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‘Til Lease Do Us Part?

April 25, 2009

The latest buzz about how to conquer the 7-year itch (and 30% incidence of divorce in the first 5 years of marriage) is the 7-year contract. Yes…lease your marriage. The idea of a marital contract was contemplated in a 1904 legislative petition in New York, but didn’t make it into law. I’m not sure why the idea has resurfaced, but given our penchant for the floating loan period, the renewable mortgage, always hoping that our income and housing values will go up (and we know how those ideas have fared), perhaps it’s an idea that mirrors the current mood of the country. Don’t count on anything to last forever–prepare for the worst.

There is value in periodically evaluating, “how’re we doin’?” in marriage. However, treating marriage as if it were a term-limited enterprise seems to fly in the face of why partners should be motivated to do their best–because you care about each other, and recognize that self-interest is tied to the interest of the couple, not pitted against it. Moreover, you recognize that each marriage, embedded as it is in life’s ups and downs, will have its struggles.

Yet, the 7-year lease on marriage would remind us that marriage is work, and you have to try hard to keep your job. Don’t we know that anyway?
And wouldn’t you be suspect of an extraordinary effort by your partner made at year 6 and 7/8ths ? Wouldn’t that whirlwind effort feel a bit manipulative, like why now?

This morning, I leave to celebrate the second marriage of a couple in their fifties, who celebrate the joining of romantic love (the second time around), with a wisdom about themselves and each other that will serve them well far beyond seven years. They represent why a lease on marriage will never substitute for a thoughtful, reflective and loving commitment. You can legislative many things, and contract for whatever deal seems valid at the time, but you have to earn trust to keep marriage vital. Beyond love, a couple has to commit to fair-mindedness to maintain a healthy relationship ( No written agreement will do that for you.

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