Marriage has been under attack from all corners for decades. Some of these attacks have been subtle—as when divorce laws were loosened and leaving your spouse made easier—while others are more obvious—as when activists push to have marriage redefined.
And now, on the heels of recent Supreme Court decisions that put even more strain on the institution of marriage, National Public Radio is pushing the idea that couples “lease” their marriage before they buy it.
NPR says that divorce rates have decreased “but the fact remains” that marriage is still in trouble. For this reason “just about everybody from lawmakers, to counselors, to politicians, [and] priests have offered their suggestions on how we can fix this problem.”
This idea is nothing new, of course. Lawmakers in Germany were discussing this a few years ago.
The idea is “that couples sign marriage leases before they walk down the aisle.” These so-called “wed-leases” would give couples “the option to renew the lease or walk away from the unions after a certain amount of time has passed.”
Supporters describe the term “wed-lease” as a combination of the words “wedlock” and “lease.” In theory, people commit themselves to a leased union for a period of time—1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc.
When the term for which the union is leased ends, the individuals who contracted for the union can either renew it or walk away.
It’s much like a lease agreement with an option to buy from a furniture rental store. You get a flat green couch because your home is full of earth tones, but if you decide you need a home makeover, it’s no problem. As soon as your lease ends, you can trade the green couch for one that’s a better fit with your new color scheme.
Reality check—the decision to get married is unlike any other decision—it’s not a temporary commitment. Attempts to make it temporary will only lead to further encroachments on “till death do us part.”
For example, once we get used to a one-year commitment (which we can abandon once the contract ends), it won’t be long until we are looking for even shorter commitment periods—perhaps more like an extended test drive than a rental contract to begin with.
Television is full of advertisements for car dealers that offer “extended test drives” so you can be sure you’re getting the right car. Under the terms of these short agreements, an automobile consumer could test drive three or four different cars during the same one-year period while a furniture customer is stuck with one green couch during the entire time.
Is this what marriage has become? Has it been reduced to a rental agreement or an extended test drive?
What happened to the words, “For better or for worse”?
Marriage itself has not changed—it is still the relationship where a man and a woman promise to be faithful to each other, and to love and sacrifice for each other…until death. And when both spouses remain committed to the relationship and weather the storms and the calmer seasons together, the institution works.
So marriage hasn’t failed—but our commitment to what marriage is often has. Marriage does not need fixing. Rather, we as individuals and as married couples need fixing. We must respect marriage and the challenge that marriage calls us to make: namely, to sacrifice, love, and commit to another person for life.
We don’t need extended test drives or unions that look like rental agreements—we need fidelity and commitment.