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Last week, Former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Sears and family relations scholar Professor William Doherty released a proposal to reduce “unnecessary divorce” called the Second Chances Act. The act is model legislation that requires couples to take a one-year waiting period before obtaining a divorce.

According to Maggie Gallagher, one of the act's supporters:

The genesis of the Second Chances Act was Minnesota Judge Bruce Peterson’s observation that at least some of the people he was seeing in his court looked like they needed a “rest stop” on the “divorce superhighway.” “When Judge Peterson looked at his own court system, widely acknowledged as a progressive one,” Sears and Doherty write, “he saw attempts to meet nearly every need of divorcing couples — legal and financial assistance, protection orders, parenting education, and more — except for reconciliation.

At least one critic of the legislation has pointed out that few couples can really get divorced quickly these days anyway. The author of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post about the piece explains in Slate:

The authors misrepresent how long it currently takes to get divorced. They leave readers with the impression that divorce is available on demand, by claiming that most states have “waiting periods” of six months or fewer. It’s true that in most states, once someone files for divorce, he or she isn’t required to wait long to get one. But what the authors leave out is that in many states, in order to file for a no-fault divorce in the first place, couples have to have lived “separate and apart” for months or even years.

Reading the cover story of the Atlantic this month, the piece by the Atlantic editor Kate Bolick, who is still single at 39, it seems like we really need a "First Chances Act," where young women at the age of 25 or so are told about the benefits of marrying in the first place. Bolick begins her navel-gazer of a piece with this anecdote:

In 2001, when I was 28, I broke up with my boyfriend. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track relationships, were bewildered. I was bewildered. To account for my behavior, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down.

Bolick and many other women like her, including one who wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, keep ending relationships with men because they feel the men are not their "soul mates." There's something intangible missing. Why aren't men living up to women's expectations? Are men getting worse? Certainly there is something to that. Few women in Kate Bolick's set are interested in marrying the man-children that Kay Hymowitz described in her recent book, Manning Up.

But maybe we are also simply expecting too much of marriage. Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz wrote a fascinating op ed in the New York Times a few years ago where she described how women of earlier eras used to have much closer friendships and relationships with their relatives. If they were looking for someone with whom to share their most intimate secrets, their husbands were not the only or even the most obvious candidates. Perhaps we are putting too much pressure on our marriages and our relationships by expecting our significant others to be our soulmates. Women are told they must find a man with whom they can share everything.

And once these women get into a marriage, it is easy to see how it will fall apart under the kind of pressure that modern couples put on the institution. It's not clear that a "second chance" at reconciliation will change the situation.

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