The concept of rent-to-own is one usually applied to the purchasing of furniture, large appliances and various other household items. But should it be used in matters of the human heart too? Would human beings benefit from low-risk short-term commitments to each other rather than losing their hearts, homes and savings in one fell swoop with the all-or-nothing contract that is marriage?
It’s a question being tossed around in Mexico (via CBC News) at the moment.
Lawmakers in Mexico City are considering legislation that would radically alter the concept, if not the traditional meaning, of marriage. To combat high rates of divorce and the expensive legal process that results from dissolving the old ‘Til death do us part’ vow, legislators are proposing the creation of short-term marriage licenses that come with a built-in option to renew or dissolve at the end of a fixed term.
The licenses would be two years in length and would include clauses relating to custody rights and property division. At the end of the two-year term, the couple would be given the option to continue on in wedded bliss or to bid adios to one another once and for all.
To renew or not to renew? That would be the question facing the happy couple after two years.
The benefit to the Mexican legal system seems clear: it would cut down on lengthy divorce proceedings. But what are the benefits to the betrothed? On the one hand, the legislation appears to encourage a minimum commitment, as it requires people to give marriage a shot for at least two years—those who bail on a marriage before the end of the two years would have to go through regular divorce proceedings.
But that seems the only ‘positive’ aspect of the renewable license idea for couples. If anything, the trial nature of the arrangement seems to take the significance of commitment out of the equation—if there’s no risk involved in commitment, what’s the point? If you’re married but not really married why bother with a wedding at all?
If it passes, the legislation may also necessitate some adaptations in the language of commitment. The first 18 months of marriage, which has traditionally been considered the ‘honeymoon period’, may need to be redubbed the ‘should I stay or should I go?’ period. And that’s about as romantic as a new fridge don’t you think?