]Against the dramatic backdrop of the nation’s debate about the extension of traditional marriage rights to same sex domestic partnerships, divorce rates among heterosexuals are skyrocketing. Even as I was pleased to see close friends who have lived and loved as husbands for decades, raising a family and building a community-focused life, find their union receive the blessing of the state, another friend shared with me the unraveling of his own marriage and the arrangements for the “sharing” of the children negotiated between him and his once beloved wife.
The dichotomy presented by these two adjacent events led me to wonder exactly what is it that comprises the agreement that two people attest to follow in signing a marriage license. Some will commit to “have and hold”. Others will pledge to let go of their “childish ways.” And in bringing the state into the arrangement, we are giving rights to claim our children and our earthly wealth to this person. In most religions, the marriage compact brings responsibilities to bring forward children, to support the faith and to live a doctrine.
Whatever the perspective, personal, governmental or religious, it is evident that marriage is a contract. Two people are pledging legal, personal and spiritual resources to each other. Good. Clear. So how do so many fail to meet the expectations? We break contracts for many reasons – a better offer or a newer model… perhaps, boredom. If we live in a world with marriage, divorce, remarriage – and often re-divorce – as a growing element of modern life, should the marriage contract outline the cost and process to break-up in addition to the romantic expectations? How do we communicate our dissatisfaction to a partner? How do we attempt to renegotiate? Can any contract be broken unilaterally? Can this one? At least, shouldn’t we periodically review?