Terence Blacker wrote this article in The Independent. He states that it is now time to abandon the rosy and idealistic belief that marriages last forever, and instead introduce fixed, marriage contracts for a certain duration (he suggests 10 years), after which the contract can either be renewed or not by the married couple involved.
Has society today become so jaded towards the institution of marriage?
What was once the true declaration of one’s love to another, is now being thrown in the same line as a normal business deal. Two parties meet up, each having the same desire – that of entering into marriage. Yet, each one agrees that the agreement is not to be a permanent one, but one which is renewed every couple of years. Think of it as a lease agreement. If I want to throw you out after the agreement has expired, then I am within my right of doing so. No hard feelings of course, after all, it was part of ‘the deal’.
Call me idealistic, call me naive, call me a hopeless romantic, but I do still believe in the happily-ever-after. I believe that like everything else, marriage needs working on, it needs time and dedication, and it needs patience. Of course there will be rough patches, but is it really just to the instititution, to enter into an agreement/contract for a temporary period? Isn’t marriage to be entered into with an honest vision and with a knowing mind that not all will be perfect, and not something which you know will end within a certain number of years? Doesn’t that in itself diminish the hard-work which an otherwise normal marriage entails? Because if you know that something is to end in two, three years, then why bother with the hard working of trying to make it last and saving it? Just live out the couple of years left in the contract, and out you go.
Wouldn’t it be a case of “I want to marry you and I want to be with you. But maybe not forever. So let’s sign this contract”.
Blacker talks about ‘loss of individuality‘ and ‘daily compromises‘. Um, hello?! Any two individuals who are placed together face these two issues constantly. The difference between any two strangers and two people who are getting married lies in the level of dedication they both have in facing these problems, working on them, and finding a solution that works for both of them. I’d like to think that these two issues are surmountable, and not be the cause of a break-up. Nowadays cohabitation before marriage is quite common and that helps couple face this problem sooner rather than later.
I do agree that total equality between man and wife is never quite possible, and there will always be one spouse who gives up that bit more than the other. It then boils down to priorities and what you want at that certain point in your life. Most of the sacrifices are of a temporary nature (giving up work to raise a family, a family move, changing jobs and working hours), so if one is really dedicated in making things work, no damage ought to be caused. If the inequality arises from something more grave, than this ought to be tackled before getting married. Again, cohabitation might help a lot here.
And isn’t marriage an emotional contract as well? What about emotions – will they be neatly dealt with in one of the conditions listed in the contract? Is there an exact and non-messy way to act when the contract is not renewed after its’ original expiry date?
What if children are involved – how will they be treated in such a contract?
This is not to be mixed with divorce. Unfortunately some marriages do end. Some end amicably (most probably when there are children), others can be downright nasty and petty. However divorce would be the marriage running its’ course and ending. The contract Blacker speaks about is a timed agreement. You sign the agreement (ie. get married) knowing that there is an expiry date to it.
Do you agree with this notion? Would you be willing to enter into a marriage contract of this sort, and if so, what would be the time-period you’d insert?
I think I’ve made my thoughts clear. I do not agree. I’d like to think that marriage takes place between two individuals who really want it, who are willing to sacrifice and, yes, compromise. Marriage can never be tidily set between the confinements of the straight lines of a square. Sometimes situations happen which mean that things can go a bit off-course. But it is then that the true hard work which characterizes marriage, starts. I don’t believe that marriage is nowadays redundant – it may be for some, but not for everyone. I believe marriage is a serious step to take, and if and when you’re ready to tie the knot, you should do with the aim of making it last forever.
Marriage is already viewed as a contract of sorts. Adding the time-frame diminishes its’ main purpose- that of (hopefully) lasting forever.
Maybe my past work drawing up contracts and getting to see the somewhat ugly nature of humans, makes me wary of this notion. I would see happy couples buying a new home for their family, and a couple of years down the line, they would come to me again, this time to draw up a personal separation deed. And boy would it get ugly! As I said previously, contract or no contract, the end is always painful and nothing can rein in human emotions. We are but human after all.
Making marriage a temporary fix rather than a permanent institution irks me. Like I said, I believe in the happily-ever-after.