"Until death do us part," may no longer apply if a new proposal in Mexico City is adopted. Legislators are considering assigning an expiration date to all nuptials with a minimum period of two years per couple. Should you decide not to renew, your marriage just dissolves.
About half of marriages in Mexico City end in divorce. Compare that to a divorce rate of about 46% in the United States and we see the problem is not limited geopolitically. Regardless, divorces can be messy, and legislators are hoping to both curb the rates and encourage couples to consider all possibilities. In the states, we are familiar with the idea of a prenuptial agreement where couples sit down and discuss terms of both their union and potential separation before their wedding date, often with their minister and lawyer. This is would be rather similar if not for the fundamental difference of an expectation to part ways in the future. In both the new city proposal and the typical American "prenup", provisions are included for how children and property could be handled in the event of a divorce, or in this case, a non-renewal. "The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends," said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill.
Because divorce is a terrible experience, many believe assuming it as the new normal is a step in the wrong direction. People often operate on ideals, and some believe we ought to strive for life-long partnerships. This has the potential to not only create stability, but hopefully slows down the courting process as couples weigh the gravity of the life-changing plunge they are about to take.
That's simply not what is happening, and the divorce rates make that pretty clear. It's a nice thing to aim for and certainly a veryromantic notion, but when the rubber meets the road it doesn't work out almost half of the time. There is no arguing with the statistics but you must wonder if building in the expectation of separation really does anything to address the issue, or merely changes the way we think about it in a non-meaningful way.
The proposed law is gaining support and expected to be voted on by the end of the year. This is all occurring on the heels of the legalization of gay marriage, much to the displeasure of the Catholic Church. While accusations have flown that same-sex marriages will somehow destroy traditional marriages, no such banter has arisen against this legislation which actually does end marriages before the traditional clause, fulfilled only in death.
To examine another aspect to the situation, compare the treatment of divorced women to men in an orthodox, Catholic culture such as Mexico City. Often men are allowed to move forward with their lives after ending a marriage while women can be burdened with more societally induced shame, possibly barring them from finding another spouse. It will be interesting to see if the culture changes should this legislation pass the vote, or if the same norms will be modified to apply to the different connotation of "non-renewed marriage" as opposed to divorce.
The subject of marriage is no stranger to the ULC Monastery and its ministers. Many members were called into the ministry to officiate a wedding using the free online ordination process, including some members of the Seattle headquarters staff in New York this summer. Despite the atmosphere where established institutions meet modern application, the Monastery has never even considered the concept of changing marriage itself. It presents a whole new set of questions and I know many ministers have something to say on the matter. Join our conversation and tell us your thoughts on the proposed law in Mexico City. Would you consider your duties as a wedding officiant differently if marriages expired, or perform ceremonies in a different way? It can tarnish the meaningfulness of a commitment as well as update the arrangement pragmatically for our modern age.