By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
The pandemic along with the need to spend so much time at home has been hard on relationships. For many couples, what began as loveable “quirks” have suddenly morphed into reasons you may have to kill somebody.
Thankfully, Tom and I have both worked from home for two years now, so it wasn’t a big transition for us. But even couples who are usually two peas in a pod need some alone time when life’s ordinary escapes disappear.
The situation reminded me of a column I once wrote nearly a decade ago about lawmakers in Mexico City who considered making marriage licenses temporary, with terms as short as two years. If the happy couple was no longer happy when the license expired, they’d simply go their separate ways – no divorce necessary.
Imagine wedding vows that sound like this: “I, prospective bride, do take you, chosen spouse, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, or for a period not to exceed 24 months, at which time the interested parties will meet to discuss contract negotiations.”
When Tom and I first heard about it, we joked about how the bride and groom could choose a “commitment package” at the altar. “Would you like our Premier Golden Love package, which will keep the knot firmly tied for 50 years? Or perhaps you’re more interested in our introductory No-Big-Deal package, which will free you from the chaffing bonds of matrimony in 24 short months.”
We know the failure rate for marriages is alarmingly high, but beginning a marriage knowing it’s temporary seems like a sure-fire way to kill it. Wouldn’t every marital disagreement leave spouses looking forward to the contract end date?
Imagine how different conversations in bars would be: “Hi. I noticed you from across the room. Are you single?”
“No, but I will be in 8 months. Hang onto my number.”
I’m no relationship expert, but I’ve been married for nearly 22 years. Part of what makes it work is having two people who are “all in” – not two people who kinda sorta want to test drive marriage to see how it handles the curves.
If marriages turn into something that looks more like a car lease, people will be more likely to think about what exciting new person they might find at the end of the lease, when the “new spouse smell” has worn off the first bride or groom. They’ll be thinking about trade-ins and upgrades instead of “til death do us part.”
Perhaps the husband and wife would meet in a board room with their attorneys when it was time to renew the contract: “My client will agree to renew said marriage license with your client, if and only if he agrees to stop chewing so freaking loud and be nicer to my client’s mother.”
“And my client is amenable to those terms, if and only if your client agrees to clean her own wad of hair out of the shower drain and stop picking such dumb shows to binge-watch on Netflix.”
There’s something to be said for the power of expectation. When you go into a relationship with an expiration date, it has a way of fulfilling that expectation. We put a different level of care into things that are disposable versus things we want to keep around forever. Used tissues get tossed in the trash. Family heirlooms are preserved and treasured.
Staying home during this pandemic (even with your favorite people) can sometimes feel like a traffic jam. You want to get moving again, but you’re stuck in place and feel a little road-ragey at times. So, here’s hoping you’re stuck with someone who is easy to serve time with. And here’s hoping you’re still kind to him or her even when you’re frustrated.
May we all soon be back out on the open road with a relationship that can go the distance – not just a temporary spin around the block.