It’s Time To Change the Way Marriage Works

Marriage needs to come with an expiration date.

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Photo credit: iStockPhoto

By Matt Sweetwood

It all started with a humorous Facebook post I made recently about my fear of marriage. I was taking my usual Saturday walk-about in Manhattan when I turned the corner on 42nd street, near Grand Central Terminal, and I came across a wedding photography shoot. I snapped selfies with the wedding parties.

This post initiated a significant discussion about whether marriage is a failing institution or not. In addition to the 75+ comments on the post, I received numerous private messages furthering the conversation.

I decided to do a little more research.

The U.S. wedding industry is a $72 billion dollar industry according to an IBISWorld research report. The national average cost of a wedding, according to The Knot, is $35K across all demographics. We all know, in major metropolitan areas, you can spend $35K on just the banquet hall.

The average marriage lasts about 8 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We also see from this census that the divorce rate for first marriages is almost 50%, over 60% for second marriages, and a whopping 74% for third marriages. Not very good odds at all.

Since most marriages are ending in divorce, that means a contribution will likely be made to the $50 billion-dollar-a-year divorce industry. And according to, the average divorce costs $100,000.

This begs the question: Is marriage a failed and money-draining institution? My answer is that the way we engage (pun intended) in marriage now, it is a failure. But I have a unique fix to this problem that I gave for the first time publicly in my LIVE Sunday Night Show.

And the fix is simple: Marriage should have a 2-year expiration date with automatic renewal, if both parties agree to continue, within 60 days of the end of the 2 years. And the marriage contract should be required to explicitly spell out in simple terms how all the assets and custody issues will be divided at the end of the 2 years. If you can’t agree on how things should be divided when you are getting married, then you shouldn’t get married.

This fix addresses the fundamental issue with marriage: it is a lifetime contract that requires no performance. Imagine you hire someone to work for you and you tell them they are hired forever, will get paid forever and they don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to (no government worker jokes please). How do you think that employee will perform in 10 years from now, even if they took the job with the best of intentions?

Making marriage a 2-year renewable deal will ensure that no one gets stuck in a bad place and will make both parties know that they must perform — be good spouses or the arrangement will end. And 2 years is enough time to see your spouse go through all the life-cycle events. And it’s not so long that you have wasted much of your life with the wrong person.

My marriage fix will virtually wipe-away the entire divorce industry, will eliminate much of the pain and suffering that happens with bad and failing marriages, will improve the performance of people within marriages, and will get more people to be willing to make the marriage commitment to each other.

So, let’s fix the awful life sentence that marriage can become and say, “I do” to a more sensible and likely successful, 2-year deal.

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

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