You know that the sanctity of marriage and all that it should represent has become tarnished when we read in the tabloids or even more respectable newspapers about the failure of yet another celebrity marriage. What degrades marriage even further is when there are articles that site the “13 Shortest Marriages in Celebrity History.” The honor of the shortest being held by Britney Spears and Jason Alexander – 55 hours!
Way of the Future
What caused me to google the shortest marriages was prompted by a recent headline in the entertainment section of a local paper about the reported end of Frances Bean Cobain’s marriage to husband Isaiah Silva. They were married less than six months. It saddened me. This is not a kick at celebrities. Goodness knows they live in the media with little privacy as it is. It is more about how short marriages are becoming not only among celebrities but among regular couples. It is about how quick we are to marry and quicker to divorce. The latter which has been glamorized. Let’s face it, standing in the grocery checkout line, we can’t help but read the headlines even if we don’t buy the tabloids. We are influenced by what we read, hear, and witness. We then become the statistic. In Canada, over 50% of married couples will divorce. The demographic I see in my mediation practice now includes more and more younger couples who are calling it quits after a few years. A few less than two years.
Easy to Marry
There are many reasons for a marital breakdown. These celebrities, especially younger couples, give very similar reasons: we didn’t know what we were doing, just got caught up, it happened after a party and drinking, too young, didn’t understand what it meant… It is true, some folks get caught up in the idea of love and marriage, or its trappings, without really knowing themselves or each other and what each expects out of life and their marriage. Maybe there was even pressure from family, although these days parental influence on marriage, I believe, is waning.
Unless you are planning a big wedding that needs lead time to book and arrange the event, it is relatively easy to enter into nuptials.
Not Waiting Till Death Do Us Part…
Where we seem to be changing is our willingness to work out differences or “learn” about each other’s needs and wants and to adjust the marriage to reflect that. Arranged marriages began with the couple meeting each other for the first time on the day of their marriage, yet many have survived and have transformed into the parties’ love for one another. They learned to love each other.
Marriage also means effort is required by both parties to keep the relationship from becoming stale. Many are just not prepared to invest the time and effort. I know. After 25 years, we stopped trying. But I feel today people are not prepared to wait 25 years or “till death do us part” to find happiness in their life. They are checking out at the first signs of marital distress.
Tougher to Divorce
Untying the knot is tougher in my view than getting married. Even if the marriage is short there may be considerable assets that were brought into the marriage. This is typically true for second and third time marriages. If there was no prenuptial agreement signed that dealt with assets brought into the marriage, under family law in Ontario, they would be subject to division. You may find yourself in court if you wish to have the division be other than what is called for under family law.
The other major challenge is if there are children from the marriage. Many of my younger couples have minor children who require parental care and guidance until the age of majority. This can be up to 15 to 17 years away if the child is an infant. Being tied together for 17 years and possibly indefinitely if the child has special needs is difficult and will create financial issues that will need to be revisited over the period of parental support. The co-parenting plans I mediate for these couples takes into consideration the changing needs of the children as they grow and develop. As well, they anticipate changes in the parents’ lives over the co-parenting period.
The cost of untangling your marriage can end up being more than the cost of your marriage. This is especially true if you find yourself in divorce court with lawyers fighting for the parties.
Hit Pause Before Saying Yes to the Dress
My words of advice to any couple are to know you first. Then get to know each other, their habits, idiosyncrasies, values, and dreams. How do they compare to your own? What do you share? What differences are you willing to accept as unique to that person? Being different is not bad if you can accept those differences without the need to “change” who that individual is. It is when you want someone to be who they are not when no amount of work, effort, or time will give you the result you hope will bring you happiness. When you have a good sense of what you are committing to (it will never be perfect), then head for married bliss. Until then, hit pause and don’t say “yes to the dress.”
Written by Mary Krauel, CPA, CA, EMBA, CDFA, owner and senior negotiator of PRM Mediation.