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Covenant Marriage – She Wants One, He’s Not so Sure

Dear Robin:

Hello from Phoenix!

Your blog popped up on my Facebook feed through a friend and I searched it for this issue but didn’t see so I’m glad to give you a brand new subject!  Long story short: I’m getting married in January next year and my fiancee wants a covenant marriage but I’m not sure if I do.

We are both finishing graduate school and more than ready after dating since college to get married.  She comes from a pretty religious family and I don’t.  I’m not even sure why I am balking at the idea of the covenant marriage but something just seems weird about it.

You can probably guess this conversation started an unpleasant fight between us and she doesn’t understand why I am hesitating to sign up for this.  My question for you is have you seen these before and do they work better than a regular marriage?  Do you have any suggestions for reasoning with her if I decide I don’t want to do this?

Bill

Dear Bill:

This is a fabulous topic – thank you for sending it!  

FYI: I hate it when people mislead me.  You indicated you have one question for me but you delivered three.  I’m going to have to charge you triple today.

Since this is not a “legal advice blog,” as some have claimed but rather just an “advice blog,” I shan’t be giving you legal advice today.  Please see my disclaimer here: I’m Not Your Lawyer!

Let’s first talk about the concept of the covenant marriage.

So What is a Covenant Marriage, Anyway?

Readers who aren’t familiar with what a “covenant marriage” entails, please click here for the Arizona law summary:

Covenant Marriage.

In summary, since most of you won’t go to the effort to click and read that link, a covenant marriage is a marriage that is:

  1. Harder to get than your average marriage; and
  2. Harder to break than your average marriage.

Only three states in this country have covenant marriage statutes. Congratulations, Arizona – you find yourself in the fine company of Arkansas and Louisiana!  Heady company, to be sure.

I agree marriage should be harder to enter into than it is today, so as to point #1 of the covenant marriage statute in Arizona I think it’s great.  It requires premarital counseling during which hopefully those who are unsuited towards each other will wake up and walk away before they make a big mistake.

What it should include but doesn’t is a lesson in the legal implications, responsibilities and rights that are triggered when two people marry.  

I am working on such a document for consideration here in Multnomah County so people don’t go lightly into marriage before they really understand what it means.  For a very fun tangent on that subject, read this:

Gay Marriage and Gay Divorce.

Back to the covenant marriage statute and apologies for the distraction, but that was a fun one to research and write.  

It’s point #2 I don’t like.  

I don’t like it all.

Before you accuse me of being a divorce proponent, do as I asked (but you didn’t) and click on that link for a full understanding of what this law entails.  

Here, I’ll make it easy for you: READ THIS, YOU LAZY SO-AND-SO.

First of all, the law is utterly hypocritical.  More on that in a minute. 

Second of all, why on earth would anyone voluntarily sign up to have the government exercise more control over their personal life?

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You do realize that’s what a covenant marriage is, right?  

You are abdicating your own highly personal life choices to the government, in this case a man or woman who wears a black robe and rules on high with a gavel and almost no understanding of what it means to live in your marriage.

You are telling each other you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to remain in your marriage without the boot of the government on your necks.  That’s really sad when it comes down to it, because the proponent of the covenant marriage is telling their partner:

I don’t trust you.

And maybe they are also telling you,

I don’t trust myself.

The Hypocrisy of the Covenant Marriage: Let Me Count the Ways!

Here are the exceptions to the “no divorce for you!” statute in Arizona:

  1. Adultery 
  2. Felony + imprisonment
  3. One year abandonment OR intention to abandon for one year
  4. Sexual abuse of spouse or children, domestic violence, or emotional abuse
  5. Two year separation OR intent to separate for two years
  6. Legal separation for one year or more
  7. “Regular abuse” of drugs or alcohol
  8. Both parties want to split

If you look closely at that list, you’ll see that #1, 4, and 7 absolutely require litigation to prove your case merits an exception.  

Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows I view domestic litigation as an often unnecessary evil that should be limited and avoided at all costs. Because 1, 4, and 7 are fact-based allegations, they must be proven somehow.

How?  Litigation!  Where?  Why, in court, of course!

More money for the lawyers, more money for the state, and less autonomy and dignity for the citizens.  

I can’t say enough how much I hate this statute.

I’m imagining what this litigation looks like:*

WIFE (ELIZA):

“Your honor, I want a divorce.  My husband cheated on me with my sister, Angelica.  Therefore, I would like to exercise exception #1 to the Covenant Marriage statute so that I might divorce his ass, like, yesterday.”

JUDGE:

“Well, young man?  What do you have to say for yourself?”

HUSBAND (ALEXANDER):

“First of all, I didn’t cheat with Angelica.  I wanted to – I’ve had lust for her in my heart and loins since we met in a bar all those years ago, but she is my sister-in-law and despite my reputation of being reliable with the ladies, even I wouldn’t go there.  

“Second, I will admit to cheating with Mrs. Reynolds, but I have my reasons.  My wife has been extremely frigid since the birth of our son, Philip.  She refuses to share my bed and makes me sleep in my office, which explains why I work so much.  

“Have you read ‘The Federalist Papers?’  Yeah, most of those were mine.  You liked them?  Thanks!  Fucking Burr is a coward and wouldn’t help, but I think we did a good job without him.

“Not only has Eliza closed the Meow-Meow Amusement Park for months, she took off for the entire summer and spent it with her father and her hottie sister Angelica upstate.  She knew I couldn’t go – she knew I was stuck in the city trying to push through my plan to assume state debt and create a national bank.

“How the hell was I supposed to deal with that?  I’m still a young man, after all!  I have needs!  And now because my wife left me for the summer and I dipped my pen in Mr. Reynold’s inkwell, I am being blackmailed!  

“I can’t afford to pay the hush money AND alimony AND child support!  I do not want a divorce so please rule against her.”

JUDGE:

“He’s got some good points, Eliza.”

WIFE (ELIZA):

“Whatever.  Can I have my divorce now?”

JUDGE:

“I’ll need to take this under advisement, but first we will need to hear testimony on the most private and personal events in your marriage.  Then I’ll decide your fate, even though we just met.”

The Greatest Hypocrisy of All

In Arizona, here is what you sign to agree to this “Marriage Plus:”

We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.

With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.

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We commit ourselves solemnly except in the 8 exceptions listed above.  

Wow – what a powerful and meaningful commitment.  

Now that you know how I feel about the Covenant Marriage (hateithateithateit) you’ll have to wait for my advice.  I don’t want my extremely awesome guidance to get lost in too many words.  

Tune in tomorrow for my script on how to address this matter with your fiancee.

Final note for the day:

As you know from Friday’s blog  I’m Dying Over Here I am willing to email anyone who asks a copy of my latest and greatest Oregon State Bar complaint response.  

I was inundated over the weekend with requests and I think by now I’ve responded to all of them but I’m not certain.

If you requested but did not receive a copy, please email me again at robin@robindescamp.com and I’ll send it along.  I’d love comments from those of you who read it so please leave them here or just email them to me.

Happy Monday, and here’s to a great week!

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*I know I’m obsessed with this musical.  I’m sorry.  If anyone can get me tickets, I will not only be deeply grateful, but I will let you take a picture with me and put it on your Facebook page.  That’s a $14,987 value, according to my accountant.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. john descamp

    Great post Robin. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a covenant marriage. No thank you!

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