Should You Prepare for Divorce Before You’re Even Married?

Have you ever heard of a bride asking for a refund on her wedding if she gets divorced? No?

Neither did the wedding photographer who received such a request, nor did I and the thousands of other photographers she shared it with in a Facebook group:

This is obviously a ludicrous request because even if this bride and her future husband got divorced, the photographer would still have spent hours documenting their wedding. The photographer gets paid for their time (plus a myriad of other things), not just for the final results. Did the bride also send this request to the DJ for her wedding reception? Should the bride get a refund on the wedding cake in case of divorce, even after the cake was eaten? Obviously not, and it’s pretty selfish of the bride to send such a request to the photographer. Thankfully, the many commenters on the Facebook post and other places this story was picked up also recognized the absurdity of the situation.

But what is most saddening about the bride’s request isn’t her selfishness—it’s her attitude about her marriage. She hasn’t even donned her wedding dress, but she’s already preparing for divorce.

Thankfully, divorce rates seem to be decreasing slightly while marriage rates are increasing, but divorce rates today still hover around fifty percent. I went to a women’s college, and one day a professor told the class to look around the room because half of us would be divorced one day. It’s a pretty startling statistic and one that I’m reminded of every time I attend a wedding.

Many people in my generation (I’m a millennial) have a distorted view of marriage because they grew up with divorced parents; but pop culture also offers up a never-ending and distorted stream of weddings and marriages through shows such as Four Weddings, Say Yes to the Dress, My Fair Wedding, Bridezillas, I Found the Gown, and Married at First Sight. Most of these shows treat marriage like a sporting event, complete with spectators cheering or booing each decision the bride makes.

Reality television shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are worse. The Bachelor has been on the air since 2002; care to guess how many couples who have appeared on the show are actually married? One. One couple has gotten married.

As well, technology has effectively turned the search for love into a competition. Yes, there are some people who find the love of their life on Tinder, but many don’t live happily ever after. Only five percent of people have met their significant other on dating apps, and one third of people on these dating apps don’t even go on a date with the people they connect to. Yet the number of young people using dating apps has more than tripled since 2013, either because they’re feeling adventurous, they like the convenience, or (more likely) because it’s now the method of last resort for meeting someone.

I’m among the lucky few who met my significant other without the aid of technology (we met in Denmark, no less), but even though I don’t personally use dating apps or feel the need for a divorce clause in a wedding photography contract, it’s discouraging to see what such developments signal about our culture’s view of marriage and commitment. And I’m not alone; shows like Married at First Sight, which joins two strangers together in marriage and then follows their relationship, exist in part because there are plenty of participants willing to have someone else find a spouse for them rather than try to do so themselves (sadly, though not surprisingly, many of the show’s relationships end in divorce).

If you’re looking for your “happily ever after,” don’t get caught up in wedding TV shows or rely entirely on dating apps, and definitely don’t prepare for your divorce before you’re even walked down the aisle. Be open to meeting someone the old-fashioned way. Who knows? You might just bump into your future significant other at the gym or in a coffee shop (or in Denmark). As the ninety-five percent of people who didn’t find their significant other on a dating app shows, it still happens.

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  • Rock

    Cool article. I’ve always wondered about this when it comes to the concept of a prenup agreement. If a couple signs a prenup before they get married, is this too a signal that they’re preparing for divorce? Do they have the wrong attitude and shouldn’t get married?

    • SamHamilton

      I’ve often wondered about that too. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had a ton of money going into a marriage that I’d be worried about losing, but it seems to send a signal that I don’t quite trust the other person I’m marrying. Of course, some people do turn out to be totally different people than they ones their spouse thought they were marrying.

  • aberqueen

    Maybe couples should expend as much or more energy on the marriage succeeding.

    I’m convinced we should promote pre-marital counseling that focuses on clearly ID’ing values and intended practices related to morals, money management, child-rearing and expectations about one’s partner.

    That info would give couples insight on whether or not to marry, what to expect if they do and what might happen between them if things don’t work out.