JR. Forasteros - Sep 30, 2012
From Series: "After Happily Ever After"
In our culture, Love is all about the build-up to the Wedding Day. But what comes next? What happens AFTER "happily ever after"?
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The bedrock of our culture is the contract. It goes back the Enlightenment, to thinkers like Thomas Hobbs and Jean-Jacques Rosseau, who gave us the concept of the social contract. This is the model of humanity our constitution is based on and how our culture thinks about itself.
The core idea of a contract is two individuals enter into a legally-defined relationship that is mutually beneficial. AT&T and I have a legally defined relationship. They’re the provider and I’m the customer. I give them money (which they want) and they give me cell phone service (which I want).
Contracts are pretty simple math equations: ½ + ½ = 1. AT&T service + my money=1 satisfied customer (usually). But we recognize that equation. This is “soul mate” math. I’m a ½ person looking for that other ½ person who will make me whole. ½+1/2=1. (do you want to bring back the puzzle pieces?)
Contractual faithfulness is in the fabric of the Romance script.
I’m an individual, and I need something. So I enter into this relationship with this other individual (who’s thinking the same things) and we complete each other. This relationship is mutually beneficial.
Contracts are a form of cooperation. Each person gives something, some piece of themselves, in exchange for something from the other person. Good contracts are balanced – both parties feel the exchange is fair. No one wants to get ripped off. But what happens when a marriage, a romance is unbalanced? What happens when one person voids the contract?
If AT&T doesn’t give me adequate service, I am free to break my contract. In fact, I’m not just free, I’m encouraged to. People will tell me, Man, you need to drop AT&T. You need to check out Verizon. They’re way better. And if I grow, if my needs in a phone provider change and AT&T can’t meet those needs anymore, if I move to a place they don’t offer service, I break contract. It’s painless. It’s not emotional. Because it’s just a contract.
But relationships? What happens when one partner just doesn’t feel fulfilled anymore?
What are you supposed to do when that other person isn’t meeting your needs, isn’t helping you be better or isn’t giving you your space or something less tangible that you just can’t really put into words but it’s not like it used to be and you can’t really put your finger on it but you just have this sense that it’s not really… right… anymore? What do you do?
Well. If the other person broke the contract, if they’re not holding up their end of the deal, if they’re not meeting your needs, fulfilling you, then you break the contract. If their half isn’t contributing to your whole anymore, then you get out of the relationship. The Romance is over. The Marriage is over.
Breaking a marriage for the same reasons we’d break a contract is pretty socially acceptable today. Moreover, it’s morally commendable.
The message we hear is that you shouldn’t be in a marriage that makes you unhappy. That hey you were young and you shouldn’t be tied forever to a decision you made when you were just a kid. That it’s really all their fault anyway because you tried (all your friends will affirm that) but sometimes people change and that’s just how it is and really do you want to stand in the way of each other’s happiness? You’ll both be better off in the long run. You’ll both find someone who better completes you. And sign a new contract.