Lisa and Jimmy (who didn't want their last names used) were a scant 21 years old when they jokingly agreed to be each other's marriage “backups.” Unlucky in love until that point, they agreed that they'd wed each other by age 30 if they were both still single. At the tender age of 25, their verbal contract went down the proverbial toilet when they swapped vows ... with each other.
“We always joked about being each other's ‘backup,' but somehow things changed and we went from friends to more,” Lisa explains. “We always say we're lucky that we married our best friend. It's added a whole other layer/dynamic to our relationship.”
Ten years and two kids later, the friendship-turned-romance is still going strong.
What if Lisa and Jimmy had turned their joke into a contract when they were 21? That's the premise behind the forthcoming Backup Plan app (brought to you by the folks who created The Breakup Shop). It adds a legal component to the traditional “backup” agreement.
The app, which is expected to debut in Android and iOS app stores on Feb. 15, 2016 (just after Valentine's Day), will let users enter into a legally binding agreement to marry by an agreed-upon date, should they both still be trolling the singles bars at that point.
“We think that there are a lot of people out there that are looking for love, but are sick of the dating game, and the time it consumes in their lives,” emails Evan Keast, co-founder and creator of the app (along with his brother, Mackenzie).
“We envision a successful, 35-year-old male or female that has been through some unsuccessful relationships, and is too busy to look for a boyfriend/girlfriend at the moment, but enjoys sailing, wine, going out for dinners and other things. They match with a similar person and agree that if they are not married by 40, they will wed," says Keast. Of course, the age, hobbies and other particulars are subject to personal preference, but you get the idea.
Keast says he got inspiration for the app from a classic episode of the TV show “Friends,” a true influencer of society via haircuts (The ‘Rachel'), pickup lines (“How you doin'?”) and music (“Smelly Cat”). The episode in question ("The One With the Proposal: Part 2") finds Phoebe and Rachel getting their marital affairs in order thanks to the impending engagement of Monica and Chandler. Fortunately, each one has a male friend (Ross and Joey) to turn to for a verbal contract, so the terms are sealed fairly easily.
Here's how the app works: Users create a profile and enter a desired marriage deadline date. They then rifle through local singles via a “Tinder-like interface,” and are able to chat with their matches. Should two people agree to serve as marriage backups, they establish the terms of the contract and sign it digitally. Voila! Instant security!
Just to cover themselves, “all Backup Plan marriage pacts should be further reviewed by a local legal counsel and notarized to ensure adherence to local state/provincial law,” the creators advise in a press release.
Adds Keast, “You can't force anyone to do something such as wed or stay married [but] there could be a damages clause, if agreed upon.”
Lisa and Jimmy's pact was successful, but you can imagine several flaws in the informal backup “system,” much less if it was really binding. Nicole Eckard of Lilburn, Georgia, had such an agreement with her best guy friend from college. “But then he finally accepted the fact that he was gay,” she reports, of the longtime friend whom she only recently lost touch with. Others explain the passage of time, geography and the pesky emergence of significant others as barriers to the success of this often good-natured, joking deal.
Only time will tell if people are willing to sign on the dotted line for guaranteed marital security, but Mckenzie Bartlett, of Acworth, Georgia, who participated in such a pact at age 19, is skeptical.
"I don't think we would have ever signed a binding agreement about our arrangement,” she says. “I think we kinda did it jokingly but at the same time seriously!”