to agree on how you would divide up your property, who would keep what, how the visitation schedule with kids would work, whether or not you’d sell the house, etc. and that it could only be changed if there was a dramatic change in circumstances such as one party becoming incapacitated or a danger to the kids?

Sure that’s over-simplifying it, but if we can resolve a divorce without conflict then why not?

I am in no way an advocate of a couple giving up on a marriage that can somehow be saved, especially if kids are involved, but if the marriage is dead, wouldn’t it be a smart idea to look at how to best handle that death? None of this is ideal, but I’ve concluded from observing people in our social circle as well as the thousands that have called me for divorce help over the years, that the idealistic model of marriage does not really exist across the board. Saying that marriage shouldn’t be for life is actually realistic and may not be a bad thing.

For some couples like my wife and I or her parents or many others, it would simply be a re-commitment to each other. For others it would require a good faith evaluation of their life and where they want to be. Perhaps it would get some couples talking about their problems and how to fix them instead of ignoring the problems and each other.

I admit that the idea isn’t very romantic, but it is realistic. Falling in love is a wonderful thing and a lot of fun. The truth is though that after a certain period of time you tend to see your partner for who they and that’s how they begin to see you. Most women aren’t farters on the first date and most men won’t blow off their girlfriend to watch football after they first meet. Ideally, getting to know the real you is something they can live with and you are happy with who they are. But if not, why should you be stuck. Let’s outline the terms of how long your marriage will last for in the beginning and how we will handle it if the contract isn’t renewed.

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  • Great post. The kicker is to raise revenue for the state by making marriage licenses renewable like driver's licenses. Every three years or five years you have to renew and pay a fee in order to stay married in the eyes of the state. It would apply to marriages, civil unions, whatever the government allows. Hey, it's an idea.

  • Ideas are great. Drives me crazy when people accept the status quo because "that's how it's always been done." I have to renew my business license every year, so why not the marriage license?

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