‘Til Death Do Us Part … Unless You Get Fat

‘Til Death Do Us Part … Unless You Get Fat

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Once upon a time when people chose to get married, they did so with the understanding that the marital vows they made were a solemn commitment, an inviolable covenant to stay married, no matter what. It was a promise sealed with vows we’ve all heard many times: “For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” (Or, sometimes, the slightly sunnier version, “As long as we both shall live.”)

These days, however, some folks are less keen on making such a sweeping, unconditional promise when it comes to staying married. Forget sickness and health, material plenty or poverty. They’re spelling out the terms of commitment at a much more granular level. As in, I’ll stay married to you as long as you don’t get fat, as long we have a certain amount of sex, etc.

So-called “lifestyle clauses” constitute an evolving subset of the prenuptial agreement, which, of course, has been around for a long time. Instead of one partner seeking to protect his or her financial assets in the event of a divorce, however, these agreements, which are also known as “love contracts,” spell out in much more specific detail conditions that must be met in order to stay married.

Perhaps not surprisingly, celebrities are in the vanguard of this trend. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones reportedly signed an agreement that said she’d get $5 million if he cheated on her. Meanwhile, Priscilla Chan, the wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly made him sign a contract in which he promised to spend one night a week with her combined with at least “100 minutes of quality time” weekly.

But the trend is trickling down to “normal” folks as well. New York City matrimonial attorney Robert Wallack told the New York Daily News, “Lifestyle clauses are on the rise. It used to be for better or worse, and you went with it. Now people want to dictate how the couple will live within the marriage.”

Among other lifestyle dictates? That dreaded weight gain. A New York Magazine article described one contract in which a wife agreed to pay a fine of $500 per pound if her weight topped a certain specified threshold. “Welcome to the brave new world of holy matrimony,” summarizes Salon.com contributor E.J. Dickson.

The movement toward “love contracts” reflects, I think, some broader trends that are at work in our culture and seeping into our understanding of marriage. Instead of making an other-centered, unconditional promise of faithfulness and commitment, those instituting these clauses are turning the tables and saying they’ll only stay married if certain obligations are met. And while staying healthy and spending quality time are admirable goals, the problem here is how these agreements attempt to control another person in order to guarantee future happiness.

I would argue that such a pre-emptive, self-protective stance is not very conducive to making a marriage work. It’s a fundamentally narcissistic approach to matrimony that sends the signal, I’m focused on making sure my needs get met first if we’re to stay together. It’s the difference between treating a marriage as a business contract to be fulfilled — or not — rather than embracing it as covenant to be lived in together, sacrifices, surprises and all, 'til death do us part.

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  • --Weight, home cooked meals, curfews from work, gotta love it.


  • --*ahem* ...should we "weigh in" in the comments section?

  • --At least this is a bit more open and honest than the implied "..unless he loses his job..." or "...until she is no longer happy and high on brain chemicals...". Yeah, that happens a lot. I've heard it on live radio. Some of us are wising up to how mercenary marriage  in 21st century America  really is and we are adjusting our behavior accordingly. So far, so good; marriage hasn't happened to me.

  • --I think the term "business arrangement" used in the article is really spot on...kind of reminds me of how, back in the day (i.e. Middle Ages --> WWI) marriages among the upper classes (and frankly, the upper classes are what we're discussing here...the Zuckerburgs, etc.) were always about property, high value dowries, aristocratic titles, etc.  It seems that the new aristocracy among the developed countries of the world are leading a new trend of basing marriages on new status indicators, e.g. weight.  

    Then as now, basing a marriage on anything but God, love and mutual respect is a recipe for a mess.  

  • --I chuckle and cringe at the "unless you get fat" comment and think how sad, I can't imagine anyone I know saying that or using it as an excuse to get married....BUT the truth is, in Christianity, we see a lot of "less offensive" examples of this all the time.

    My friend's husband recently left her and his main claim was that she had a personality disorder/mental illness, etc.  The truth is, she was a little situationally depressed- mainly due to some marital strife they were having for 2-3 months--BUT SHE WAS FAR FROM MENTALLY ILL. (and by the way, she went to counseling and despite the divorce, she is doing well)

    That being said, what if she was mentally ill?  What if, a couple years into marriage or 15 years into marriage, a spouse does suffer from some type of severe depression or personality disorder and needs treatment? Does the Christian spouse get the "excuse" to leave?  We would all frown on a spouse who left his or her sick spouse (cancer, etc) BUT what about someone suffering with some serious depression.anxiety?

    Before men jump to his defense, I am not attacking men as a whole, this problem goes both ways. This is just my most recent example?

    What I told my friend (who said, well I did sin against him sometimes, and there were times I was hurtful, etc) is this: Marriage should be a safe place to screw up and sin.  I don't mean that in a "let's do that" type of way...but I mean that despite our sins and struggles and hurtful words and actions, marriage shouldn't be the type of place where if you screw up, you're gone!  Thats not marriage, thats not covernant, thats not grace.

    I know my fiance is going to hurt me when we are married.  He may suffer some depression or lose his job or gain weight or have sin and struggles in his life.  Although I don't want to encourage him to stay in dark places and not improve, I do want to be the safe place that shows Grace and Love.  

  • --A "marriage" with exceptions and disclaimers is not a marriage. Period.

    The very essense of marriage is that two become one for a lifetime. Not that two use each other to get what they want. Not that two stay together as long as both are happy. But two become one. A single entity. A unit that works together and in which division produces only damage and destruction.

    The backbone of marriage is commitment. That means staying no matter what. So if you plan up front to leave if conditions are not met, you're not committed to that person. Without a real and lasting commitment to stay, regardless of the future, it's simply not a marriage. It's just an official trial period or a legal contract to live together. A marriage is more than that. It's a promise to leave all other options behind and choose this one person to bind yourself to forever, no matter what the future holds.

    People don't like to make that kind of commitment anymore. We're too used to "undo" buttons and loopholes. People want to keep their options open. They want to have insurance against hurt, boredom, conflict, and unhappiness. But there is no such insurance in marriage. That's why it takes courage to really marry someone. You can't know what the future holds, but you vow anyway. You take a leap of faith. It's scary. But it's so worth the risk because any other version of romantic relationship just doesn't work.

    You can't have the stability and comfort of having someone who is always there for you without a real commitment. You can't have the kind of stable home you need to raise children right without that real commitment. You can't get past hurts and disappointment and bad decisions and difficult times and the mundane details of everyday life to the wonderful relationship beyond without that real commitment. You can't ever open yourself fully and become fully known and fully loved until you forsake all others permanently through that real commitment to your spouse. All attempts to avoid making that real, unconditional commitment undermine what marriage is and prevent the good things that marriage is meant to bring.

  • --On a related note, there is the question of prenups in regards to financial sense.  

    Let's be honest here, we may criticize couples having prenups over money, but WE aren't the millionaires here.  If a celebrity gets married without a prenup and a divorce occurs we say, "That person was an idiot!" yet if any of us considers one we say, "It's so unromantic".  Why is stupidity for them and selfish greed for us?

    Remember that without a prenup, depending upon your State of residency (look up "Community Property States"), your assets, all of them, are split 50-50 no matter who brought in more money (this also includes any debt).  So if you own a successful business, or are set to get some inheritence, half of that, including any possible inheritence you want to give your kids, could be given to your ex.  What's even scarier is that in some States, fault isn't even a factor.  Meaning a spouse could cheat, file for divorce, and take half of his/her stuff with him.  And that doesn't even include alimony (which depending upon the years married could be anywhere from a few years to FOR LIFE)..

    Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru, used to be against prenups saying it was just "setting yourself up for divorce".  But he later changed his tune saying if your assets are fairly large you SHOULD get one.  Gee, I wonder if it's in part because he's the millionaire now, or has heard of these horror stories where spouses were able to hide their true nature and motives and then clean their ex-es out.

    I know what you're thinking.  "That'll never happen to me/us".  Well, almost no one who marries think it will happen to them.  Yet for 30-50% of couples (depending on which study you read) it DOES happen to them, and often not for traditional faults like adultery, physical abuse, incarceration, etc.  And this includes Christian couples.  And money is one thing that can tear families apart.

    I'm not saying everyone should get a prenup, and I would definitely not support the "lifestyle clauses" like weight and quality time together.  But I am suggesting that people not automatically take it off the table, nor that people be offended when presented with one or the discussion comes up especially when there is a huge disparity in wealth.  Some say people care more about money than the relationship.  I say that this helps diffuse the tension and removes most of the "what if" ambiguities which can come about.

  • --Clair-  I do know of a divorce that resulted In part because of mental illness.  The husband would go off his meds every couple months and leave his wife and his kids for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.  She put up with that, but then he left and drained their bank account.  She was a SAHM and the only way she could pay the rent and get food was to separate and (eventually) file for divorce.  Horribly sad situation.

  • I heard that you can look at the parents of the husband or wife for an indication as to how they will turn out when they're older. I feel that a lot of issues you can expect later in life when married can be hinted at this way.

  • And others wonder why I chose the asexual lifestyle.

  • "[W]ithout a prenup ... your assets, all of them, are split 50-50 no matter who brought in more money."

    And this is yet another reason that I would prefer to see the government get out of the business of legislating marriage. After all, thanks to no-fault divorce and the 50-50 rule, there's nothing that stops people from divorcing for money. (In fact, if all you care about is money, divorce would be a very logical move if your spouse is richer than you are.) If marriage were entirely privatized, people would actually have to list all terms that they care about in a contract-- and that might actually reduce the divorce rate because people would be less likely to marry for the wrong reasons.

  • @infjamc: The reason the government gets their hand in divorce settlements (IMO) is because they don't want to be the one providing social services in the case where one party can't support themselves. It's purely to avoid responsibilities that the government (and taxpayers) can't afford to take on.

  • Not purely, but money is probably a large driving factor.

  • shoebox, the government is involved so heavily in marriage and divorce these days is a long and complicated thing. I will talk about America, as I know it best. However, government involvement, in general, predates the welfare state as we know it. In America, the various states started issuing marriage licenses routinely to curb miscegenation. The state governments wanted to control freed blacks. Then whites decided they wanted the government's intimate involvement in their marriages because it seemed like such a great idea. See if you can find George Washington's marriage license. He didn't have one. Similarly, gun control laws in America were meant to disarm blacks. Now, everyone seems to be persuaded that gun control laws are there to keep you safe because the government just cares so much.

    No, actually, in both cases, the people in government love amassing power, and thus they just burrow their way into everyone's lives more and more. It's about raw power, not so much money.

    The current deplorable state of marriage in America happened by design and through a long-term plan that unfolded over a number of decades. The family had to be destroyed because it would provide a bulwark against the plans for population control by the self-appointed elite. Promoting divorce and the sexual revolution worked for that. We see the fruit in lower birth rates, lower marriage rates, high divorce rates, and resulting massive government dependence. When you're dependent you can be controlled more easily.

    There are global elites who want to make themselves gods. Bilderberg is going on as I type this. Look into them. They have a satanic agenda. These are the types of people who, with their fellow travelers/useful idiots in government, academia, and media have been shaping and molding culture through their mass media and educational system propaganda tools to this degraded state for their own purposes.

    Who's in the innermost circle of these people seeking to control the world's population for their own ends? Satan.

  • ... And we're worried about gays violating the sanctity of marriage? >.>

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