My blogging friend, LA, recently wrote a couple of posts about one of the traditions surrounding the marriage contract. And yes, while the piece of paper a couple signs says “marriage license” it’s actually a contract with a lot of implied terms and conditions.
The tradition LA had focused on was that of the men asking parental permission to marry their daughter. This question provoked some good discussion on the possible drawbacks of maintaining such a tradition in modern times.
At the same time this discussion was transpiring, I came across an article suggesting that married couples needed an additional contract, a “relationship contract,” especially if they were a dual-career couple.
Now, I’m not sure if the author recognized the implications of using this language or if they were just trying to speak figuratively, but when we attorneys hear the word “contract,” well, that means all kinds of things. What are the terms, what consideration is given by each party, what constitutes a breach, is there a liquidated damages clause, is there a forum selection clause, will any ensuing conflicts be decided by binding arbitration?
I could go on and on. Contracts are fun for attorneys 😊
I would have to think that this author was in the figurative realm as here is the general gist of the “contract” she spoke of:
[We] . . . “agreed that our relationship would come before everything. We would never live apart. We would share all our feelings, good and bad, pride and jealousy, delight and annoyance. We would share all our money and books, and only the latter would never be enough. We also committed to investing in each other’s professional dreams, and to keeping each other from turning those dreams into obsessions. We committed to pushing each other to live up to our potential. We would be freer together than we could ever be alone.”
This sounds to me to be more in the nature of a commitment to honestly and fully communicate, as well as sharing the material aspects of combining resources. And indeed, effective communication on all aspects of relationship is key to building and maintaining that relationship.
But I wouldn’t willy-nilly throw the word “contract” around. Personal relationships are far more complicated than business relationships, and the context the author introduced her piece with implied there being a business relationship. One where the terms had to be hammered out least the marriage fail should one partner’s career goals shift or one term be violated.
I think we’ve all seen some marriages, especially in the political arena, that were more business than personal. The couple shared some ambitious goals involving achieving some collective power positions and possibly wealth, but not necessarily a commitment to each other – no clauses about infidelity, or sharing non-material dreams, or even maintaining heart ties.
I believe the author’s intentions were good, but I’m not sure that adding the pressure of another binding legal agreement is the best way to ensure the success of a marriage.
I’m diverging a bit from my usual writings and storytelling today by piggybacking on LA’s discussion, but tell me what your thoughts are on this.
I’m truly interested in what people think will aid in maintaining a successful relationship. One that grows with the individuals that is based upon mutual respect and understanding, not cold terms written on a piece of paper about career goals.
I’m, perhaps, more curious now than in the past because there seems to have been a growing shift to material consciousness. For example, all I’ve encountered in the new world of internet dating seems to be focused on a persons wealth – that, and maybe credit rating, has become the major determinant for if a person wishes to establish a relationship, and this concept of adding a “relationship contract” seems to feed into that notion of becoming partners in a business enterprise as opposed to building a truly loving relationship.
Photo: I chose the Sandhill Cranes in flight today because the cranes mate for life with one partner. They don’t require contracts to be faithful or share career goals. Since there are three in this photo, I will assume the third one is their juvenile child, or perhaps their attorney 🙂