Mocking Marriage: The Valentine’s Divorce Contest and the TV Marriage Extravaganza

Walter H. Bentley III, a Southfield, Michigan divorce attorney, is again this year conducting his popular FREE VALENTINE’S DIVORCE CONTEST.

The winning couple will be given an all-expenses-paid divorce, with an estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000. The winners will be selected based on the most compelling and convincing story as to why they should be granted the divorce. The contest is limited to Michigan residents who seek an uncontested divorce, with no or minimum child custody issues.

Bentley, in a television interview this week on WDIV-TV, explained that economic times make it difficult for people to get the divorces they need. Sometimes, he said, the best thing people can do is just walk away and start fresh. And there are many folks out there who seem to agree with him: Last year, his ironic Valentine’s Day contest brought 600 applications from unhappy couples hoping to untie the knot.

Bentley’s website speaks to his “Who cares?” attitude toward divorce:

“Are you or your spouse contemplating divorce?” he asks. “Get the guidance you need to get your divorce done with dignity and pride! Clients enter my “No Judgment Zone” to get through this emotional process.”

* * * * *

Why, I wondered as I watched this guy flaunt his easy-peasy break-up expertise on-air, has our contemporary culture taken such a cavalier attitude toward the dissolution of a marriage? Hollywood, I suppose, deserves part of the blame. And the cheap fan magazines in the supermarket checkout lanes tease with their “who’s-sleeping-with-whom” headlines.

But part of the blame must go, also, to our dismissive attitudes at the front end—how decidedly un-serious we are about getting into marriage in the first place.

*     *     *     *     *

On February 10, the same day I watched attorney Walter Bentley grinning through an interview about his great divorce giveaway, I also happened upon a televised mass wedding in which fifty couples said “I do” in front of TV comedian Steve Harvey. Harvey is purportedly a Christian; but there was no mention of God in this made-for-TV wedding extravaganza. He had alongside him (to make it official) a “real” minister—a woman from (wait for it…) the Little Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

As America watched, fifty tuxedoed men repeated their vows to fifty white-gowned, bare-shouldered women:

“I [insert groom’s name here] take you [insert bride’s name here] to be my best friend for life, to do what I say I am going to do, to protect you, to provide for you, and to always make you feel loved and appreciated.”

Fifty brides did the same, but for the gals there was less emphasis on taking out the trash on Thursday evening, and greater emphasis on boosting the fragile male ego:

“I [insert bride’s name here] take you [insert groom’s name here] to be my best friend for life, I vow to make you feel wanted, to make you feel needed, to make you feel appreciated, and to always be clear and honest.”

And as fifty rings were placed on fifty fingers, Harvey spoke the words of his secular sacrament:

“I now pronounce you all man and wife. You may now kiss the brides.”

I can’t predict how many of those fifty starry-eyed couples will, five or seven years from now, seek the assistance of a guy like Walter Bentley in getting out of the marriage they began this week on the small screen. I do expect this: The divorce rate will be a lot higher for those who began their life together on a television stage show, than it will for those who spoke their vows before God and loved ones in a sacred space.

Marriage is hard. Even when the couple sets out with the best of intentions, the day-to-day challenges can threaten their peace and lead to divorce. But as the prophet says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, a three-fold cord is not easily broken. With God in the equation, the three-fold cord of husband, wife and God can sustain the pummeling that’s sure to come in the storms of life.

Invite God into your marriage.  Begin with Him, and turn to Him together, in good times and bad.  And never—never—never permit yourself to consider the “easy out” which divorce seems to offer.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What is missing from those vows- for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. If I’m to believe long estranged friends engaged in the behavior of divorce and remarriage- poverty is the number one reason for getting divorced, illness the second. Spouse battery was a distant enough third for me to consider the possibility of treating spousal abuse as a form of mental illness.

  • tiredofallthisbs

    I am lost as to where Bentley Law is actually doing anything wrong. These are not couples who are wanting to stay together anyway. Picket shows like the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” for “Really” mock marriage. I really think you are barking up the wrong tree here with your attack toward Bentley yet I agree with your attitude toward the Steve Harvey Show.