I just discovered, while reading The Devil We Know by Robert Baer, that Iran legally allows temporary marriages! According to Baer, these can be for a month—or even for a few hours.
Ever since I was teenager, I’ve been advocating “trial marriages,” marriage contracts that naturally dissolve after a set period of time. I imagine the time period would be from two to five years. Offspring would not be part of the plan.
Then, if things are still working out at the end of the contract period, the participants of the Trial Marriage may opt for a Full Marriage, which includes the expectation of both parties that a family will be started (or not, but stated explicitly). Or, they can opt for another Trial Marriage with each other. Or just move on. Free and without sin or guilt or sense of failure. And without the ill effects that divorce can have on children caught in the crossfire.
Trial Marriages would give people a chance to get to know other, see if they are both heading in the same direction with their lives, determine if there is some sort of glue still there to hold them together after the initial excitements wear off. I am convinced that it’s just in the genes to lose physical attraction for any beauty over time. (Or else, whyfore pin-up calenders? After a month, a hot new babe or beefcake fireman is needed on the wall or else even the most Beautiful Being fades into wallpaper).
For some lucky minority of married folk, there is a deeper affection that takes the place of the initial infatuation, that grows from it– not like a flower, but solidly, like the trunk of an oak. They become helpmates, a true team; a comfort, a joy, a support– each for the other. Each spouse is to the other someone who makes the sunsets sublime and the storms endurable. For these people, the benefits of a permanent marriage may outweigh the gradual loss of that wild, crazy-at-the-touch-of-you lust.
[Aside (and maybe TMI): Personally, when it comes to sexual relationships, I’m torn between my jealous heart– which really abhors the idea of other lovers intruding upon my something special– and my rational brain which whispers to me that we’re not really designed for prolonged monogamy].
As far as Iran’s temporary marriage option, called zawai al-mita’, it is not as crazy of a notion as it might first seem. Muslim culture has always allowed multiple marriages and divorces—as long as a man could afford to maintain his wives and their children. If memory serves, Mohammed limited even rich men to four wives, but powerful men sometimes get around this injuction by having concubines. (By the way, also if memory serves, the Jewish king Solomon had hundreds of concubines).
Granted, it took some smart, horny dude to push Islam’s polygamy sanction to the extreme of overnight marriages, but it’s a difference of degree, not kind, n’est-ce pas? Oh– and this is important– for the majority of Muslims, this Temporary Marriage thing is not acceptable, repeat NOT acceptable. Also, I’m suspicious that Baer may have over-simplified it in his description of it in the book. Still, the concept is food for thought in a country where most marriages fail.