The more I think about it the more powerful I think it would be to draw up marriage contracts like the business contracts we use daily to protect investments and relationships. You see, a marriage license is not a contract, per say. It’s more like the photo ID you carry to say you’re committed to your county or state or to driving. They’re treated just as lightly because, like a county or state, it’s really easy to just pick up and move, get a new car and get a new ID :-). You have to commit to something to get it but it’s a cinch to change.
Our business partnership contracts, however, reflect a totally different set of values. First of all when businesses merge they become one new business reflecting aspects of both parties. It takes time for this to happen too. While technically they are one from the time the contract is signed, many aspects of the operations take months to fully integrate (newly weds you’re discovering this).
The second way in which they are remarkably different in values is that their stipulations are uniquely designed for the two parties involved. Each company has its own needs and things they bring to the table that no other two companies can reflect (locally governed contracts vs. Federally mandated licenses). Without the uniqueness of the contract each party stands to be misrepresented, or to lose in the long run. Further more, the conditions of business contracts are completely actionable should betrayal and error occur. But rather than having the breach of contract handled by some distant politician, it can be legally dealt with by the communities of the business!
The biblically outlined contract of marriage, or marriage covenant, is modeled after God’s covenant with all mankind, and in structure, value and principle is meant to be upheld with no less fervor and longsuffering. There are two parties, suitable for one another, intending to become one. A mediator makes it possible for the two to meet. In salvation this is Christ, in marriage it varies depending on culture from parents to matchmakers. The stipulation is faithfulness and there are blessings for those that are and curses (or simply negative consequences) for not. Then the covenant is sealed by a sign.
Each culture takes a unique standpoint on how such covenants are created and maintained for marriage. In America, for example, the symbol or sign of a ring means marriage more than sexual consummation.
As a Christian I hold that the biblical covenant form must have specific, God designed and mandated descriptions about what is suitable and what is the sign of a marriage covenant, but I also believe that other aspects of a covenant with a spouse can and should be defined in contract not just in a pre-marital counseling session. Our cultural differences, our personality differences and family experiences will all affect our views on family, celibacy, commitment or sex (to name a few). Perhaps your spouse has no problem sleeping with other individuals and you don’t either. This should be stated in your contract and when it inevitably causes problems you’ll both be protected. OR
your contract could state the positive standards by which you and your spouse are committing to live in order to honour, respect and nurture one another and your children, and the consequences (both natural and caused) that will happen if the contract is broken. Maybe even written commitment to seeking forgiveness and humility daily.
My point is that America, as a culture, has so minimized the depth and intention of a marriage that our state licenses have become political bargaining chips and FOUNDATIONS for religious persecution. How much more might a romantic relationship mean to a 14 year old girl if she truly understood that it was meant to lead to a covenant of marriage? How much more would our marriages mean to us today if such a contract was on the wall in our room, helping us to remember to love.