Can Beta Marriage Avoid A Complicated Divorce?
Time magazine recently published an article discussing the concept of a “beta marriage” and millennials. For those unfamiliar with the word “Beta” let me explain. In the tech world, the word “beta” is often affiliated with a trial period, in other words, it’s something that’s tested before it’s released or finalized. For example, when a video game company is nearing the release of a new video game, they’ll often release a “beta version” to a select few individuals. This version is played and enjoyed as if it were a full released video game. Instead, what is really going on is the developers are collecting information, analyzing all types of data, and fixing various bugs that may not have been discovered prior to the beta.
In other words, a beta is a test run designed to fix errors. After a beta has ran its course (often a predefined period of time) the beta is closed. Following the beta, the developers can choose whether or not they’ll release the game or not or if they’ll continue to develop and fix the kinks they became aware of during the beta period.
This concept has become a mainstay in our new generation of technology first E-version of living. It was only a matter of time before tech savvy millennials transitioned this idea from the tech world into the real world. “Beta marriages” have now become a thing.
A “beta marriage” is similar to the video game version, except it’s a marriage. Instead of “game developers” you have two individuals, and instead of a video game, you have a marriage. What happens next is almost identical to the video game version.
Two individuals decide they want to be married. Instead of becoming married right off the bat, they form a type of union that is essentially temporary. This union redefines the “forever” and “until death do us part” concept in most wedding vows.
This relationship will last for a predetermined amount of time, similar to that of a beta test. After this time period has run its course, the couple will decide to either finalize their union (marriage), or to dissolve it and follow other routes. “This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense,” said the study’s author, Melissa Lavigne-Delville. “It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”
In other words, the couple is performing a “test run” on their marriage. They’re living together, sharing income, and doing everything a married couple does, but only for a short period of time. After this period of time, they’ll analyze their relationship and decide whether or not they’ll continue, or whether it’ll dissolve. The study showed that fifty-three percent of millennials surveyed thought marriage vows should be renewable; with nearly forty percent saying they believed the “till death do us part” vow should be abolished.
Is Beta Marriage A Lack Of Commitment?
Some may laud this as a step in the right direction by avoiding divorce and the mess that it brings. Others will say that this isn’t a “beta” test at all, but just a lack of commitment. Both sides seem to have a valid argument. In my opinion, if the couples decide this and are both comfortable with what it entails, then there should be no problem. Individuals have been creating pre-nuptials and deciding what to do if a marriage breaks down for years, but this method takes more of a joint venture approach, with both individuals deciding how to weather an often complicated endeavor instead of just planning for its failure. A crazy concept? Maybe not. Mexico City lawmakers proposed (unsuccessfully) a “renewable” marriage concept recently, whereby couples could simply renew or dissolve their unions after a period of two years. As a divorce lawyer, reading more about the ‘beta marriage’ concept and the opinions of millennials about the institution of marriage is really quite interesting!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.