The Marriage Contract

Aug 18, 2013 by

          I’ve always been intrigued by the way that people interact. (Is that why I studied Psychology in university? Its uselessness has led me to forget the flawed logic that convinced me it was a good idea.) Because of this, I’m fond of people watching. I’m attentive to the impact of one person’s behaviours on another person’s responses, finding the dynamics of interpersonal engagement fascinating.

          Recently, I was observing the communication between a couple that’s been married for decades. Decades of togetherness, people may think, is automatic cause for congratulations, especially within a society of increasingly higher divorce rates. I disagree. Time is not the best measure of a successful relationship. (Of course, there must be couples in existence that have been married for years upon years without falling out of love. Personally, I can’t think of any that I know. If you know any, please share their story below. I’d love to be inspired. Real life love stories make me melt to a thinner consistency than any fictional tale ever could.) This couple’s exchange was far from reciprocal. The wife annoyingly nitpicked at everything her husband said in his attempts to initiate conversation, and the husband sometimes failed to justify her questions with a response at all. For the most part, they sat in silence, apparently having run out of things to talk about long ago. It’s sad that many people would evaluate this marriage as a success based on its length. Really, it’s a better example of two people’s failure to live happier lives apart, because society instills that marriage is forever. This prolonged, loveless marriage is an illustration of how far people will go to control what others think of them, as the individuals within it continue to put on performances as devoted husband and wife, oblivious to the fact that everyone sees right through it. It’s a demonstration of the consequences of fear, which drove this couple to remain in a comfortable situation instead of taking risky independent quests for more meaningful lives. They didn’t want to lose to the odds of loneliness, not expecting to lose by default.

          No matter how romantic the concept of everlasting love, I’m of the opinion that it’s unrealistic. Not impossible! (I’m sure many readers are desperately searching their brains for an example of a sweet old couple that still holds hands and steals kisses, trying to hold on to the vision of unbreakable love that we’re all taught to believe in.) Just rare. To explain my position on the subject, I go back to the idea of relationship evolution. I believe that as people grow, their needs change, impacting their interpersonal connections. With new needs comes the desire for companionship with different people who can best fulfill them, assuming that the people already present in a person’s life cannot.

          The permanency of the constitution of marriage and the expectations that come with it do not allow for people to gravitate to eventually better suited partners with ease. Paper covers rock, remember? The marriage certificate makes people feel as though they have to hide their socially unacceptable want to move on – their need for novelty. Those who crumble beneath the pressure of that piece of paper, stay together. Those who are brave, divorce. I look at divorced couples and silently commend them for their choice. Relative to all unhappily married couples, they are the success stories. They were courageous enough to put their individual happiness above a societal institution.

          Strangely, despite my stance, I do want to get married one day. At least, I think I do. I always have, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s only because I’ve been implicitly taught that marriage is the ultimate expression of love. I don’t think I’ve thought about it any other way until lately (which is odd of me, because I tend to question – and defy – popular opinion). Writing this, I’m contemplating whether or not marriage is still something that I want – or if it ever truly was. (Dear Future Boyfriend, if you read this, I am simply thinking. My views are subject to change once I’m madly in love with you – if you’re lucky.)

          Whatever, that’s a decision for Future Maria. I’m not going to worry my 23-year-old self about it. While suddenly unsure about marriage, I am certain that no one is putting a ring on my finger anytime soon. (Warning to Future Boyfriend: Please do not surprise me with an unexpected proposal after a year or two of being with me. I will say no. I’ve had longer relationships with sweaters, right before getting bored of them and giving them away. On that note, dear readers, please forgive me if I’m foolishly blinded by infatuation in the future, and act against everything that I’ve written here.) It’s not that I have a problem committing myself to someone. It’s that I have a problem committing myself to someone forever. I don’t know what I’m going to want when I’m 50. I transformed my world in mere months, and what I wanted as recently as April has drastically changed. Consider the potential impact of years. What if future me doesn’t like future him? What if I want an easy out? That’s the allure of a contract.

          Given my views on marriage, divorce, and the stigmas associated with unhappily ever after, I was in complete agreement with the concept of marriage contracts, as discussed on CHUM FM one morning while I was at the gym. They proposed a sports-like approach to marriage. Instead of two people locking each other down until death do them part (pressure!), they discussed committing to each other for a few years at a time. When the marriage contract is up, the couple can choose to re-sign or consider other offers.

          Imagine being able to sit down every few years to re-evaluate your independent needs and personal happiness, and whether or not your relationship is functioning in favour of them. The expectation of being together forever would be gone. People would go in knowing that they can get out, eliminating the social stigma associated with marital breakups, because contracts would be signed with the understanding that there’s an expiration date. Although some may find this a radical idea, I think it’s modern and practical. I doubt marital contracts will someday be a real possibility, but if they ever are, sign me up! I would love to periodically have the excuse for an honest conversation with my future husband to discuss whether or not we’re still right for each other. I picture it going something like this:

 

          “Hey babe, our contract is up for renewal. Are you still in?” I’d casually ask.

          “Of course! You’re amazing!” he’d exclaim without hesitation.

          “I know! You’re a lucky guy,” I’d cockily respond. “Just checking!”

          We’d sign the next few years of our lives to each other, and regroup again during the next renewal period.

 

          I know, I know, I could become bored:

 

          “Hey babe, our contract is up for renewal. I’m not really feeling this anymore,” I’d confess, perfectly in line with the expectations of an imaginary society that deems marriage contracts acceptable.

          He obviously begs me to stay. I’m no longer bound by marriage, so that’s too bad for him.

 

          Okay, okay, he could also become bored, I guess. I’m a fun chick, so that’s totes doubtful, but theoretically:

 

          “Hey babe, our contract is up for renewal. I’m not really feeling this anymore,” I’d admit.

          “Me neither, but it’s been a slice!” he may agree. (My husband would never actually say this, but I’m having way too much fun creating these scenarios.)

          “It most definitely has! Want to dish about our new life visions and the amazing people we want to spend our next contracts with while we remain awesome friends?” I’d suggest.

          “Absolutely!” he’d say.

 

          Considering my obviously highly idealized chronicles of hypothetical contract renewal periods, I think marriage contracts are a fabulous idea! Couples contemplating a contract end probably wouldn’t be quite so civil; however, a few hours, days, weeks, or months of fighting at contract renewal time sound better than a lifetime. What do you think, friends? Shall we start a petition for marriage contracts to replace marriage certificates? Who’s in? No one? Well, I tried.

 
Previous: Taking Back the Gym Next: Peanut Butter Opportunities . . .
 

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