You’re in a relationship. Being with that special someone is more magical than you could have ever imagined. What’s next? Splitting the rent? A diamond ring? Or vowing to stay together “’til death do you part?” What if you could test drive marriage with a limited-time marriage contract?
How many relationships seemed to be destined for forever, but after two or three years, they fizzle?
A beta marriage is basically the matrimonial version of beta testing a video game, except it involves real people and emotions. But, the upside is saving the hassle of divorce.
“My advice would be to suggest a reup every five years, or before every major transition in life,” Stephanie Coontz, the research director at the Council on Contemporary Families, told The New York Times, “with a new set of vows that reflect what the couple has learned.”
Millennials and Marriage Contracts
According to a Time editorial, nearly half people ages 18-49 surveyed and 53 percent of millennials think a dissolvable or renewable contract is a decent idea; Almost 40 percent of those surveyed believe in the abolition of the “’til death do us part’ vow.
“This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense,” the study’s author, Melissa Lavigne-Delville, told Time. “It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”
“Millennials aren’t scared of commitment — we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely,” Cristen Conger, a 29-year-old unmarried but cohabitating podcast host in Atlanta, told Time. “We rigorously craft our social media and online dating profiles to maximize our chances of getting a first date, and ‘beta testing’ is just an extension of us trying to strategize for future romantic success.”
Not every successful marriage looks the same, so the marriage contract would be tailored to each couple.
Marriage Contracts in History
The idea isn’t new and dates back to ancient times, but the marriage contract idea has stuck around. In 2007, a seven-year marriage contract was proposed in Germany. Three years later, the Philippines attempted to pass a 10-year contract and Mexico City aimed for a marriage contract with a minimum of two years.
None of those became a law, but fewer people are getting married and sociologist Philip Cohen estimates the global marriage rate to hit zero by 2042, The Atlantic reported.
According to The Pew Charitable Trusts:
“In every state and Washington, D.C., the share of people between the ages of 20 and 34 who have never married has risen sharply since 2000, according to a Stateline analysis of census data. In cities where millennials flock for jobs, the situation can be extreme: 81 percent of young people are still single in Washington, D.C., up from 73 percent in 2000.
“In six states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) more than 70 percent of young people are single. In 2000, no state had such a large share; Massachusetts and New York had the largest at 57 percent. At the other end of the scale, last year Utah was the only state where more than half the young people had been married at some point. In 2000, 39 states were in that category.”
Better Bet with Beta?
A marriage contract could ease the stigma of alternative marriages, like open marriages, and divorce. Unhappy couples wouldn’t stay together for fear of a nasty divorce and splitting assets.
Also, renewing your marriage could be romantic. And a renewal deadline could erase any chance of complacency or taking your partner for granted.
With 10 percent of first marriages ending in divorce, a marriage contract could force conversations on couples that they should have before commitment anyway, whether that means cohabitation or marriage.
“Our contract addresses much of what must be negotiated in any relationship, especially when cohabitating,” author Mandy Len Canton told The New York Times. “It begins with our reasons for being together… Our contract isn’t infallible, or the solution to every problem. But it acknowledges that we each have desires that deserve to be named and recognized.”
What would you do?