Last week, Emma Johnson mentioned me on Twitter and invited me into a conversation on a blog post she wrote about marriage. The title of the post intrigued me, so I clicked on the link: “A 10-year contract will save marriage“. The premise of the post is that “marriage” as we’ve known it is dead and that a new system needs to be created to help people feel more successful. You can read the entire post here.
I left a comment on her post, giving my opinion, but since then have thought about the concept quite a bit. Trish and I have discussed it a few times and I felt lead to offer some thoughts about why I think the concept of a marriage contract looks great on paper but will never give people the marriage they truly desire.
Just because marriages that commit to “till death do us part” fail doesn’t mean we should change the duration of marriage to make us feel more successful. We don’t do that in any other area of our life, so why would should we that with marriage?
If a car manufacturer had a car that continued to fail safety standards, not because they didn’t try to build a safe car, but because they had faulty parts, would we lower the safety standards so the car manufacture could feel better about themselves or would we demand better parts?
If a group of students weren’t able to pass a standardized test to move beyond the 8th grade, not because they didn’t work hard, but because they weren’t taught the proper information, would we lower the standards so they could pass or would we get them better teachers?
The problem isn’t with the institution of marriage.
The problem is that we are imperfect, fractured people and many of us got married thinking marriage would fix us.
We expected our marriage to be different. We expected our marriage to be happier. We expected it to be easier. But when it doesn’t end up being any of those things, somewhere around the 7-10 year mark we start thinking, “This isn’t what I signed up for. I’d be happier by myself or with someone else.”
The marriage we have isn’t the marriage we thought we’d have.
Rather than try to figure out how to have a life long marriage, signing a 10-year marriage contract feels like it would solve our problems.
I believe the answer to reviving marriage isn’t in reducing its commitment to 10 years, but rather getting back to the heart of the life-long promise it was intended to be.
Marriage was never meant to be a contractual agreement. It was designed to live and breathe in a covenant relationship. A covenant is different than a contract.
While a contract has an element of commitment attached to it, most contracts are conditional, temporary and breakable. The heart of a covenant is different. A covenant is based on the promise of those who enter it and their desire for it to be without conditions.
Marriage is supposed to be a daily renewed promise from one spouse to the other. Discontentment, entitlement and pride often get in the way of us renewing that promise. Without even realizing it we allow our marriage to become a commodity that we deserve something out of rather than a relationship we are trying to pour into.
The push back you might have as you read this is, “But you don’t know how bad my marriage is.” You’re right, I don’t. “But you don’t know how unwilling my spouse is to change.” You’re right, I don’t.
I do know that I lived for the first ten years of marriage in a contractual agreement, full of stipulations, conditions and out clauses. It was a distorted view of marriage. We didn’t have the marriage we wanted until we moved from contract to covenant.
The change you desire for your marriage will never come through a contract. Transformation happens as we choose to unconditionally love the one to whom we promised our life.
Marriage is messy and hard and often painful. Not every marriage will make it. But every marriage has the potential to be way more than a contractual agreement.
You can start over every 10 years with someone else. Or you can start over every day with the spouse you currently have and live in the freedom of a covenant relationship.