While many reports indicate that the divorce rate has actually been declining since 1980, most experts today would still argue that a married couple’s likelihood of divorcing still hovers uncomfortably close to the 50% mark.
Given that the role of marriage has shifted from its historic role as a business partnership to a love-based union, many people are rethinking the concept of marriage altogether.
For some, like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, who have been together for almost 35 years, the secret to making things work is to never getting married at all. For marriage devotees like Dax Shephard and Kristen Bell, who wed in 2013, the key to staying together is working at the relationship as you would a job, including engaging in marriage counseling.
According to the recently-released the 2018 Ford Trend Report, however, some innovative Millennials have conceived of a radical new approach to tying the knot: treating a marriage the same way you would the lease on an apartment or car.
Their findings suggests that 43% of millennials would support a marriage contract that functioned as a 2-year trial, easily dissolvable without the hassle of divorce paperwork, and another 33% said they’d be open to trying the “real estate” approach to marriage—with five, seven, 10 or 30 year terms that could be renegotiated.
In an informal poll on social media, I asked people of various beliefs and backgrounds whether they found the idea of a “marriage lease” refreshingly realistic or a sign of the depressing commitment phobia of our time. The answers were decidedly mixed.
Many people felt that the entire idea of a “marriage lease” was an obvious indicator of our hyper-individualistic generation.
“Sounds like a terrible idea,” Max Weissburg, a married television producer based in NYC, said. “I can’t see anyone making it past the two year part knowing there’s an out. And then why go through with an expensive wedding?”
“We should be heading the other direction and repeal no-fault divorce,” Elliot Friedland, a married Conservative Jewish man based in Austin, said. “Marriage is already too easy to get out of. With this ‘try before you buy’ attitude people will have one eye on the door from the word go and will have every incentive to just bounce. Without the sacred bond of pledging your lives to each other and making the conscious decision to support that life choice – a marriage isn’t going to be fulfilling. It’s the act of commitment that makes it good, not the idea that maybe you married the wrong person. Also—renegotiate terms? What terms? A western secular marriage doesn’t really have ‘terms’ as far as I understand it.”
“Depressing, spoiled and cowardly way of living life. We are in an age where no one wants to give all of themselves to something. And it’s left us shallow and spoiled as a culture,” Chelsey Sullivan, a schoolteacher who co-habitates with her longtime boyfriend, said.
Others, however, viewed the concept as a nice, new option, in an age where people are redefining the entire concept of love and relationships in an exciting way.
“To me, the point of a marriage is to unite the lives of people who love each other in a mutually beneficial fashion. But it’s foolish to pretend that always actually works out,” Samuel Elam, who self-identifies as polyamorous, said.
“If marriages were more personal agreements, rather than one-size-fits-all-forever arrangements, maybe it would be easier to get them to work in our favor…I think the structure of a relationship should be tailored to work for the individuals involved in it, rather than conform to a societal ideal that may not work for everyone. I won’t knock people who want their relationships to be eternally binding religious rituals, but they should also realize that not everyone wants to live that way.”
So, how, one might ask, would this type of two-year lease differ from simply dating, or living together? Why would be the point of getting married at all?
“The way it would differ would depend on the participants. It might work out exactly like the sort of marriage we already have, except being periodically renewed instead of a single, lifetime agreement. Or it might not involve cohabitation or monogamy. Or it might involve more than two participants. There are myriad ways it could work, which is the point: one-size-fits-all is a bad relationship framework.”
So: do whatever works for you, but just know that this is an option! And if divorce is in your future, don’t fret: Here’s how to dissolve your union with grace and class.
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