In houses of God, houses of representatives and family homes, the definition of marriage is a very live subject.
One potential change to the institution has not, or not yet, gained a lot of traction, however: giving it an expiry date.
The idea has been around some time. And Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is not the only place you’ll find people who embrace such a concept, notes Sarah Fentem in the Atlantic.
The Shia Muslim practice of Mut’a, or “pleasure marriage” limits the union to an agreed term, though is only scarcely to be found these days.
In Mexico City in 2011, meanwhile, a bill was proposed that would see marriage automatically expire after two years. A kind of marriage-sabbatical, the proposal required that “once their contract dissolved, they would be given the option of either cementing their vows for life or terminating their bond, minus the messy hassle”.
It never made it close to the law books.
With pre-marital cohabitation increasingly the norm, such a formal trial-run may seem hardly necessary. But what about the “renewable lease” approach? As the “grey divorce” rate (couples over 50 splitting) grows, it’s arguable that “time-sensitive marriage has morphed from a bitter joke into a viable option for modern couples”, says Fentem. She, however, is personally so inclined.
I’m aware that when I get married, there’s a chance it won’t work out. But that’s not what I want to tell myself if and when I decide to become someone’s wife. As a child in elementary school, around the same time my sister and I were photographed in matching “bride” Halloween costumes, I had a teacher who was fond of telling my class “ignorance is bliss.” When it comes to the possibility of a marriage failing, I prefer to pull the white tulle over my eyes. I’m aware that people, not a contract, make marriage permanent, but when I walk down the aisle, I want to believe, in my heart of hearts, mine will last forever.