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The husband’s driving license is up for renewal. It’s been 20 years since he got one when he turned 18, which is also the minimum age to get a license in India. There are different renewal periods ranging from 20 to 5 years depending on your age. For instance, last year, my dad was only allowed to renew his license for another 5 years since he was 65.
This whole license business got me thinking about marriage licenses.
A life-time subscription
When we got married in 2010, the husband and I had to apply for a state certified marriage license. They gave us a lifetime subscription. There isn’t an expiry date on our license. The state wants nothing to do with our relationship thereafter, because they don’t want to be responsible if one of us runs over the other or both of us run over a few children.
So this got me thinking - why are marriage licenses given out for a lifetime? Why not just for 20 years, with the option of renewing thereafter? Doesn’t it make it easier for people stuck in not so great marriages to get out more easily? Isn’t it more revenue for the state? Won’t it make weddings less extravagant, especially with middle class parents who may recalibrate based on the reduced depreciation period?
But, for those hopelessly in love even after 20 years, I am sure they can overcome a bit of bureaucratic friction to renew their marriage licenses. In fact, it is even considered “romantic” to renew your vows.
With any product or service for that matter, this user group is a very small percentage, just like the retractors (who get divorced anyway), so they are not big enough use cases to drive the design.
The average customer
Majority of the married folk lie in the centre. They’re neither overly happy nor overly bitter - they take life, and marriage alike, as it comes. So, this change in design may not make a difference to most people.
When you approach the renewal date, if you happen to be on the fence about your marriage, there’s a higher likelihood that you may not renew your license.
Without a valid license, you could continue to be in a relationship, but you may not enjoy the benefits of marriage such as becoming a legal heir to your partners’ financial assets or gain a smooth passage into bureaucratic heaven. But if you choose to end your relationship, then you definitely drive up the liquidity in the second marriage market.
It’s a design problem
To be very clear, I am not necessarily comparing a driving license to a marriage license, but I do want to explore the idea of improving the design of marriage by re-visiting where friction exists today.
As a society, we introduced the concept of “divorce” to help free couples who were unhappy, and that’s one way to do it.
But what if we didn’t structure it as a cancellation of a marriage subscription, instead gave people an option to renew after a shorter subscription to begin with, we’d probably have more and happier customers?
Isn’t that how good services and products are built anyway?
Thanks to my podcast, I’ve been talking to lots of couples who’ve been happily married for several years. The one big learning for me is how a marriage itself can be modelled into periods of transition and periods of steady state. There are lots of minor transitions in all relationships based on health, career, moving/ settling, etc.
People experience exponential growth during every transition, and the couple may or may not grow in coherence. Finding a middle ground may or may not be as easy as it used to be in every subsequent transition.
So, what do you do when you’re no longer interested in walking the same path? I am not even talking about cases where you have a toxic relationship or where you hate each other. I am talking about people growing apart, and their paths being forced to converge only because there is legal and social friction to do otherwise.
You can’t put in an emergency exit door in the room and hope that people won’t die of suffocation. You need proper ventilation too. Some couples are brilliant at providing that air for each other, flourishing as individuals and also building great relationships together.
But what if, for whatever reason, you aren’t one of the lucky ones?
Improving the marketplace
I speak to a lot of people who are divorced, with or without children, and it’s not easy for them to find love again. While as a society, we are far more open to the idea of a divorce, the second marriage market just isn’t as liquid as the first marriage market.
When you are in a not so happy marriage, you may dismiss the idea of a divorce, simply because you think that you may not be able to do better.
Imagine a couple in their 50s, whose kids have moved out of home, and now they’ve realised they no longer enjoy each others’ company or have the patience to put up with one another, should they continue to be together?
Or… Should they part ways?
What if they have a lot of love to give and receive, but can’t do so any longer with each other? Wouldn’t it be better to have greater liquidity in the second marriage market, at any age, so this couple could part ways amicably, and continue to find love on their own?
I don’t know.
I am just wondering.
Marriage isn’t to be trivialised. It is a sacred institution, and millions of people all over the world have spent their entire lifetimes building their marriages over the last several years, and continue to do so.
But today, we live in a very dynamic world where the idea of marriage is fast evolving, and we need to re-invent this institution as a society to facilitate healthy relationships.
People no longer marry to combine kingdoms or businesses, and accept adultery as a legitimate side effect. People marry for love (which is a relatively new concept), and apparently sometimes, love comes with an expiry date.
Very often, you don’t realise when a relationship has already run it’s course. You just stay on because of inertia, legal and social obligations. It works for some people. But, it doesn’t for a lot of others.
If we as a society have faith in the institution of marriage, a life-time membership should not be forced on people. We must be incentivising people to get married, and stay married rather than disincentivizing people from breaking marriages. We must re-evaluate where we introduce friction and where we remove it from.
Now, I don’t know if 20-year licenses are the way to solve for this, but something has to give.
But do I fancy the idea of state intervention in my love affairs?
For kids these days, “thought-leadership” or recruiting a Naval for romantic relationships may be the way to go? LOL.
Sneak peak into what I’m reading/ watching/ listening to:
May be you should talk to someone by Lori Gotlieb - the narrative alternates between Lori as a therapist and as a patient where she talks about her own crisis along side those of her patients. Reading this book made me realise how much I like the writing of non-American authors. Somehow feels more exotic. So, I’ll just go back to my globe-trotting through books.
Shapely Gal song of the month: Enjoy Enjaami. I’ve listened to this song at least 300 times in the last one month. If you love the song too, tell me?