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Divorce Guilt and the "Contractual" Marriage

All divorces are different, but a trend that has historically placed exponential burden on the male spouse stems from the guilt of initiating a divorce. "Provider guilt" has been a source of strain for men who end marriages as it coerces them into extraneous conditions to lessen the conflict and strain on the woman whom they once cared a great deal for. One particular instance even recounts a man who willingly agreed "to pay more than 65% of his annual income in perpetuity for the care and maintenance of his ex-wife's six cats" and then desperately sought to overturn the terms of the agreement.

Now what about when that same guilt keeps you involved in a marriage? A more practical instance deals with a couple who have a child in the tender years. The man wants his wife to work, but the wife doesn't want to because they have a young child whom she believes she must be the primary caretaker of. The man's role as a provider keeps him engaged longer than he wants and the marriage obfuscates as years progress. The child matures and the man files for divorce. Now that, say, ten years have passed, the alimony and assets of the marriage have changed. Alimony is based off "the recipient's age, training, ability to work and the duration of the marriage" and since the wife has now been out of the work force for a decade and the marriage has lasted longer, the alimony will increase.

Assets will have become more intertwined as time has progressed and the process will require more work to separate these assets. In some states, like New York, courts will order a marital home to be sold if the marriage is short and the children are young, but if there are children in the teens these homes will be kept in "status quo" until the children graduate and then be ordered for sale.

It is not always easy to identify a failing marriage early in a relationship, but doing so can potentially avoid hardship. Obviously guilt that extends marriages is not unique to the male spouse, but when it comes to children it may be helpful to clearly outline the parental roles as caretakers or providers. This can help reduce the financial anxiety put upon one spouse while clearing up grey areas that may harbor miscommunication and confusion. Some are even advocating a "10-year marriage contract" like a prenup that not only outlines finances, but also broader relationship goals, which has to be reassessed every nine years to either "amicably" decide to split, or draft another contract with contextual alterations to adapt to the changing dynamic that is marriage.

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