Marriage and Divorce: Does the Whole System Need an Overhaul?

With divorce rates as high as they are, many people are beginning to question the entire institution of marriage. One common critique is that our current system of laws makes it too easy to get married and too difficult to get a divorce. Should this be changed?

In a recent opinion piece, a writer named Lara Lillibridge discusses the idea that contracts regulate every aspect of business relationships; even for things like cellphone plans and iTunes accounts. Yet marriage, which is perhaps the most important contract we will ever sign, is largely governed by a set of vague assumptions and expectations between spouses. Would marriage as an institution be more successful if we focused less heavily on love/romance and more heavily on building a sustainable partnership?

For instance, two commonly held stereotypes are that men marry their wives hoping they’ll never change; but women marry their husbands hoping to change them. In either case, the expectations seem unfair and unrealistic. Human beings inevitably change over time, but such a change can’t really be controlled by one’s spouse. It comes from within.

Moreover, if we understand that all humans change over time, does it make sense to pledge to be together “til death do us part?” Would it be better to make marriage a series of renewable contracts that expire every four to six years; much like the re-election process for politicians?

Of course, there are no easy answers when it comes to big questions like these. And the issue of marriage is also complicated by child-rearing, which biologically necessitates a commitment of nearly two decades.

Although there are no easy answers, it is important to keep asking questions. Even if there are no changes made to the institution of marriage, engaged couples may benefit from more carefully considering the commitment they are undertaking before saying “I do.” Even if the marriage doesn’t last, such forethought could lead to a more amicable divorce.

Source: The Good Men Project, “What if We Treated Marriage More Like The Contract It Is?” Lara Lillibridge, Nov. 11, 2013

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