A Marriage Alternative: How Considering a Shift to Temporary Marriage Might Benefit Your Relationship

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Temporary clock art
(Image/ART + marketing)

My brain and gut recoiled in disgust at the two words: Temporary Marriage.

They were hyperlinked in my email to an article I was certain I would disagree with—A Temporary Marriage Makes More Sense than Marriage for Life.

But then I read it.

I’m a lot a better at admitting when I’m wrong and checking my biases at the door today than I used to be, since doing it the other way is literally the reason me and so many others are divorced despite wishing we were not.

Whenever a philosophical conversation is happening about The Way Things Should Be (politics and religion, in a nutshell), there are two things to consider:

  1. The best idea in an ideal world under optimum conditions.
  2. The best idea based on its implications in the world we actually live in.

Which isn’t a small thing. The worst events and conditions in human history usually begin with two people or two groups with opposing opinions regarding this nebulous concept of The Way Things Should Be.

I was surprised at how unoffended I was by author Vicki Larson’s article championing the idea of temporary marriages.

Like a pro athlete’s contract. Something designed to last maybe two to five years, before the terms of the agreement are revisited and renegotiated.

A marital arrangement where neither the husband nor wife OWES their spouse any type of support emotionally, financially, or sexually beyond the length of the marriage contract if one or both of them should choose at that time to NOT renew their marriage agreement.

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to the idea itself, and THEN, on top of that debate, there’s all the fine print no one is reading or paying attention to.

The Pros of Temporary Marriage

It’s not all bad.

People would never feel too trapped in a horrible marriage. People who WANTED to stay married would be more motivated to behave accordingly, and less inclined to take their spouse for granted.

People who are super-into variety and novelty would have it.

What people want in their 20s is often different than what they want in their 60s. A partner who is awesome while you’re in your 20s but who WON’T be awesome in your retirement years, won’t be an unpleasant surprise later. You’ll both see it coming and NOT renew your marriage contract once the time is up.

Shitty husbandry? At least the way I often characterize it? You’re in a contract year, fellas! Better play your ass off if you want to keep her!

Let’s not underestimate the power of deadlines and a fundamental shift in human psychology RE: positively impacting how people behave within their relationships and marriages.

I honestly believe a lot of measurable good would occur in a Temporary Marriage arrangement in which both married partners fully accepted the terms of the arrangement heading in, and WANTED them, and had the support of their families and social networks.

The Cons of Temporary Marriage

According to the most recent U.S. Census data I could find (2012), there are about 115 million households in the United States. A ‘household’ is defined as everyone (even just one person) living in a housing unit.

Of those 115 million households, more than 76 million of them are “Family households,” which doesn’t take into account people who USED to be in family households (divorced parents, widows/widowers, empty-nesters, etc.)

That’s the bureaucratic way of saying MANY people like to have sex and/or have babies and raise children.

There’s a debate to be had about the merits of reproducing little, ungrateful parasitic humans, but I’m totally glad we do. I’m in the Pro-Human Race Continuing to Exist camp, so it’s neat that babies are a thing. I’m happy I was born, so I’m grateful to my parents. And I’m the father of a rapidly growing little man in grade school and he is the center of my universe. I didn’t even know it was possible to love something the way I do my son.

It’s not a math equation. You can’t measure that. Parents don’t love OTHER children as much as their own children. Most parents would do UNTHINKABLE things to protect their kids, or in an effort to provide them a means of living a good life.

Larson barely mentions children in her article, saying only that the idea was INTENDED for people who did not have children, and planned on NOT having them.

I’m glad, too, because in my estimation, a “temporary marriage” could ONLY work effectively without the introduction of children to the equation.

One group of people won’t put a lot of stock in how children are impacted, because they don’t have any. Makes sense. Seems tone-deaf, but makes sense.

And the OTHER group will stop at nothing to protect their children.

Because of this, I don’t think this is a debate that’s ever going to gain much traction, culturally.

The Fine Print

Larson is proposing an idea. As someone who loves thinking about and proposing ideas that challenge the status quo, I’m inclined to cut Larson a little slack for glossing over the fine print in her short article. I’m sure she and co-author Susan Pease Gadoua go into much greater depth in their book The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels.

Here’s the fine print:

Statistically speaking (just in the United States, but these numbers hold up throughout most of the world), 95 out of 100 people will get married, or are planning to.


Because we all grow up—and even if our parents are divorced (mine were)—it seems like EVERY adult is married, or dating with the intention of getting married, and that all of our friends are planning to get married one day.

We all know someone in the 5 percent. The “I’m never getting married!” people. And what do we think of them—even if it’s bullshit and unfair? We think they’re weirdos. Or, that they’ll sell out and get married anyway (which is pretty common, because—95 percent).

We have that reaction for the same reason that I thought I was going to get all pissed off and self-righteous about this Temporary Marriage article and idea.

We BELIEVE THINGS. All of us. We believe things.

Sometimes what we believe is pretty innocuous, like which team will win the football game, or how many ‘S’s are in the name Mississippi, or who is responsible for leaving those presents under the Christmas tree on December 25.

Other times, what we believe carries more weight. You know—the scary stuff. God. Climate. War. Afterlife. The value of an unborn human. The value of people who live in other parts of the world. The value of people who don’t believe what we believe. The value of people who don’t look like us.

What we choose to do with THOSE beliefs determines the fate of the world on a macro scale, and on a micro scale, determines the fate of our personal lives.

I used to believe that everything I was taught and believed was TRUTH. All caps. Truth. And that anyone who believed other things was wrong.

You know who else uses that same logic to make important life decisions and justify doing or saying things that might hurt others? Mass murderers and terrorists.

When I finally realized that much too late into my adulthood, I pledged to stop.

Here’s why this is important to marriage—temporary or otherwise.

BILLIONS of people believe marriage is more than just a government-sponsored contract. They believe it’s SPIRITUAL. Divinely influenced by an all-powerful creator. By God, essentially, even though many of those people believe radically different things about God.

Various religious groups have been trying to convince OTHER religious groups that their beliefs are WRONG for—well—a really long time. Humans have only been writing things down for about 5,200 years, so it’s tough to know just how far back religious arguments between people or groups actually go, but I’m pretty sure in 5,200 years, there is no documented evidence of THAT practice working out well for all involved.

Don’t Be So Quick to Dismiss it Just Because it Looks Different

The concept of “temporary marriage” flies in the face of so-called “traditional marriage,” which is a trash term, but we all know what it means.

It’s a trash term because so few people honor what it ACTUALLY MEANS to enter a traditional marriage, and that includes myself back in 2004.

I was 25 years old. I was a moron. And worse, I was a moron who BELIEVED myself to be smart.

Those are the scariest people.

Here’s my quick and dirty take on marriage (leaving spirituality out of it, because that’s super-personal to everyone and well above my pay grade):

What people need to succeed in marriage is PHILOSOPHICAL ALIGNMENT. It helps to believe the same things, want the same things, share the same goals, and speak the same language. (Metaphorically, I mean – you need to be able to accurately interpret what the other person is saying to you. Most people suck at this, which is why couples always have the same fight.)

I think almost ANY belief system can work, but it’s so important in a life-long committed partnership that BOTH people share it. Differing beliefs create conflict. Conflict creates negative emotions. Negative emotions provoke shitty marriage behaviors and all-around bad feelings.

And then toxic marriage and/or divorce happens. All the traditionalism in the world can’t stop that from being true.

I don’t think “temporary marriage” is super-practical, but it’s damn sure a superior option to toxic marriage and divorce.

I’m not likely to become a “temporary marriage” advocate any time soon, but I think the POSITIVES of a mutually agreed-to temporary commitment to one’s life partner can’t be dismissed.

Because near as I can tell, THAT would solve so much of what I believe ails modern marriage.

So, I guess if you’re unable or unwilling to have children, and brave enough to tell everyone who thinks they know what’s best for you far more than you do to piss off, check it out.

Thinking and asking questions never hurt anyone who wasn’t being violently oppressed.

So think.

Ask questions.

And maybe stop doing things simply because someone without any skin in the game told you that you should.

47 thoughts on “A Marriage Alternative: How Considering a Shift to Temporary Marriage Might Benefit Your Relationship”

  1. Pingback: Temporary Union* – Calidad en hortalizas y educacion ambiental

  2. Kind of interesting,we have several friends who lived together for years, had children even, but then they finally decided to get married. Not one of those marriages lasted a year. People who had been together for 10, 20 years.Very strange! To me that suggests that marriage brings with it expectations and assumptions. Not trying to pick on guys here,but everyone of those guys acted different once they were married, they became entitled, they thought they were owed something.

    1. Right?

      But what if they weren’t ‘promised’ forever? One should not have to constantly earn someone’s approval to be loved.

      But one SHOULD behave in ways that prove ‘worthy’ of the love they are given in a marriage. Not once. Every day. Not sometimes. Always.

    2. Replying to IB: “”Kind of interesting,we have several friends who lived together for years, had children even, but then they finally decided to get married. Not one of those marriages lasted a year. People who had been together for 10, 20 years.Very strange! To me that suggests that marriage brings with it expectations and assumptions. Not trying to pick on guys here,but everyone of those guys acted different once they were married, they became entitled, they thought they were owed something.”” and Matt said “Right?”

      I kind of think that every marriage is in a sense “temporary” until there are children. It’s easy to revoke it. However, I am personally in favour of thinking of a marriage as a permanent commitment, not something optional that can be walked away from if we feel a bit unhappy. It’s so easy to reason that the cause for our unhappiness is our partner, when often it isn’t. I take Matt’s overall point to be that people need a little prompt every year or two, to think, “am I still keeping my eye on things?” Not that it should be easy to walk away from.

      However, that “they became entitled, thought they were owed” thing… If being married doesn’t bring entitlement to anything, then what do the marriage vows mean? I think the very very least that can be expected from marriage is “I am not considering the possibility of changing partners”.

      1. Well, one problem with entitlement is that it can become arrogant rather than humble and there is often a lack of gratitude. What we are entitled to, we tend to take for granted. I don’t agree with “temp marriage” at all, but I like the mindset behind it. All marriages are temporary in the sense that they really can be gone tomorrow, in death or divorce. So we should be approaching it with gratitude and appreciation, not entitlement.

  3. Sorry, I’m not with you on this one. We already have “temporary marriage” as you described it — it’s called dating.

    The fundamental difference between dating someone and marriage is the life long commitment.

    1. I hope this didn’t sound as if I was advocating this. I consider it wholly impractical.

      What I AM advocating is for people to consider how much better their marriages would be if they were regularly up for renewal if both people agreed to do so.

      I think most of the things that ruin marriage today would ruin fewer marriages if people were concerned with their spouse’s decision on whether to ‘recommit’ to the marriage after their short commitment time.

      Just a thought exercise.

      I think marriage is just fine. As you astutely point out, people already have an opportunity to not do it.

      Pretty amazing how many people are getting it wrong despite their many options and the stakes involved.

      1. Matt,
        This definitely “ruffled my feathers” at first. But, I put aside my beliefs for a moment to hear you out, and with this comment–I am fully on board.

        Marriage needs a regular review process. When I ask guys how their marriage is doing on a 1-10 scale, and then ask their wives, I typically get a difference of 1.5 to 2 points. The guys are always much higher.

        So, I suggest any married couple (whether guys, girls, or a mix of the two) check in on a regular basis and then find out what might make it even better. While it is unrealistic to live at a 10, we can strive to live between 7 and 8 most of the time.

        I will say for myself, if I had to re-up my contract during my marriage, there would’ve been some hand-wringing moments of concern about the renewal.

        Thanks for the challenge.

        1. A *review* does not have to mean a *renewal*!!

          This would basically be the end of marriage.

          Terrible idea!!!

  4. A few decades ago when divorces became “no fault”, I think practically speaking we are in a temporary marriage phase.

    It may not be set up to expire in 5-10 years. But one person (more commonly the woman statistically) can choose to file for divorce if for whatever reason they want out of the marriage. This is very different than how difficult it used to be.

    Did no fault divorces improve relationship quality? When you know your partner can file at any time? Well the statistics don’t back that up.

    Now I am not at all suggesting we get rid of no fault divorces. I’m just questioning the author’s premise of how relationships work and that temporary works better than permanent.

    1. I should probably clarify my personal stance once more.

      I think one of the most significant contributors to divorce–by a mile–is the long-term resentment that builds incrementally over MANY conversations, arguments, fights, moments of invalidation, etc.

      And I think, IF two adults entered a relationship MUTUALLY agreeing to reevaluate their ‘togetherness’–their partnership–after two or three years (the length is irrelevant), that The Little Things that slowly kill love and marriages would happen at a lesser rate.

      I’m saying your run-of-the-mill Shitty Husband (assuming he loves and wants his wife) will be infinitely less likely to dismiss his wife’s concerns as petty and unimportant if he knows that at Marriage Renogiation time, she might choose to walk if he’s being an asshole, and she’s giving way more to the relationship than he is.

      I’m trusting people to understand the value I place in commitment and in ACTUALLY loving, serving–as selflessly as possible–one’s partner, one’s marriage, and one’s family (though this conversation doesn’t apply to families. Children make this a non-starter, to begin with. A stable and healthy home life is entirely too important for kids to BEGIN the parenting conversation with “Well, maybe this will work out; maybe it won’t.”

      Context, context, context.

      This is all nonsense anyway. No one is ever going to fundamentally change the Forever premise of ‘Marriage’ for the vast, vast, vast majority of people.

      The question to ponder is this:

      “If I was being reviewed on my spousal performance similarly to how I am reviewed in my job performance, how might I behave differently in order to offer the best performance I could? If I am NOT giving that much now (since there is no review process in place), doesn’t that mean I am negligently short-changing my spouse and marriage? Shouldn’t I STOP doing that right now?”

      The answer to all of that is: YES.

      1. My comment must not have been clear. I am not questioning your commitment to marriage.

        I was commenting about the author’s premise of the article you are responding to.

        Here’s another piece of data to throw into the mix.

        It is now culturally much more acceptable to live together before getting married. Many people stay “engaged” and live together for years. This is another form of temporary marriage.

        Do those relationships show better quality than other married people?

        Bill Doherty’s research says that most of the time the answer is no. Why?

        Well of course it’s complicated but some of the answer has to do with making a definite decision to stay together versus sliding into marriage because it’s the next thing or economic circumstances.

        So I agree with the author of the article that a DEFINITE choice is very very helpful.

        But I disagree that re-upping is the way to do it. I will write another comment later because as usual I have more thoughts and than time. ?

        1. No, no, no. It was clear. I’m sorry. I didn’t interpret your comment as challenging me. I just don’t think I did a great job clarifying my position in the actual article (I have appallingly little time to write and publish these things).

          Something about the four or five comments I read culminating with yours sparked the desire to re-state why I think this matters, and I apologize for wording it in a way that you thought was me defending my position against yours.

          That almost never happens.

          I already know you’re smarter than me, young lady. And wouldn’t dream of suggesting otherwise. #facts

          1. Oh no apologies necessary Matt!

            I know one of my flaws is to forget to add polite qualifiers and it comes off more negatively or confrontational than I intend to communicate.

            So I thought maybe that’s what happened.

            One point I want to add about the pros and cons of the idea, I think that many divorces are unnecessary because the relationship could be fixed if the right diagnosis and help was there.

            So if it’s a temporary marriage people will give up more often because they think it’s not fixable when it is. Without the marriage commitment it’s easier to just move on when it gets tough.

            But usually marriages are shitty because both people lack certain relationship skills. So if you just move on to the next temporary marriage you will likely just create a new shitty relationship because you haven’t figured out what you need to do to be in a successful relationship.

            You think it’s the other person or you’re just too “different” or whatever. When the real issue is that something needs to change to enable being in a healthy relationship.

          2. This may bother people, but I feel this already happens already, and that maybe it’s not the worst thing. I think MOST people blame the other person for their relationship problems, whether the relationship is intact or in the past.

            I’m totally okay with two people wanting to move on to another dysfunctional relationship IF the terms of the arrangement were totally understood to be temporary.

            This sounds radical because it’s so different than now, but in the hypothetical scenario Larson is proposing, Temporary Marriage would be culturally accepted, and people wouldn’t be having weird mental/emotional hangups about it. It would simply be a normal part of life. Good or bad. Right or wrong.

            I don’t really make judgments about that.

            What I DO make judgements about is when someone vowed to love and honor someone for the rest of their lives, and then doesn’t honor the agreement.

            It’s heinous when it’s done intentionally or cruelly.

            It’s tragic when it’s done ignorantly or unintentionally.

            I want people to have healthy relationships. Very much.

            But Priority #1 for me is reducing instances of marriages falling apart between two well intentioned people who were asleep at the wheel.

            If two people with selfish asshole tendencies never get married in the first place, or jump ship without anyone suffering any long-term consequences, I guess I don’t think that is big of a societal problem?

            I don’t know. I need to think more about how much I actually mean that. I could change my mind by tomorrow.

          3. Well I have NEVER blamed my husband for our marriage problems. Ha ha ha ha ha

            It is just so hard to fight against that. Because you naturally see it from your perspective and as you write about so often it’s very hard to see it from a point of view that seems very different than what we prefer or even understand.

            I take your point about judging the temporary marriage.

            I see it as causing pain so that’s why I judged the cycle of breakups that people can’t even figure out what happened as “bad.”

            It’s true in temporary dating situations too. I’ve had friends who get their hearts broken and keep picking the same types of partners or don’t stop to evaluate what they need to change.

            That’s what I mean. I think is a smaller subset of people who are making conscious choices and the relationship is good but then they both decide it’s time to move on. And then they partner up with other people better suited to their current needs in a new healthy relationship.

            I think that happens but I don’t think that’s the biggest group of people.

            Most people can’t figure out how to pick a healthy compatible person and/ or how to be in a healthy relationship that requires flexibility and maturity when differences or hard things happens.

            That’s my take anyway.

          4. Maybe it’s because my personal marriage issues don’t involve being “asleep at the wheel” that we think about it somewhat differently.

            Both of us were trying hard and were awake. We just didn’t understand what was happening or how to deal with it.

            I think you are right there are other types of people who are asleep at the wheel or who just expect marriage to be easy.

          5. One stat I have read is that many marriages that are unhappy are happier 5 years later. I think if it gets bad enough it can wake people up to do something.

            It’s the ones that just limp along mildly unhappy that are more problematic in a certain way.

          6. This may bother people too but I am a fan of “blaming”.

            And by that I mean an accurate accounting of what is your responsibility in the mess and what is the your spouse’s. That’s what I have learned to do based on research of healthy relationships.

            So I now “blame” my husband based on those objective standards and look for those things to change. Stonewalling for example. That is where I know it’s healthy to set boundaries.

            And I “blame” myself for where I fall short of healthy thing. Like asking for change without judgment. Can you blame without judgment? I think you can.

            Some people like to argue the words you call matter so they call it “responsible” instead of blame or whatever. To me blame makes more sense because the relationship is causal. But whatever works.

            I think the key is to see the correct analysis but not make it mean the person is “bad”. That is critical and my side of the blame since I do that a lot.

      2. But if your main point is that men in particular need the threat of being fired to behave in ways that create a good marriage then I am not necessarily disagreeing with that. I am sure you are right for a subset of men.

        Since most people respond to loss avoidance stronger than driving for something positive there is a definitely some truth there.

        As Jay says to have a good marriage you have to have a way to check in regularly and adjust as needed. That seems the overall goal to figure out how to see that as a necessity and follow through.

        And many people, particularly men for cultural reasons, do NOT see that as necessary. That is the problem we agree on I think.

        I understand you are using this article as a discussion point and not proposing a temporary marriage as a solution to divorce.

        I’m just randomly thinking about the pros and cons of her general idea.

        1. “men in particular need the threat of being fired to behave in ways that create a good marriage”

          As was in a relationship that I would rate around 4 on a scale 1-10, and my then-girlfriend would consistently rate 8 or 9. Yet I was the bad guy for opting out of that.
          I know i’ve written this before, but many women for cultural reasons seem to set the benchmark for a good relationship according to what THEY want out of it, and not for what’s good for the couple.

          I’ll just have that quote of yours imprinted on a big poster and put it on my wall, just as a reminder.

          1. Matt writes to a specific subset of men. I was agreeing with him on that particular subset of men.

            I don’t think you are in that subset.

            My husband is not in that subset. He is not motivated by the threat of being “fired” in the way Matt describes himself and other men like him.

            You ex-girlfriend represents a subset of women that I agree want the happy wife happy life approach to a relationship.

            I am not in that subset. I don’t relate to that. I have other problems but not that one ?

            It’s hard to write about men are like this, women are like that. It’s of course going to be inaccurate even as it does describe some subsets of people.

            I am sorry that I didn’t phrase my comments more carefully. There are plenty of women who screw up the relationship more than men.

          2. The research I have read says that men in heterosexual relationships rate their relationship satisfaction higher than their girlfriends/wives. And they are more often surprised when the wife divorces them.

            Obviously this is averages not totals. There are lots of relationships that go the way yours did.

            It is hard to not fit into averages because then it seems like your story is never accounted for properly because people describe men and women in relationships in ways that aren’t true for your experience. I feel that way
            sometimes anyway. Maybe you do too.

          3. You’re scary-brilliant and thoughtful sometimes.

            And I’m perpetually failing to communicate how much I think so. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas, experiences, energy — everything that you share here.

            It’s a blessing.

          4. Matt,

            That is exceedingly generous and kind of you to say.

            I write here mostly for my own selfish reasons to help me process things and to practice learning better skills. I hope that some people might get some small benefit from what I share I have learned. But as FlyingKal points out sometimes I fail to do that.

            Thank for being gracious to allow me to write so many comments and for responding to my sometimes poorly phrased and too harsh disagreements to your posts.

            I have a lot more practicing to do. ?

          5. Gottmanfan,
            My comment was an expression of general frustration and a lifetime of internalized self-blame. It was not intended as an attack on you or your phrasing, but I can easily see it being interpreted that way. And I offer you my sincere and whole-hearted apology for that.

            My dilemma and the source of most of my frustration is that even if neither I nor my girlfriend was representative for the majority or general population, it seemed that wherever I turned to try and get some advice on my/our situation, everyone readily assumed that we were just that (representative, that is). So whatever I did or said, 99% of the advice I received could be boiled down to “Quit being stupid and lazy, you schmuck!”.
            Because as you say, most people believe that particularly men for cultural reasons, do NOT see that (checking in regularly and adjusting as needed to have a good relationship) as necessary, even the perhaps small subset of us who do, are often frowned upon.

          6. gottmanfan,

            ‘Matt writes to a specific subset of men. I was agreeing with him on that particular subset of men.

            It’s hard to write about men are like this, women are like that. It’s of course going to be inaccurate even as it does describe some subsets of people.’

            I suppose Matt does write to a specific subset of men, but it seems he thinks that all men are like that. As you point out, his statements will be inaccurate in many cases. I (and many other men, I believe) recognize this and consequently consider his opinion to be skewed. It is then particularly irksome to see him effectively refuse to consider this to be a realistic possibility.

  5. Too tired for a reasoned comment on a lot of interesting things here. However … gotta say, this quote made me snort chocolate chip cookie out my nose. Thanks for this !!

    Shitty husbandry? At least the way I often characterize it? You’re in a contract year, fellas! Better play your ass off if you want to keep her!

  6. Apart from the commitment issue (but I’ll mention that,too) what Erks me is that there needs to be some sort of review to motivate someone to give a sh*t about their spouse or significant other.
    I would be PISSED ? that all of a sudden you were paying attention when you knew you had something to lose, but weren’t all that involved the year previous.
    I don’t know if there is a difference between women and men that men just don’t enjoy the relationship. They just don’t enjoy the person and the interactions between the two.
    Re: Commitment…
    There have been studies done that showed that couples were more happy and successful when they were both committed….When they had both feet in, instead of looking out for what was next.
    The idea of keeping your options opened can actually lead to poorer outcomes.
    So, yeah- we could all live in temporary relationships and the more we *Do* live like that, the more likely they will be (because, ya know- they suck : next!!).

    1. You are right that commitment more often leads to better relationships.

      A lack of commitment certainty can exacerbate an anxious/avoidant (pursuer/withdrawer) pattern which is the most common pattern in heterosexual relationships.

      That leads to an increase in marital dissatisfaction and often divorce because it destroys intimacy and the ability communication.

      So yeah downsides there.

      1. I can’t remember who did the original research but for some reason I associate Dan Airly (psychology of economics guy) with the concept. Basically there’s more satisfaction and fulfillment, I want to say you even like your partner more when you stop comparing them with other potential partners, or your situation with other potential situations.
        It’s very much a “the grass is greener where you water it” sort of finding.
        Our day dreams and imaginations are way more exciting than either our current reality or a potential one. That’s because we have one brain imagining a perfect reality (for us) without having any other brains interfering – that’s when reality steps in.
        And of course if your in a relationship and always looking for some other / better thing then you miss what is present in front of you.

  7. As I get older and seemingly “invisible” to men, I think such temporary arrangements might be a losing proposition for women in hetero relationships. Don’t studies prove that men place a higher value on the attractiveness of prospective mates than women do? And is there not often an age gap in most marriages, with older men married to younger women? Would a 50-year-old man re-commit to a 50-year-old temporary spouse at renewal time, or would he consider the possibility of a younger match, no matter how personable and accomplished the current spouse may be?

    1. Sadly, this is an excellent point.

      It’s also true that women more than men file for divorce after 50 so in that sense they are the ones choosing not to re-up. It’s, as always, complicated.

    2. There’s always plan b:
      I believe whole heartedly that people need other people. We need real relationship and daily interaction, and knowing you count for something in other people’s lives.
      If we are lucky, and spend the time and effort towards building those relationships, my hope is that as we get older we can really relish the gifts we’ve sown.
      Sometimes romantic relationships don’t work out.
      At least not the way we want them to, or think they should go. I think the best thing about “old love” is the comfort and friendship that seems to come easier.
      It is harder for older women to start relationships. When I think about what it takes for good relationships to develope it can feel impossible for it to ever happen. The most I can hope for at present is to be myself, enjoy life fully, love those around me and if that ever develops then I’ll know that it’s the real deal. I won’t have to worry about all the statistics that women over 40 fall under. Because it won’t be about odds. It would be about me and this “him” and the relationship we have together already.
      And even if that doesn’t happen- living your life fully, wholeheartedly and full of love can still bring you tons of joy, gifts and happiness.

    3. “”Would a 50-year-old man re-commit to a 50-year-old temporary spouse at renewal time, or would he consider the possibility of a younger match?””

      You would think. But I am in my 60s, and finding that single women in my age range are not generally interested in being in a relationship. If they are single, then generally they seem to want to be single. So no, the older man does not have an easy wide choice of attractive mates.

    4. “”Would a 50-year-old man re-commit to a 50-year-old temporary spouse at renewal time, or would he consider the possibility of a younger match, no matter how personable and accomplished the current spouse may be?””

      And I have another answer. Most men are, well, a bit lazy? The marriage would have to be pretty bad for him to want to go through all that work of finding, and getting to know, a new person. I may be wrong but I think most men just want to keep what they have — this is part of why it’s women that initiate divorces.

    5. It is also true that there’s not an infinite number of “attractive” young women to “go around”. In most industrialized countries, birth rates for boys outnumber birth rates for girls by 4-5% on average (I limit the discussion because I don’t have the statistics for the entire world), And those figures are most often not evened out until people are well into their 60’s.
      So, for every older woman being rendered “invisible” and replaced by a younger one, there’s also at least one young man being treated the same way.

  8. Just some residual ruminations on the topic of a relationship review…
    I can get that for some people there needs to be a significant motivating force to elicit some behaviors.
    But Im pretty sure that even if there were relationship reviews with the threat of a “divorce”, they would stop being a powerful motivator eventually. “Oh- Ive passed the last 3 reviews, no way they will break it off now…”
    And laziness ensues…
    Also, doing all the work near a review is reminiscent of the panicked last quarter of a losing game. Similar to the last few months leading up to the finalizing of the divorce, where the one who doesn’t want a divorce puts out all the effort to sustain the relationship.
    But by then, its too late. (And to the person who is witnessing all the panicked effort, it likely appears as though the effort isnt for anyone’s benefit except for the person putting out all the effort. They arent doing it because they care about the other partner or the relationship, they are doing it to save themselves from pain. )
    This sort of tact is actually nearly in complete opposition to what we know about the death by a thousand paper cuts, and about the small things.
    It doesnt have to be a daily gargantuan effort. Its just the check in on how their day was, turning towards them if they are making a bid (not every time, but at least half the time.)..
    being interested in what they are excited about, what is frustrating them, what they think about x. It doesnt have to be constant, just enough that they know they can trust you to be there, with them, in the relationship.

  9. Matt, slightly off topic, but those Dalrockians and red pills are men who often show an astounding lack of self awareness and constant contempt. They are an extreme example, but I think they point to a huge problem for men, being self aware.

    I think the whole idea of a temp marriage kind of touches on that. I don’t agree with it, but I think that’s what lies beneath the idea, develop some self awareness, some gratitude for your relationship, and value not just yourself, but someone else too. If you can’t love yourself, you sure won’t be able to love anyone else.

    1. “I think that’s what lies beneath the idea, develop some self awareness, some gratitude for your relationship, and value not just yourself, but someone else too. If you can’t love yourself, you sure won’t be able to love anyone else.”

      That’s true… and I think, if anything, it applies even more to women than it does to men!

    1. “It’s ALWAYS temporary anyway”… That’s simply false. There may be a lot of divorces these days, but there are also a lot of lifetime marriages.

      1. I bet you know I know what you are talking about.

        I know social theories and practice. That apart everything has a temporary stage and later developed into permanence. Short Run Long Run.

        We only pray for lifetime marriages. Of course many are blessed by it.

  10. “People would never feel too trapped in a horrible marriage. People who WANTED to stay married would be more motivated to behave accordingly, and less inclined to take their spouse for granted.”

    The fact that the marriage agreement is temporary can (and often does) work as a con rather than a pro, and modern culture proves it. After all, most of Americans today ARE in essence already practicing a form of “temporary marriage”. They live together, share finances, share expenses, share mortgages, share rent, have sex, have children, and raise children together until they decide to break up. The only difference is that they don’t have a predetermined contract set up for how long they expect to keep this up for. Having a predetermined contract COULD help to motivate couples to put more effort into their marriages IF they want to stay with the other person AND are mature enough to honestly assess their own wrongs. But as you said in another article, people are seldom willing to do that because honest self-examination is painful. It doesn’t matter much whether the marriage agreement is temporary or lifelong if the people in question are too selfish and immature to commit to each other with the humility and selfless, compassionate, steadfast love that marriage requires.

    For example, in a temporary (let’s say 5 year) marriage of two relatively immature and selfish people, if they find their marriage to be unsatisfying and lose all romantic feelings for each other by the end of their third year, they’re far less likely to put in enough sincere and earnest effort to work on and invest in their marriage than they would be if they knew they’re committed to each other for life. In many instances, a “temporary marriage” arrangement would be used as a cheap cop-out because most people ARE too immature, too selfish, and not self-aware enough to brave the pain and guilt of self-examination and self-sacrifice.

    Bottom line: Temporary arrangements would never solve any of the real problems of marriage because selfishness and immaturity are the root of all marriage problems. The only thing that setting up marriage as a temporary arrangement would do consistently in all scenarios is start the marriage with the mindset that there is a cop-out. Like if lifelong marriage is to be compared to the commitment one makes when buying a house, then these “temporary marriage” arrangements would be like leasing. Are you as motivated and committed to investing the work and resources you would into a house you have paid for in full as you would be for a place that you’re leasing for 2 years?

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