Friday, September 21, 2007

Term Limits for Marriages?

A Bavarian politician has come up with the intriguing idea of putting a 7-year expiration date on marriages.

Now, on the one hand, my thinking is that if it ain't broke, don't go breaking it. It's true some people (as she says) stay in marriages just because it's safe, or just because of the kids, or they're just afraid of the unknown. But if they're relatively content, that's their prerogative to forgo passion. It would just create an unnecessary amount of paperwork to make people file to renew their marriages every 7 years.

However, on the other hand, I can see some benefits to this - some people are just in bad marriages, but divorce is an expensive process. This might also force people to come up with pre-nuptial agreements (since the marriage would just expire, I'd imagine there wouldn't be the bickering as to who gets what, so you'd have to say in advance how you'd split it should you decide not to renew the marriage). But more importantly, it's a good way to check in with your spouse, it would serve as a starting point to discuss some of the issues in the marriage and make sure it's working for both people. Sometimes people go for years without ever talking about what's not working. If they were given the option to get out without the hassle of divorce lawyers, it might actually help to solidify marriages that are working because each person would have to think about what they wanted and communicate it to the other. But hey, perfect world, right?

I don't think this is the threat to marriage that the Christian right is necessarily painted it. Sure, there would be people who would decide to let the marriage expire, but those are probably the people who shouldn't be married anyway, and are providing an unhealthy view of marriage to their kids. It could help to bolster communication. But it could also just create headaches for everyone involved - the need to file paperwork just keep the status quo, the extra tax dollars needed to fund the department which processes the paperwork (or would there be an extra renewal charge, or just a "let it expire" charge?), then there would be the almost inevitable battles over property, especially if one person wants to renew and the other doesn't.

I'm on the fence, but tipping into the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" camp. What do you think?


Gopi Rajaseharan said...

A pre-nup is the best way to go. Expiration dates also tend to make a marriage appear formal rather than the blissful "institution" it is supposed to be.

A better solution would be to improve workplace opportunities and compensation packages for women so that women can raise kids just as well on their own. This way they may not even feel compelled to get married so as to feel safe...which would be a great relief for guys like me (but not for the church).

The Lethological Reader said...

There are also couples who marry for love, but then that dwindles, and they stay in it just because it's comfortable financially and change is hard. So it isn't necessarily that women would just be looking for a man to marry to feel safe, but that a marriage may become safe after the passion has died out.

But I think your idea is a good one - add financial incentives in the workplace so that marriage just becomes about two people rather than about the financial benefits of the union.

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

"...but that a marriage may become safe after the passion has died out."

Exactly! A marriage usually turns out safe for the female but ends up being hell for the male (who end up being slow and paunchy ) least from what I have observed. It would be practical if an open relationship is decided on by the couple at some point (proper communication is key). Then they could enjoy the financial benefits of being in a marriage in addition to finding passion elsewhere.