One in four marriages carried out in the UK ends in divorce, so could it be time to shake up the way we commit to our partner?
Some relationship experts have suggested engaging in a 10-year “relationship contract” could be a better way to ensure your relationship stands the test of time.
The idea is that couples should set out their expectations of what their relationship will be like, as well as detail what will happen financially if they break up.
After nine years, the couple should re-evaluate their contract, deciding whether they are still on track or making changes in their love life where necessary.
Sex and relationship expert Dr Nikki Goldstein believes a 10-year relationship contract, or a 10 year marriage contract, could help couples work through their problems.
“I see people all the time that are clinging on to marriages because that’s easier, or the idea of being on your own or divorced is scary,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
“They don’t want to be seen to be failing, but they never stop to think ‘why isn’t it working for us?’
“If there was more social acceptance from society and we did have more encouragement to create our own rules and marriages, maybe we’d see a decrease in the amount of divorces.”
Writer and HuffPost UK blogger Sarah Tinsley has welcomed the concept, saying relationship contracts may enable couples to maintain “an equal balance of power in the relationship”.
“Marriage is still very biased towards the male partner assuming control, even if you try to have a ‘modern’ marriage,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Allowing both partners the same input, without the historical baggage of a wedding, certainly permits both parties to start on an even footing.”
According to Tinsley, such a contract would also encourage couples to re-evaluate “what a successful long-term partnership actually looks like” and acknowledge “that people change over time”.
“Assuming that everything will be fine after you’ve said ‘I do’ can limit the amount of reflection that happens as you progress,” she said.
“Formalising this process through a contract might seem ‘unromantic’ to some, but it could well lead to more honest, balanced and successful relationships.”
In contrast Keelie Briggs, founder of the wedding planning site Wedding It Your Way, does not believe 10-year contracts are a good idea.
“I prefer a traditional marriage and believe if you choose to commit to someone, you do so because you know that the love you feel for them has no time limits,” she said.
“A marriage ‘contract’ seems more of a business agreement made out of convenience than a declaration of love and devotion as a marriage should be.”
Peter Saddington, a counsellor at relationship’s charity Relate, said all forms of long-term relationships take commitment and hard work.
“Whether it’s a marriage, living together or a 10-year contract, it makes sense to evaluate your relationship along the way to make sure you’re both happy with how things are going,” he told HuffPost UK.
“Important life events – like having a baby, a death in the family or retirement – can put a strain on couple relationships and that’s often when people come to Relate.”
He added that there’s “no need to wait” until a problem arises to seek relationship support.
“Taking the time to check in on how you’re both feeling will help to make your relationship as strong as possible for when life throws you a curve ball,” he said.
“Of course, many couples end up having children and that’s a life-long commitment whether you’re together or not.
“Parents have a responsibility to ensure they’re doing the best for their children as they grow up, including making the family relationships around them as strong as possible.”