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  • Term Marriages

    2011 - 10.07

    Sounds as though Mexico City is considering the idea of term marriages (article: The Province).

    It’s an interesting idea, and one that won’t be that unfamiliar to people who read a lot of science fiction.  In many science fiction stories/books you find this concept where marriage “contracts” have fixed terms after which time they just expire.  In general they can be renewed, or you simply re-marry the person again, but there’s no obligation or theoretically hurt feelings.

    The time period that comes to mind most as being common in those stories is being 10 years, which if I recall correctly is the period of the contracts as indicated in the Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov, but that could just be that the number is appealingly metric rather than having some actual basis in fiction.

    Part of the reason for the change to term marriages is usually because of more liberal sexual views, but a greater portion of it is typically attributed to the increased lifespan of the typical individual in those stories.  Committing to a lifetime together with someone when you’re 15 and you expect to only live to be 30 is significant, but is dramatically different from getting married at 20 something with the expectation of living for another 60+ years.  In a fiction where a character might expect to live to 200+ that commitment is obviously further magnified.  I think it’s pretty easy to imagine that over the course of a multi-centenarian lifetime that your interests could change dramatically.  In more popular fiction these days that conflict and divergence of interest is most commonly explored through vampires who are almost universally portrayed as having if not immortality extreme longevity in the hundreds if not thousands of years of life expectancy.

    I think there’s a definite romantic affinity to “until death do us part”, and that makes sense.  However, with the rate of divorce which we find in the world the phrase has lost much of it’s power as it’s clear that many people who say those words either don’t mean them, or don’t understand them.  Much in the same way as curse words largely lose power as you age, and especially in “these modern times”.

    I wonder if it’s more romantic in a way to have a term marriage, regardless of what the term is.  Ok, that requires greater explanation, it’s not the term that makes it romantic, but when we’re bombarded with constant stories and images of broken families, failed promises, dysfunctional relationships/marriages and marital strife as comic relief, and worse than all that people remaining married not out of any actual desire to stay married but for some other reason.  Imagine instead a couple who on regular intervals who have the ability to walk away from the marriage without consequence, and yet instead of doing that they continually renew their marriage contract.  Reaffirming their desire to be married to one another time and again throughout their lifetime.

    I don’t know if the world is ready for what Mexico is considering, but I don’t think all the consequences of it are bad, and some of them might be dramatic improvements.  Then again maybe not.  It is an interesting thought experiment, or for the writer people out there: a writing prompt.

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    One Response to “Term Marriages”

    1. Karin says:

      Very Heinlein too…I don’t remember what the term was, but multiple marriages were also allowed.

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