What If Your Marriage License Could Expire?

Have you ever wondered what changes might ensue for married couples if their marriage license had an expiration date?

There are many licenses that need to be renewed: driver’s licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, real estate licenses, etc., but not marriage licenses. If ever there was a license that needed to be renewed, it’s the marriage license. Shouldn’t a couple have to prove after a certain number of years have passed that they are successful in their marriage, have kept their promises to each other, and therefore should be allowed to renew their license?

Of course, this is written with a little tongue-in-cheek, but think about the possibilities. Agreed, if the license isn’t renewed, then a brand-new batch of legal issues would have to be addressed; but it’s an interesting subject to ponder regarding the quality of the marriage itself. Would the marriage years together be lived any differently? What behavioral changes would you see in a couple who knew their marriage had a chance of not being renewed? Would they go into the marriage right from the beginning with the knowledge that should they drop the ball during the marriage, there’s that chance their marriage could expire? Would they choose to treat their partner as they did before marriage? You know, that golden time when everything is sweetness and light and romance fills the air and the couple just inherently knows that their marriage is going to be the best marriage ever to grace the planet.

Let’s pretend that they do become renewable licenses. How long should the license be valid before it must be renewed? Every year? Every two years? I think that anything under two years would put too much pressure on the couple. After all, most couples are still trying to adjust to married life in the early years. I’m sure most people will have their own personal opinions regarding the time frame, but I’m thinking every five years. A couple could have a renewal party every five years and then go on another honeymoon. After all, it’s almost like having another wedding day every five years. The license could be renewed at City Hall with no muss or fuss and the couple goes on for another five years. Or, the license could be renewed, and they have another wedding ceremony, party, etc., and the world continues to be a beautiful place.

Lawyers could see this as a loss of potential income, but if a couple decides to divorce before their license has expired, then divorce proceedings go on as before and divorce lawyers still make their bank trying to untie the angry couple. However, if a couple decides not to renew their license, then the marriage legally dissolves and it’s up to the couple to divide all the goodies acquired in the marriage. Of course, lawyers could still be needed for this part as well, so the advent of a marriage license renewal really shouldn’t put them off. And there’s all the counseling that could go back and forth between couples when they discover that only one of the partners wants to renew the license. Would this result in a better marriage between the two if they can resolve their issues? Would this make a better “end-of-marriage” scenario if they decide not to renew?

I wonder. And I’m much more interested in what happens inside the marriage itself while in-between renewals. How will the marriage proceed during the interim? Will the couples act differently towards each other? Will they treat each other with more reverence? Will it feel more like they are dating as opposed to feeling like they are forever “stuck” with each other? How will it affect their behavior?

For example, a couple sees the expiration date is looming on their marriage and they realize they’ve been jerks to their partner. Will they apologize, step it up, start treating their partner as they said they would during their marriage vows? Could the fact that they must renew the license make for a better and more rewarding marriage? That’s the question for me because I’ve seen so many people living in misery while married and I know so many people who have been divorced, it just seems clear to me that something needs to be done to jump start the change. The status quo does not seem to be working all that well.

For whatever it’s worth, I certainly think it’s worth pondering. Let’s face it, unhappy marriages are rampant these days and the fallout is felt by us all. Unhappy marriages make for unhappy people and an unhappy home life. If having a marriage license that must be renewed could somehow make for happier people, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Robin is a writer/photographer who lives in Montana and happily gets to travel the state to photograph the beauty and document the stories.

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