What Would Happen If Marriages Had Expiration Dates?

Is this really the end of marriage as we know it? Turning marriages into a kind of warranty with an expiration date?

Proposed by twice-divorced Gabriele Pauli, who is running to become head of Germany’s Christian Social Union party, the concept would apply only to civil marriages. Put simply, the marriages would be regarded as a limited seven-year contract. To prolong the matrimonial union after the seven-year itch, each partner would have to say, “I do” again. Other less-committed couples would save themselves the financial and emotional upheavals of repeated divorces.

Just how much of an impact would such a proposal have on society and its families?

It would certainly put a new spin on an institution that is already spinning out of control —” with more than 40 percent of all marriages ending in divorce. In its defense, one needs to consider that seven years is a long time, given the fluidity of today’s relationships.

After seven years, most couples already have children and, if all is going well, have formed deep emotional bonds. If such a civil law were to pass, half the unions would most likely survive the seven-year countdown. The other unstable half, those embroiled in quarrels, abuse, infidelity, would undoubtedly end before their seven-year itch is up.

Ann Edenfield Sweet, executive director/founder of Wings, a non-profit that helps families with spouses in prison, wasn’t too excited about the idea. “My first reaction is that two people marry for ‘better or for worse.’ The grass is always greener when the sun is shining. Grass doesn’t look as pretty in a soggy rain. Marriage is a commitment. When children are brought into the marriage, the relationship changes even more. Children need a mother and a father. They don’t need either parent thinking that they’ll only be there for five or six or seven years and then a new partner will be in the picture. No;“ the more I think about it, I think it is a terrible idea. It provides a McDonalds attitude about marriage —“ make it quick and convenient, and instant satisfaction. Relationships take time and grow through the ups and downs of life.”

Seattle-based Harriet Cannon, M.C., a licensed marriage and family therapist and mental health counselor, remarked, “From a developmental psychology point of view, marriage (or partnerships) don’t work long-term without commitment. It’s about trust. Conditional commitment is not commitment. If, at the getgo, I tell you I’m outta here in seven years, why should either of us bother? If the relationship is just for sex, you don’t need a commitment anyway. Marriages can fail for lots of reasons, but if you aren’t willing to take the risk, trust, vulnerability, and commitment, why bother?”

Cynthia Smith, co-author of Why Women Shouldn’t Marry: Being Single By Choice, felt the seven-year marriage concept had some merits. “I’ve interviewed many couples and found that when children are involved, they’ll stay together an average of 10 to 12 years before they call it quits,” says Smith. “So I suppose the seven-year time limit would work for couples who don’t intend to have kids. In seven years, you ought to know enough about the guy to know if the marriage will last.” Smith also noted some advantages for widows ready to tie the knot again. “I can see this as a solution for widows who remarry in their 50s and beyond. These women typically end up being nurses and pushing their new husbands in wheelchairs.”

About the Author: Alex A. Kecskes is a national award-winning writer with more than 20 years experience in advertising, PR and promotions. He is founder of ak creativeworks, a creative services company and writes regularly for web and print.