07 January 2012


I'm addressing three distinct but related issues in this post.  Please read on.

Marriage Contracts:  Should We Have Term Limits?  Rita Arens introduces her meditation on marriage thus ~ "Last year marked my ten-year wedding anniversary.  I love the legal protections of marriage ~ no one argues that my husband can't pick me up from the hospital or shouldn't be able to pick something up for me or inherit my money.  I love the psychological aspect of marriage too ~ but it's the LEGAL aspect of marriage that ups the ante societally from living together.  The legal aspect is also the part I think we should change.  We should have marital term limits.  I have several reasons.  They are my opinions.

~  "Marriage is the only common American legal contract I can think of that has no expiration date .... Marriage is a legal contract, and as much as I love the protections it provides, I see no reason why all hell should have to break loose if you want to sever that contract or limit it in some other legal way.

~  "Divorces shouldn't be allowed to snarl up the courts as much as they do.

~  "Putting in term limits makes re-upping even more romantic than getting married in the first place.  Getting married is much easier than staying married .... Staying married because you choose it every day is a different feeling from staying married because you got married.  Conscious choice makes things more valuable.

~  "Break-ups are going to happen whether or not we make it simple legally for them to happen ~ the divorce data reflects that .... In the case of marital term limits, no longer are mid-life crises or affairs or even two sets of lawyers needed.  One person just moves out.

~  "If you want to stay together (and I hope you do!), re-upping needn't be so hard .... It's not like you have to have a wedding all over again.  We renew our health insurance and car insurance every year, we pay taxes every year.  Why not re-up our marriage certificates every 5-10 years?

~  "And the real reason ~ term limits separate the legal relationship from the religious relationship .... We have all sorts of separation of church and state in government, and I can't figure out why we're hanging on to this one."

Recognizing that people change, Arens goes on to quote Maura Kelly ~ "It's likely that many divorcees earnestly planned for lifelong partnerships but simply didn't sufficiently understand life, themselves or their spouses.  Perhaps they were incapable of envisioning the ways in which their significant others ~ or they themselves ~ would change.  They may have been surprised by their partner's inability to change or their own intransigence.  Punishing them for not being able to foresee the future seems unnecessarily draconian."

There is much more substance in Arens' essay.  Whether or not you instinctively agree or disagree with her ideas, you will find food for thought in them.

Why Growing Up as an American Female Has Left Me Wary of Men.  It is a truism which most men don't grasp ~ that most women experience repeated disrespect and abuse at the hands of men, starting at a very young age.  The writer sheds light on that experience by recounting her encounters with males, as a child and as an adult.  Please don't dismiss her story as mere anecdote.  Nearly every female in our culture could recount similar memories, many so distressing that it becomes necessary to sublimate the memory itself in order to function.  The writer is careful to note that not all men are careless or cruel, that in fact the men she's chosen to include in her circle of friends are all thoughtful and self-aware.  But based on the life stories of so many women, such men must make up a minority in our culture.

The Ugly Facts About Rape.  Saving the most ugliest for last, here is a sampling of the results from the CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey ~

~  Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.5%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives.

~  More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape report being raped by an intimate partner, and 40.8% by an acquaintance.  For male victims, more than half (52.4%) reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.

~  Most female victims of completed rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25.  42.2% experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18 years.

~  More than one-quarter of male victims of completed rape (27.8%) experienced their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger.

For many, it's not a very pretty world.  For a window into the loss of innocence, I recommend the movie Sleepers.  It is based on real events, and deeply disturbing to watch at times.  But I am a firm believer in our responsibility to adopt the Quaker practice of bearing witness, being mindfully present and attentive to unpleasant events, especially those over which we have no control.  It is important to the victims, and to ourselves.

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