Home > Critic-At-Large > Indefensible marriage
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
In just a few generations the average age for newlyweds has jumped considerably — by 2009, the median age was 28 years old for men and 26 for women. In the 50's, the ages were 23 and 20, so it's obvious that a subtle social evolution about marriage has taken place. People are taking their time now, allowing themselves to get more established in their adult lives before annexing themselves with someone else. Time will tell if this collective added maturity will help American divorce rates in the future; currently the rates hover near 50%, which has been the consistent number for a few decades.
Despite my personal antipathy toward the institution, I've become a passionate defender of those who choose to get married. This may sound like a contradiction, but it's true; marriage wasn't my cup of tea, but that didn't mean I wasn't rooting for my friends who did make the commitment. I was on their side; I wanted them to succeed. But as the percentages of my friends getting divorced started to reach the national average, and as I saw the attendant emotional wreckage of the freshly split, I started to wonder if something couldn't be done on a legislative level to help the institution.
So in the 90s, when I first heard of the "Defense of Marriage" act, I thought: finally. Somebody is going to try to shore up the lackadaisical manner in which people choose to get married. They're going to try to combat the pernicious effects of divorce and force people to enter into marriage with greater severity. They're going to make the newly betrothed do the hard, necessary, pre-wedding work in order to secure a more stable union. No more of this "get a blood test and get to the altar" nonsense. A new day had dawned.
Of course, when I finally read the "Defense of Marriage" act I was dismayed to discover that the proposed legislation had nothing to do with helping married people; it was merely an instrument to forbid same-sex marriage. Calling it the "Defense of Marriage" act was a deliberate, ambiguously-worded falsehood. The act couldn't care less about the rampant divorce rates in the country; it just wanted to keep repressing people too long oppressed in a supposedly enlightened country.
But I've been told that I can't just criticize the way things are, I need to help come up with solutions, so here goes: my own modest proposal to solve the marriage crisis. I call it "Defense of Marriage 2" and I encourage lawmakers to propose it for the next session of Congress. God willing, we can get it done.
First: repeal "Defense of Marriage 1." Gay people should be allowed to marry. I've done research on the causes for divorce in this country, and do you know what isn't in the top 10? "Fear of gay people getting married." It isn't in the top 1000. Gay people getting married has nothing to do with the fact that your husband is addicted to pornography or that you can't communicate with your wife. There's no correlation; one doesn't affect the other. So let's start with that.
Now then: since monetary difficulties constitute a leading cause of marriage failures, "Defense of Marriage 2" dictates that all potential newlyweds need to open their bank accounts to an arbiter, and if the couple doesn't have $20,000 in reserve, they can't get married. In poorer counties, the amount can be negotiable, but it should always match the current rent and cost of living expenses for at least two years. Eliminating any potential money issues would go a long way toward ensuring greater success rates for the newly married.
Divorce lawyers in the US have determined that pornography addictions factor in 56% of American divorces, so "DOM2" mandates that all betrothed need to have their computers scanned; if one blip of prurient material pops up, no marriage license will be granted. (Interesting fact: the state with the highest pornography rates is Utah, usually considered the most religious of the 50 states.) Keeping the deviants out of marriage would do wonders for the institution.
Communication problems are the leading cause of divorce in America, so "DOM2" demands that all couples complete an intensive, 6-month therapy program with an accredited psychologist. Only after completing the course, and only after the sessions have been reviewed by an impartial panel, would the couple be allowed to marry.
Addiction problems are another primary cause, so blood tests would be administered, and any trace of alcohol or drugs from the past year would negate a license. Infidelity is another leading problem, so a lie-detector test would be given and if either of the participants had ever cheated in a previous relationship, the wedding ceremony would not be allowed.
There would be other tenets, of course, to "DOM2," but you get the idea. (I'd also outlaw Las Vegas weddings and place a "Lifetime Ban" on Larry King, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and Lisa Marie Presley. LMP married Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage, okay?) I'm certain that these mild proposals would guarantee a healthier institution of marriage in this country. People might complain about the intrusive nature of the legislation and feel that their rights are being trampled, but that shouldn't be too big a deal. After all, "Defense of Marriage 1" has trampled the rights of gay citizens for nearly two decades now, and nobody seems to have a problem with that.