Does “Forsaking All Others” Still Cut It?

Newt Gingrich's purported request to his second wife for an "open marriage" prompted a couple of economists to look at the marriage contract:

Marriage can be strengthened by shifting to individualized marital contracts that emphasize those things essential to making each relationship work. Is “forsaking all others” essential? What about splitting the housework? Should we live near my parents, yours, or neither? Who stays home from work when the kids are sick? Should we be spenders or savers? Will we retire at 55 or 75? How many kids? How will we allocate time between work, family, friends and each other?

These questions are at the heart of married life, but only one of them — sexual fidelity — is in the standard marriage contract…

The great Nobel laureate Gary Becker has suggested a way out of this bad equilibrium. What if it were compulsory to write a personalized marriage contract with your spouse, tailored to your own circumstances? Replacing today’s default marriage vows with compulsory personal contracts would create the space for two adults to seriously and soberly sit down and decide what it is that they want from married life.

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