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

Vicki Larson
10 min readJul 11, 2020


You’re nearly 20 years together, have a few kids with your spouse of 15 years, and the pandemic and the slow easing up of the lockdown is having you question your marriage.

That’s British journalist Molly Gunn’s dilemma. Maybe that’s yours, too.

And so she finds herself wondering about alternatives to marriage as we generally know it — a one-size-fits-all-forever plan — including the renewable and starter marriages detailed in the book I co-wrote, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, she writes:

“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.”

My coauthor and I are all for term-limited renewable marriage contracts, but we prefer that couples decide for themselves how long their contract should be; a starter marriage would ideally be five years or under but a parenting marriage would ideally be 18 years.

When we wrote the book, which was published in 2014, we hadn’t met anyone who fully put renewable marital contracts into action (you cannot legally plan for a marriage’s demise), although we interviewed and feature couples who have unwritten but agreed-to time-limited arrangements. Since then, I have met online two couples who have created their own versions of marital contracts — Karen Mangiacotti and Mark Miller, who have been together almost 15 years and now call Costa Rica home, and Annmarie Kelly…



Vicki Larson

Award-winning journalist, author of “Not Too Old For That" & "LATitude: How to Make a Live Apart Together Relationship Work (2024) coauthor of “The New I Do,”