by | Feb 15, 2004 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Last week, a group of Michigan lawmakers, hoping to stem the alarming divorce rate, proposed a law: couples would have to undergo four hours of pre-marital counseling.

If they refused, they would have to wait 27 days for a marriage license, instead of just three.

Now, I can hear our married readers screaming, “Go for the 27! Are you crazy?” This only shows the disconnect between those who dream of jumping over the broom, and those who are already sweeping up.

Here’s my problem with this law: In the four hours, the counselors inevitably will speak about “love” and “commitment” and “devotion.”

And as any married person will tell you, what does any of that have to do with the toilet seat?

If I were in charge of handing out marriage licenses, I would begin by asking the following questions:

* 1. Have you ever seen your partner first thing in the morning?

* 2. Have you ever seen your partner throw up?

* 3. Do you know the exact temperature that makes your partner say, “It’s too cold”?

* 4. Is it within 10 degrees of yours?

* 5. Do you know how often your partner needs the bathroom on a road trip?

* 6. Have you ever seen your partner actually clean a room?

* 7. Have you met your partner’s friends?

* 8. Could you stand them once a week?

* 9. Can you make your partner laugh?

* 10. Can you talk all night to your partner without getting bored?

If the answer is “no” to any of these, sorry, come back in 27 days — and try again.

Divorce isn’t first option

If the couple passed Section One, I would pull out Section Two. Answer these questions:

* 1. Do you think your relationship is special because “We don’t fight!”

* 2. Are you certain of your love because “We like all the same things!”

* 3. Do you say, “I don’t care if my partner ever earns a penny; money doesn’t matter in a marriage.”

* 4. Do you ever say, “I know my partner has a nasty temper, but it will get better once we’re married”?

* 5. Do you model your relationship after a Hollywood couple?

* 6. Is the core of your relationship that “opposites attract?”

* 7. Do you have different views on having children, but figure you’ll work it out during the marriage?

* 8. Do you think your mother’s and father’s problems will never happen to you because you’re “different?”

* 9. Is your favorite thing about your partner, when you’re really being honest, his or her shape?

* 10. Do you ever say, “If it doesn’t work, we can always get divorced”?

If the answer to any of these is “yes,” come back in 27 days — and try again.

For better or for worse

Finally, I’d ask the following:

* 1. What would you do if your partner got a debilitating disease?

* 2. What would you do if your partner suddenly went bald or got obese?

* 3. What happens if your partner wants to move and you don’t?

* 4. What happens if you had a sick child?

* 5. What happens if one of you cheated?

* 6. What happens if your partner said your parents were “impossible?”

* 7. What happens if you achieve your dreams but your partner fails?

* 8. What happens if it’s the other way around?

* 9. What happens if you wake up one day and suddenly feel trapped?

* 10. What happens if you fall out of love?

If your answer is, “It won’t be a problem, because we love each other so deeply” — sorry, that’s the movies. Come back in 27 days.

But if your answer is, “I don’t know. Marriage is a shared risk. We know we have a deep respect for each other, we love and like each other, and we are committed not just to the other person, but to the idea that a marriage itself is worth preserving” — well, here’s your paperwork.

Don’t forget to hire a good caterer.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or “The Mitch Albom Show” is 3-6 weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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