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Marriage is an artifact of a different era. It is the remnant of a time where sex equaled children and the care for those children by responsible parties necessitated a lifelong partnership. Science has separated sex from child rearing and the bonds that hold two people in perpetual entwinement are more tenuous. If marriage is to be taken seriously in our modern condition, it needs to be reevaluated.

What is gained by marriage that isn't available in a long-term monogamous relationship that does not culminate in a wedding? Security. Marriage promises a stability and a resolution to work through the most abject circumstances, no matter how devastating. One of the most compelling reasons for marriage is the notion that it isn't for the good times. It is for the hard times, the terrible times. It is a promise to keep the love and care for their spouse close in times of upheaval and chaos. It chains us to our partner so we may weather the storm. Together. As one immutable force. Unbreakable.

Why, then, do we allow for divorce? It has no place in the institution of marriage. My feelings toward marriage notwithstanding, divorce undermines and corrupts the foundation of the idea. Leaving aside the epistemic and logistical problems with promising (i.e. future telling), the promise of eternal love seems disingenuous when a quick jaunt to the courthouse erases the sweeping declaration of unconditional loyalty, care, and devotion. How can we abide a world where grooms can spit poetry at the altar while keeping the receipt for the ring in their desk drawer, where brides neatly pack their wedding dress in case they need it again?

If we are to take seriously this beautiful idea of sticking with our beloved through thick and thin, through sickness and health, and through good times and bad, why is there a loophole? "I promise to stay with you for eternity... provided you don't cheat on me," is contradictory. Unconditional love has no provisions or exemptions. Marriage is supposed to be an impenetrable fortress. Why is there a back door we can slink out of when things get bad? Who built the tiny escape hatch that lets us run like cowards when things get tough?

Marriage is a ridiculous, irrational, and crazy institution. But if you take it on, do it well. And if you believe in making unconditional promises, stick to them. No divorce. No backing out. No return policy. Forever is a terrifying notion. Who knows what they could want ten years from now? Are we the same person? Can we reasonably expect another to grow and change with us? The future is always a question mark. And maybe if we banished the notion of divorce, people might take a little longer deciding who they are going to promise their life to. A wife is not like the Vita-Mix you bought at Costco. The $400 blender you bought on a whim is a person. They have goals and aspirations, flaws and virtues. Do they match yours? Can a life be built with this person? Have you considered what forever means?

I don't believe in marriage because I hold it to a higher standard. Until it decides to bite the bullet and take its own promises seriously, neither will I. And neither should you. If marriage didn't allow for divorce, only a fraction of people considering marriage would go through with it. And that's a good thing. We have let something momentous and beautiful become an excuse to get stand mixers and dress up. Marriage should be rare. We should be shocked when we've found people who fit the narrowest of parameters in the most unlikely circumstances. They should be shooting stars we glimpse and stare at in awe. People should expect not to marry. Who among us is that lucky? Divorce robs marriage of its beauty and weight.

Let it be heavy. Let it be rare. Let it be forever.

(My parents divorced when I was a teenager. I mention this because it probably colors my perception of the institution of marriage and the process of divorce. It is my hope that the quality of my ideas will not be reduced to a reaction of personal experience. I am a child of divorce by chance; I am the advocate of these ideas because logic has led me to them.)

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