Divorces increased from 21 998 in 2012 to 25 326 in 2016. File picture: Independent Media Archives

Paige Nick is a relationship expert who was consulted on for the four part podcast series: THE 200 YEAR OLD. The below is a Q&A from the podcast.

Is marriage a dying tradition?

I don’t think marriage is dying, but it’s certainly changing shape. And once we live exponentially longer it will only change even more. Imagine being married to the same person for over 150 years? Is that even possible?

Marriage as we know it is already under a lot of pressure. In June of this year, Statistics South Africa reported that four out of ten marriages end in divorce before their 10th anniversary.

Divorces increased from 21 998 in 2012 to 25 326 in 2016.

What we have seen in response to this, is an increase globally of something called a marriage contract. It’s a slightly different, more modern take on traditional marriages.

What is a Smart Marriage Contract?

So basically, people can decide on every element of the contract. Including the length of it. So you could decide you want it to last say 10 years. Then you figure out every other element of it that’s important to you, like the financial points, child care, travel, and you figure it all out up front. Your contract is stored on the Block Chain, which means it can’t be lost, changed or altered. 

Then after 9 years, both parties decide if they want to renew the contract or not, and what changes they’d like to make. Perhaps you want to travel more, or have more children, anything like that. Some couples may even choose to put things like leaving the toilet seat down in the contract.

Will we take too much of the human element out of the equation with marriage contracts?

This is what BitNation founder Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, has to say about it: “I don’t personally believe so. I actually think it has much more humanity than the conventional marriage contracts, within a church or a nations state for instance, because you can choose much more what fits you precisely and you can choose if you want to marry someone of the same gender, you can choose if you want to marry more than two people, if you want to have a polyamorous marriage for instance – many of these things that are illegal and manage your decisions for you around the world."

So you can choose what code of law you want to follow. What do you prefer, civil law, common law or Sharia law or any other kind? You can choose how you prefer to resolve disputes, according to your own culture.

The options are indefinite. And you can also tie it into a range of other contracts, like a childcare contract that you manage between all parties in the family unit. 

You can choose how you want to save, you can put a land title in the contract, manage all of those assets so it is actually much more humane in the sense that you can put whatever you want into it and you manage it in a much more flexible way, instead of having just a static, standard, one-size fits all, open-ended agreement.”

Do you think it will be a way to end divorce?

Hmmm this is an interesting question. I don’t know that it will end divorce, relationships will always shift and change and be organic, there’s no way around that, because human beings will always shift and change. But I do think that divorce as we know it might no longer exist in the future. And the marriage contract will assist with that. 

The pressure to be together forever and ever till death do you part will fall away. And if we’re simply being together in agreed increments, and if we discuss and agree on all sorts of issues up front, then relationships can come to natural conclusions with a lot less pressure to stick it out, rather than brutally fall apart. And have a lot less animosity and less to figure out when they do conclude.