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By Scott Roeben

When did people start going through marriages like wind tunnel technicians go through lip balm? Sure there have always been jokes about people like Micky Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor and their very public marital proclivities. But these days, those two seem like lightweights when it comes to calling it quits.

While it may seem like the distant past, there was actually a time when getting a divorce was not as easy as making a ham sandwich. There was a social pressure which made people think twice before undergoing the often painful and embarrassing process of legally severing their ties. Now, divorce has become divorced from that unpleasant stigma. It has become the preferred form of conflict resolution with today's married couples. Dismemberment is a close second, but mostly in major urban areas.

There are several reasons that divorce has become as prevalent as it is.

First, the current generation of people getting married is selfish. While unmarried, I am a member of this generation, so I know whatof I speak. In the old days, people put the survival of a marriage before their own immediate happiness. Now, if someone leaves the seat up, teams of attorneys are being called in. Our self-centeredness has led us to be short-sighted, and the sound of wedding vows are often drowned out by a cacophony of whining.

"You never take me anywhere."

"Everyone else is having better sex than we are."

"If you were a real provider, I would have more closet space."

"Did I mention that you never take me anywhere?"

"I'm tired of being the only one capable of ordering the nanny to change the baby's diapers. I want you to contribute to the childrearing process. YOU tell her to do it next time!"

"You've put on seven pounds since we got married. I'm leaving you."

"Anywhere. You. Never. Me. Take. Get the picture?"

This has resulted in a generation that sees divorce as the first resort, rather than the last. At one time, a married couple with problems would stay together if for no other reason than because it might "hurt the children." Now, children are incidental, often dealt with like other assets in a divorce. "All right, you get the kids, but I get the lava lamp and the matching luggage we won on that game show."

Divorce has also become more prevalent because people are just plain lazy. In the early days of marriage, back when people wore loin cloths and the biggest social problems were along the lines of locusts and boils, marriage was work. It took a lot out of you, sure, but it was worth it. Marriage was a high-yield investment. But now, most people find compromise and accommodation just too strenuous. Like helping a fat guy out of a hammock. Or something.

But rather than just complaining about the decline of marriage, I have formulated some specific solutions to the tidal wave of divorce. We have to face it, divorce, at the moment, is just too darned easy. For example, my brother recently called, and our conversation went something like this.

Brother: We're getting a divorce.

Me: What? When did this happen?

Brother: We filed the papers about fifteen minutes ago.

Me: What? How could--

Brother: It was uncontested.

Me: You've been married eight years. Shouldn't someone have contested?

Brother: Oh, sorry. Hold on. I have to sign this document. (Sound of writing.) There. It's final.

Me: What are you saying? It's--

Brother: That sure is a load off. If I hurry I can get in an hour or two of jet skiing before dark. Bye. (Dial tone.)

In order to keep more people married, I have come up with a few suggestions for our legal system. I recommend that all couples seeking a divorce must first do all of the following.

1) Married couples MUST begin dating prior to their legal separation. Married couples often forget what it was like out there. One or two nightmare blind dates is all it would take to make even the most incompatible couples appreciate each other enough to stay together come hell, high water or fistfights involving upholstery swatches.

This idea would work twice as quickly if all people considering divorce were forced to look at themselves naked in a full length mirror. Only then can one fully appreciate having a spouse willing to look beyond the rolls of donut-bloated flesh to the real you inside.

2) All couples seeking a divorce must learn to juggle. This sounds odd, but part of the deal would be that a couple would be forced to help each other learn this difficult skill. My bet is that by the time two people master juggling, they will rediscover what attracted them to each other in the first place.

The best proof of this theory's merit is the fact that I have never known anyone in the circus who has ever gotten a divorce.

3) All troubled couples must meet my grandparents. It's hard to explain the relationship my grandparents have. "Divorce" is simply not a word in their vocabulary. Though, oddly, "hunky-dory" is.

They have been through everything together, and while not every day is a walk in the park, for them being apart has just never been an option. When they took those vows, they were signing a contract that was meant to last a lifetime. No refunds. No exchanges. Partners for life. Year after year, decade after decade. A love beyond passion. Trust. Security. Each is the other's lip balm in the wind tunnel of life.

I knew that would tie in somehow.


Scott Roeben, 1999, 2000. All rights reserved.