One path doesn’t work for everyone, as I wrote before. So people are starting to discuss just what an honest commitment means. The New I Do suggests that young couples–and even long-married folks–discuss their values and goals in a relationship, before making or reaffirming a commitment. In this model, you could choose:

A “beta” marriage, for discerning your path together.

  • Like a monk taking simple vows for three years, a 3-year term marriage or junior vows let couples commit to a relationship, while not promising more than they can deliver.

A parenting marriage, for raising children in a stable home.

  • Instead of passion, partners choose a good person to co-parent with until the children are grown.

A companionship marriage, for sharing life with each other.

  • It may not be sexy or exciting, but offers stability and a partner in life.

A safety marriage, for insurance against poverty, loneliness, or sickness.

  • If money or security is a core need, it’s better to be honest and form a relationship that meets those needs.

A covenant marriage, when life-long commitment is itself the goal.

  • Hard to legally dissolve even in the face of serious problems, this relationship is for life.

Living apart together, for those who want a balance between intimacy and freedom.

  • Young professionals may work in different cities, or retirees keep separate houses nearby.

An open marriage, when honesty in allowing some liaisons outside the primary bond is a value.

  • Obviously this doesn’t work for most religious folk, but for others it allows commitment to coincide with variety.

Multiple marriage, for when more is better.

  • Polygamy is illegal in America, but it’s common to take multiple husbands or wives elsewhere. The American version is either “poly” relationships with multiple people, or a sequence of legal marriages and divorces, aka “serial monogamy.”

Are people going for this? Well, in one recent poll, young Americans were interested in all models:

Which suggests that we want commitment, but we also want something healthy that works, not just grinding our teeth and waiting it out until death.

One Path to Relationship? 

So young folks are skeptical, because we’ve realized that relationships don’t always work, and often rely on old gender divisions that don’t match our current lives… even as religious folk.

Yet we’re still encouraged in a thousand overlapping ways to fall in love with one person, with whom we’ll share friendship, intimacy, therapy, career encouragement, public status, appreciation of each other’s art, social security, enduring romantic and sexual passion, skills in co-parenting and managing a household, and shared spiritual values and life goals. For the rest of our lives.

But what if it doesn’t work?

The odds are 100 to 1 that you’ll both find and be that person, at the right time, in the right place, and for the rest of your lives.

Yet even if you wanted to set aside the ideal and just embrace the beautiful reality of two ordinary people… which part do you give up on? Which part is essential? And what commitments are you actually making? 

 

For a final reflection, read and respond to Caring for Everyone

What Type of Marriage Do You Want?

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