’Til five years from now do us part

By in Opinions


Marriage should be forever, but with modern relationships evolving to include more openness and freedom, our current legal definitions of marriage seem irrelevant and should be redefined.

Véronique Laliberté, a law student at the University of Ottawa, is writing her master’s thesis on the idea of fixed-term marriages. According to her, marriage contracts should only last for five years, at which point the couple can renew their marriage or part ways without the legal tape of a messy divorce to sort through.

Statistically, marriages do not end well. The last year the divorce rate was measured in Canada was 2008 and Statistics Canada counted 70,226 divorces. Comparatively there were 147,848 new marriages in the same year, meaning that the divorce rate was half of the rate of marriage.

Therefore, our current definition of marriage is becoming outdated and we should redefine the way we approach legal relationships.

Laliberté thinks a fixed-term marriage could be romantic. It’s a way of opening up communication about marriage and relationships and could actually help us share happiness with the ones we love. It’s a lot easier to take someone for granted when you figure you’re with them forever no matter what, but if you know you only have so much time with them, you might find it easier to appreciate your relationship and the other person.

After all, modern relationships have come a long way. While marriage used to be more akin to an exchange of property — and still is in many parts of the world — nowadays couples move in together, settle down and start families, all before tying the knot. Many of those relationships work out just fine without any marriage contract.

So why does the idea of a fixed-term marriage still feel slightly uncomfortable? There’s an intuitive negative reaction to the idea, but logically it makes sense. It could be because marriage is by definition a relationship for life — with exceptions. Infidelity has always been a justifiable reason for divorce. If marriage is set up with an escape clause in it anyway, that kind of defeats the whole point of forever.

However, if marriage is only temporary, then wouldn’t we be losing the opportunity to make it through the difficult times to emerge stronger and with a deeper love for each other? Couples who take the easy way out and separate when their relationship hits a rough bump won’t have the chance to reconcile with each other and be able to say that they truly did stay together through thick and thin.

While this makes sense, I don’t think this experience is exclusive to happily-ever-after marriages. A temporary marriage agreement could make it easier to stay together through the difficult times since we know that they would also be temporary. It would in effect be like tempering a storm since you know it will end, as opposed to feeling trapped in a horrible relationship forever. Half of the time, the bad times are only bearable because we know they will come and go.

Of course, nobody is forcing anyone to get a fixed-term marriage to begin with, which raises my final point. We have a tendency to appeal to tradition and ostracize anyone who tries to do things differently, especially if we feel like they are infringing on our territory.

But marriage as an institution doesn’t belong to anybody. Nobody’s lifelong commitment is being undermined by someone else’s short-term commitment. Realistically, fixed-term marriages sound like a very appealing option for our generation due to increasing rates of divorce and career-focused individuals, not to mention the money saved by not going through the process of divorce.

It really is a matter of individual preferences. People come in a variety of kinds and so do our relationships, and it only makes sense to update our legal processes as we go.