Reduce the Divorce Rate: Make Marriage Harder.

How can we reduce the divorce rate? It’s a question that lots of people ask.

And there are lots of suggested answers… many involve making it harder to get divorced: increase waiting times for a decree, insist on counseling first, go back to needing grounds, etc.

Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps less people would get divorced if it was a more arduous process.

You know what’s funny to me? All this talk about divorce… and so little talk about marriage.

I mean, how can you talk about one without the other? You can’t truly address the divorce rate as a “problem” (for those who think that way) without acknowledging there’s a problem with marriage.

So, what are we going to do about that?

Why Many Marriages “Fail”

One of my theories about why it’s so hard to stay married has to do with the way we treat weddings. As a society, we don’t value marriages… what we really celebrate is weddings. Consider this:

  • When a couple decides to marry, they throw an engagement party (yay, party!)
  • The pending matrimony is announced on social media and sometimes in the newspapers (yay, fame!)
  • Then, sometime before the wedding, someone throws another party for the Bride (yay, another party!)
  • As well, someone throws a party for the Groom (hurray, another party!)
  • The couple instructs everyone what gifts to buy them by registering at their favorite stores (yay, presents!)
  • All the girls go buy pretty new dresses!  And shoes!  And sticky bras (yay x3!)
  • Professional primpers are brought in to make sure everyone looks flawless (glamor!)
  • A professional picture person is hired to capture every glorious moment (paparazzi!)
  • Exclusive transportation is retained so the captivating couple can travel in style (yay!)
  • A fabulous mountain of pre-approved gifts grows as guests enter the reception (yay!)
  • Mr. and Mrs. PerfectCouple dance the night away among their adoring friends and family (awww!)
  • The big hurrah is followed up with an extravagant honeymoon- romance abounds (woo hoo!)

It’s awesome, right? A wedding can be a magical occasion, and a lot of fun. But there’s a problem: that’s not what marriage is about. As every couple inevitably discovers.

The special day comes and goes.  Mr. and Mrs. PerfectCouple return from their honeymoon to a mountain of bills, the obligation to write 231 thank-you cards, work, expectations, 3 sets of dishes, 2 blenders, 4 coffee makers, a new Family Roster, and a bunch of people asking when the “bun” will be put in the “oven”.

Where did all the good times go?

The way we do marriage, we are set up for failure. 

Think about it: the cake, the toasts, the fantasy-coming-true… Nothing gets any better than that!  At least, not with a typical All-American Material Mindset.  It’s all downhill from there. No wonder the divorce rate is so high!

A Better Way To Wed

Warning: What you are about to read sounds ludicrous. It’s meant to be thought-provoking. I’m not literally suggesting this.

So, what can we do to set marriages up for success?

I’d like to propose a change in procedures, to ensure a more realistic outlook and firm commitment from the participants.  I suggest that couples who plan to wed be required to give away 50% of their money and possessions.  This act of charity will not only benefit those less fortunate, it will also cut down on the excess of coffee makers at the new marital homestead.  Additionally, it exhibits a willingness to sacrifice for your mate- an imperative component of any stable marriage. 

Furthermore, I’d like to introduce a new ceremony:  The Ceremonial Fist Fight. For this “wedding,” the happy couple beats the hell out of each other while their friends and families are free to observe, cheer and throw things. 

I realize this sounds harsh… but really, don’t people end up doing a lot worse to each other in a metaphorically similar forum as they tread through a less-than-blissful existence together?  (think of the phone calls to Mom, the arguments in front of the kids and the time you threw that wine bottle…). 

No party afterward- no parties allowed until at least the one year anniversary.  Then go for broke- after there’s really a marriage (as opposed to a wedding) to celebrate.

Under my New Plan…

  • Couples would think really hard before initiating or accepting a marriage proposal. 
  • They would start out with less stuff—meaning, they’d need to work together to provide for each other. 
  • They would begin their journey broken and bruised, learning immediately the importance of apologies and healing wounds instead of carving new ones. 

Let’s start with the hard stuff and celebrate the actual accomplishments.  It makes sense, doesn’t it? And if we did it this way, I’m pretty sure the divorce rate would drop, at least a little.

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