by Kerri Affronti and Ajay Shah

{my engagement ring circa 2014}

There are three central topics that matter most in life. They focus around Health, Wealth, and Relationships and without fulfillment in each you are left with a void. I’ve been focused on health but what good is your health if you don’t have someone to share your life with? With so many focusing on wealth I’m going to leave that to the experts for now. However on the topic of relationships there is an emerging shift in the way millennials and generation X approach their dating and social lives. With the advent of social media, dating apps and dating shows we are seeing a very different dating scene transpire and it’s something I’ve been meaning to discuss.

So I’m going to switch from talking about health and healthcare to talk about relationships, because I want to inform you about several big ideas I have for my generation and the generations after me. Reader beware this series will be a much more controversial topic than my previous posts on the topic of healthcare with my personal health story. If life is meant to be enjoyed it must be done on all levels and hence I’ve realized it’s time to go public with this.

The pivot in topic is in part because I want to get the idea out into the world as a viable option for those, like me that are almost middle-aged and still unmarried [and whom have wanted to be married].

The forms and structures of the past which once held the fabric of our society together are falling apart and dissipating quicker than anyone anticipated. As a result we are creating new pathways and structures. Those who are living in the new generations are creating new rules; new financial rules, economic rules, healthcare rules, and most importantly new rules in relationship. This idea is for those of you who are creating a modern context for your lives and improving that which came before us. Why stick to the old when so much is new?

The times they are a changin’

Years ago marriage was created as a religious ceremony to signify the joining of two under God. Across cultures the marriage ceremony is full of traditions and ritual. When you get married, the wedding sermon is derived from religious text and tradition. The problem is that in our lifetime, many of those in their twenties and thirties, heck even forties who have not yet gotten or been married, experience life very differently than the humans have for centuries before us.

With the advent of the internet and advances with technology, in an instant I can get on my phone and open any of my four different apps (each claiming to have a different spin, but each delivering the same result) and have a dozen or more dates set up. I’m not bragging here; this is simply the reality of being and speaking to the fact that today more than ever the dating pool has changed dramatically opening up far more options than days of old. With a simple swipe left or swipe right people now view dating choices as a game, not a life decision but something they can easily hit the reset button on if they make the wrong choice. In my parents generation, they had to be in physical proximity to a person to have a conversation that could result in a date and a potential partner for marriage. I however can date someone from Australia, India or just about any country if I wished to and after developing a texting, emailing, or thanks to Apple, a Facetime relationship, before choosing to travel to meet this person and build a physical relationship. Social mobility and dating websites have significantly increased the accessibility and abundance of people at your fingertips. It’s no wonder with so many more choices than any past generations why it has become much harder to make the choice to settle down.

With these new choices come decision making. Making the decision on whom to be with for the rest of your life is already difficult. Add to the mix an endless pool of new selections daily and then asking someone to make that decision…Good Luck! In this instance it will take a lot of luck too, because the chances of the right two people matching and marrying become slimmer and slimmer as the pool of selections increases. We set more and more unreasonable standards for which we demand to hold that perfect to be sole mate. We even have experts giving advice at how to make better decisions and how to better eliminate choices so there is less strain on that part of one’s brain where decision making takes place. This is supposed to allow that part of the brain to then focus on the other important decisions and areas of our life. But isn’t the choice of a person to spend your time and/or life with arguably the crux of what is the most important decision you can make?

Let’s talk about building something of significance for a moment. We each know that anything of value requires commitment, time, attention and focus. In order for an endeavor to be successful one must dedicate adequate attention on the project or in this case, person. If you do so effectively, you can actually build something together. You can create something that did not exist before you both chose to put your attention on it.

It takes years to build, but seconds to destroy.

The argument for marriage: Like so many women my age who are in their thirties and have yet to walk down the aisle, many of us want that experience. It has been etched into our brains since childhood (with Disney movies) that haven’t really quelled the thought of prince charming. Now, being in my late thirties, I am eager to explore this commitment not because I want a family and children, (as my child-bearing years are nearing their completion) but because I eagerly want to ‘have the experience’ that has been implanted as my God given right. I want to have a deep and passionate relationship where we both turn up the dial on the level of commitment in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, and essentially combine all resources to advance each other mutually. This act of combining resources can make life so much more efficient even short-term. Every one of us has a list of the main concerns in our life and throughout our lives. We want to have fun in the moment but we also have to plan for the future not knowing what could happen. We have all seen or had first hand experience where life changes drastically in an instant and no amount of warning prepares us to go through the hardships. From necessities such as shelter, socialization, sex, food and play/entertainment, spiritual self growth, etc. to the more mundane aspects of life; car maintenance, what to have for dinner, or career growth and financial gains, it is easier to tackle when you have an accomplice by your side. If we work as a team to address our combined needs collectively, we can ultimately thrive in the satisfaction of obtaining needs more consistently. If two minds are better than one, so it is with building and relationships.

It has also been proven people who are married tend to live much longer as well as have more sex, a healthy building block in life for happiness. For these reasons, and many more, I am interested in having this situation presented. Once in the face of it; marriage can be a scary thought — to live with a stranger and to grow old together; however the thought of not having it is far more scary.

Back to the original thought of years to build but seconds to destroy. What if there was a new model that was accessible and could help both parties relax into a commitment? What if you could be in a partnership that was equivalent to marriage in every way but the words “till death do you part” were removed? Would that remove the fear that is preventing so many in my generation from getting married? I believe so and others do too. The fear of making the wrong choice and the horrors that are synonymous with divorce all of a sudden disappear! What if it was just as easy to get married as it was to get divorced? Well I guess that construct already exists in a typical relationship which we have seen now in a pattern that time and time again is failing to create the long-term marriages of the past.

Ok enough venting/ranting you want to know the answer to the important question…

So what’s the solution?

I bring to you The Three Year Marriage. It starts just like any normal relationship. You meet, you go on dates, and you determine if both of you can see a future together. Now removing the barrier to getting engaged and having to go through with marriage and hoping it was the right choice, you instead agree to culminate into The Three Year Marriage. As the name states, The Three Year Marriage is a commitment to one another just the same as if you were to become traditionally married but with the added benefit that in three years from the date of the ceremony, you re-assess how things are going and if this is something that you both wish to continue the duration. Some will call this a renewal of vows, I see this is more of a way to trial a marriage. During the three years you live together, you have a joint bank account and do most, if not all of the things just like you typically would being married. While you can also maintain separate bank accounts and won’t necessarily have children in those first three years it gives you autonomy to build your lives together with someone but you have your freedom to pursue a different life if things don’t work out; far more amicably than if you went through with the marriage/divorce system that currently exists. Ugh, painful.

I also strongly believe if you can’t make three years work together independently you both shouldn’t have children in the first place. It provides in many ways a high level of trust that you will commit to the three years and if both parties come back at the completion of three year and determine not to continue you had the chance to trial your marriage. With over 50% of marriages falling apart in the archaic system already, this allows the experience of three years satisfaction of experiencing marriage. And if it does happen to go as expected or if it the marriage is better than expected, the two of you work well together, then it’s as easy as continuing the relationship by deepening the commitment in the next phase. We know it’s much easier to make the wrong choice than the right/perfect choice but that shouldn’t keep us from trying to get it right when we do meet that special someone that we want to at least take a leap of faith with. It just shouldn’t be as painful (divorce) when it doesn’t work and there needs to be measures in place to help both people take steps, helping each other build that trust. Hence The Three Year Marriage.

I welcome questions / suggestions and thoughts on how my idea can be improved and better executed into a practice that can be adopted more readily and easily for our generation and for future generations to be welcomed as the new normal for relationship trial status.

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***In addition

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