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Annmarie Kelly and Joseph Eagle’s fifth marriage in 2018 (courtesy of Annmarie Kelly and Joseph Eagle)

Why All Women Need Renewable Marriage Contracts

Women initiate divorce more than men because marriage is an unequal institution — a time-limited marriage contract fixes that

“Marriage brings lots of wonderful things, but the expectation of ‘forever’ can feel like a pressure cooker. … what if two people have an amazing time together and simply decide, after a while, that they’d like to try something else? Why can we not celebrate marriages for what they were, instead of deeming them failures when they end? I’ve started to wonder if marriages shouldn’t be more like mortgages: sign up for a fixed-term contract that you review after a set period of time. You might renew it, or sell up completely. But can you imagine moving house and people brandishing your time in that home a failure? No, we simply look back on the happy memories.”

“We wanted to do whatever we could to keep ourselves in a good place and we were both painfully aware that marriages need continuous attention and care. Like all good partnerships, marriages need to be talked about. Marriages need boundaries and validation and advocacy and appreciation. Marriages need to be fed and watered regularly with plenty of sunlight. This comes in the form of being ever-mindful of the incredible fortune of simply having each other. It comes in the form of realizing that you are both deeply flawed, and also doing your best. It comes from recognizing you love each other deeply, even when your marriage looks like you don’t. For us, this meant that we would renew our marriage every five years, or the marriage would simply expire. … Every five years one of us needs to propose, and the other needs to accept, and if both happen, then we start all over again.”

“We take our proposals seriously. Our thought was, if we’re not invested enough to have the proposal, to want the proposal, and be interested in the wedding, then we’re not invested enough to make a marriage work. It’s work. Even the best marriages, it’s not worth it if you’re not excited about it. Neither of us want to spend one more year in something that’s not letting us live our best lives.”

“The hard part of is you can’t sweep things under the carpet. The hard part of is you have to be committed to being in it. The hard part is you can’t say, ‘It’s fine,’ for years on end. ‘Yeah, I’m not getting my needs met, but it’s fine.’ You can’t do that. You can’t bullshit yourself or anybody else,” she tells me. “The good part is, when you put out anything into the light, nothing is that big of a deal. When we don’t, everything feels like a knife into your heart.”

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Karen Mangiacotti and Mark Miller’s first marriage. (Courtesy of Karen Mangiacotti and Mark Miller)

“Safety is such a huge issue in relationships, it’s huge with women. There’s two things I don’t think women pay attention to consciously, and one of them is safety and one of them is emotional energy. It’s why I didn’t want to get married — I saw women giving up their power. They would get married and give it up, for the sake of the relationship, for the sake of the kids.”

“He was scared to death. He’s like, ‘It’s going to open up a can of worms.’ Well, that’s not what happened, and I learned stuff and he learned stuff, and it was really positive. And he later said if it hadn’t been for the five-year marriage, he probably wouldn’t have gone. Cause it would have been that tendency to put it off, put it off because we have forever to fix it. Well, no one has forever to fix it, it’s that little game you have in your head about it being forever.”

“We do not renew old vows that are outdated. We come up with a whole new set of things and we have a new set of agreements and we spiritually end that marriage and start a new one.”

“I don’t have forever to address a problem. I can’t let anything go for an extended period of time. … We pay attention to the relationship. We talk about the ugly stuff, we talk about the good stuff. There’s a piece that’s motivating, there’s a piece that makes it a little more exciting and there’s a piece that strengthens the friendship.”

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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