The Marriage Contract:
Does Anyone Really Do It?
With great interest I have read your article on marriage and divorce in the latest issue of the Servants' News [November 1996].
In this article you mention marriage contracts and this, I think will be new for some of us. Marriage contracts are rare these days but I have read an article which covers a modern day application. It is from an American magazine so you would be able to find this article in one of the major libraries:
These ambitious newlyweds have signed a 16-page contract of matrimonial dos and don'ts covering every aspect of their lives. Now they're...
LIVING by the RULES
by Gary Belsky
Money, May 1996, pp. 100-109.
But the LeGalleys' 16-page single-spaced document goes way beyond the norm. It prescribes in detail how the spouses are to behave in virtually every area of their lives, from how many children they will have to what kind of gas they will buy.
More important the couple have an abiding faith in their power to control their futures by setting goals and thinking positively.
The couple decided the way to head off marital discord was by hashing out every potential conflict in advance and then recording a mutually acceptable solution for it in the prenup.
[A "prenup" is short for a prenuptial contracta contract signed before "nuptials" or marriage vows. Most prenups simply cover who gets the property and any children if the couple should divorce. This one is much more thorough.]
"We talked about a lot of things when we were dating and realized we had different needs."
"We worked out all the things that usually cause fightssex, kids, pet peeves and money. Teresa agrees: We haven't had a fight since we got married."
For all its possible shortcomings as a design for living, however, the LeGalleys' penchant for planning has unquestionably had a healthy effect on their finances. Many of the resolutions in the couple's prenupto pay cash, to pay off credit-card debt first, for instance are certainly prudent.
They also contracted to divide household chores, typically along traditional sex-based roles. The Bible says the man is the head of the household, says Teresa, who buys all the groceries and is directed in the prenup to work off a list every time she goes to the grocery store. Rex maintains the exterior of their house while Teresa attends the spotless interior. Other prenup guidelines: a promise to accept each other unconditionally and to spend time together doing things 15 to 20 hours per week.
Goals are nothing more than dreams put down on paper, says Rex. We have a lot of things down on paper with a date on them. Indeed. So pleased are the LeGalleys with the success of their formalized marriage contract that they fully expect to be able to expand the prenuptial agreement over the years.
It's a living document, says Teresa. Some highlights:
1. We will provide unconditional love and fulfill each other's basic needs.
2. We will engage in healthy sex three to five times per week.
3. Family leadership role and decision-making is Rex's responsibility.
4. Teresa will work off a (shopping) list every time she goes to the grocery store.
5. Nothing will be left on the floor overnightunless packing for a trip.
6. Be to work on time even if we need to get up an extra 30 minutes early.
7. We will both make ourselves available (to each other) for discussion 15-30 minutes per day.
Another possible framework for a marriage-contract could be provided by an old WCG publication: Staying Sane In A World Of Uncertainty, last chapter. Some readers of the Servants' News may still have this publication. Some guidelines from this chapter:
1. build strong family relationships
2. lead a well-ordered, stable life
3. be gainfully em ployed"
4. value recreation and take care of your body
5. create an uplifting environment
6. follow God's laws
With this frame-work couples could ask themselves the following questions substituting each one of the 6 points above at the end of these sentences:
What do we mean to...[point 1, etc.]
What examples do we have of other people having and doing to...
What factors seem to work to ....
What factors appeal to us to...
Considering our definition of to ..., how do we plan to...
Which action do we have to take in the short term and long term to...
How do we know when we have accomplished our goal to...
How can we turn our actions into habitual behavior to...
How do we involve others (parents, children) to help us to...
Another approach might be found from Samuelle Bacchiocchi's articles Iread on the Internet. Although I do not agree on all his points, he refers to someone who has translated the 10 Commandments as originally given to the Israelites into 10 Commandments for marriage. For example, No other gods: no other wife or husband; do not steal: share finances and make room for a special budget for the wife so that she could pursue a hobby; or honor your father and mother: make special time to visit parents and building special moments of rest to strengthen the relationship. Sometimes wives have a tendency to give too much, i.e. to work for their families; special events every now and then will balance self-sacrifice and self-appreciation.
Joop Peterse wrote the above as two letters, but we made it into a short article to help individuals seeking more information about marriage contracts .
While not everyone may need contracts as detailed as those above, too many details are far better than the common approach of: "we're in love, lets get married, now how are we going to live?"
The continuation of the Marriage and Divorce article from November 1996 should be ready for the February or March 1997 issue. NSE
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