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I have been furiously working on Susan Pease Gadoua’s and my book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers, the past few months, and during the midst of it was an article about wedleases.

Wedleases? Never heard of it — have you? Probably not, because the word didn’t exist before Palm Beach real estate attorney Paul Rampell suggested the need for them in a Washington Post opinion piece that got a lot of buzz. Till death do us part

What could real estate and marriage have in common? Well, a lot, he says. Marriage, a legal partnership, lasts a lifetime (or so we vow) — an admittedly pretty long time for any kind of partnership, especially one based on love since people and circumstances change. People may also have a life estate in a some property, another “lifetime” partnership, but we also can own property for shorter terms through a lease. Why not merge the two? Why not create a marital lease, he suggests — instead of wedlock, have a “wedlease.”

Here’s how he proposes it could look like:

Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit. tweet

I was intrigued by what Rampell had to say, so we spoke on the phone shortly after his story was published. We have some differences concerning contract length and children (you’ll have to read The New I Do to understand in what ways), but it was pretty evident that he, Susan and I are basically on the same page. Whether you call it a wedlease or a renewable marital contract, creating a marriage of a certain duration may make sense nowadays.

Of course, the idea of a wedlease upset a lot of people and even PostTV’s “On Background” segment on it featured “experts” that shot down the idea. As usual, they talked about it as putting some sort of time limit on love, which has nothing to do with it.

But one person spoke openly about its appeal — an ordained minster of all people!! In a letter to the Washington Post editor, the Rev. Jim Todhunter of Bethesda, Md., wrote:

As an ordained minister of 44 years in the United Church of Christ, I have performed hundreds of weddings and have reached the same conclusion as Mr. Rampell. I fully support what I prefer to call “term marriage.” Couples should have the opportunity to be legally married for a certain time period, with a contract that would expire unless they renew it. As a spiritual guide, I affirm that a couple should stay together not because they have to but because they want to. tweet

So, of course, I spoke to the Rev. Todhunter, too Again, the full details of that conversation will be included in The New I Do, but here’s a taste of what he’s observed — couples that celebrate 50 or so years of marriage and see commitment as “staying together no matter what” have an entirely different marriage than those that see commitment as a chance for each to grow, with the loving support of the other. Commitment becomes a choice, not a jail.

Isn’t it much more loving, even romantic, to know your partner keeps choosing to be with you instead of never being certain if s/he’s staying because s/he feels like s/he “has to” or out of fear of what s/he will lose in a divorce? Or, would you rather not even think about why you and your partner are staying together?

  • How do you define commitment?
  • Do you believe marriage is forever? If so, why do you believe that?
  • What do you think of a wedlease?


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