I grew up in a typical lower middle-class family with two younger brothers in the 70’s and 80’s. My dad built houses for a living and I loved nothing more than being on site helping out. To this day, I love home improvement projects. My husband and I joke that I’m the man and he’s the woman, but you know what? It works.
Having two younger brothers and a father that I related to more than a mother, made me competitive. I always set out to prove I could anything a boy could do. Doing things boys could do wasn’t about wanting to be a boy. I wanted to be a girl doing boy things.
My dad always made sure that I could be independent by teaching me how to do things like change the oil in my car and fill my tires. My girl spin on these activities was to be prissy while doing them. I can still remember the argument my dad and I had about what I was wearing to change the oil in my car. Fancy clothes. Rings. My hair down. I liked nothing more than proving my dad wrong. I refused his pleas of common sense and didn’t get a speck of dirt on me. Victory!
These little acts of rebellion were the feminist movement to me. Being a female in a male world. Girl power. Not wanting to be a male or taking away everything that made me feminine. Special treatment for the sake of being special made me feel weak and inferior. I wanted to prove myself based on merit not on mercy.
Somewhere along the way the feminist movement lost me. A woman who always wanted to marry and have a family of my own. Someone who would settle for nothing less than monogamy. Someone who is a fierce advocate of the underdog. Believing the most vulnerable underdog is the unborn female. Between China and India there are 80 million extra mendue to the one child policy and sex-selective abortions. Where are the feminists?
When it comes to monogamy and marriage, the feminist movement wants women to feel empowered by having sex with anyone whenever they want and not burden themselves with the institution of marriage that the patriarchy instituted to keep us oppressed. Any woman who consents to marriage is under the coercion of men because of her inherent gender inequality.
This makes me feel weak minded and inferior. Where are the feminists?
If the patriarchy is the problem that must be overcome for women to finally reach equity, where does this road lead?
When will we run out of first women to accomplish something?
Will the problem only be solved when not a single man holds a position of power?
Are only men capable of oppression or are women capable of it too?
If I’m to believe the patriarchy is the problem holding me back, why are men allowed to appropriate women by becoming them and taking over their sports? I thought men were the enemy. How can I trust their motives if I am to believe the doctrine of the women’s movement? Aren’t women under the spell of coercion by the patriarchy for consenting to men competing against them in their own sports or in their job field? Haven’t the men successfully coerced women into believing that abortion is empowering? Where are the feminists?
The real problem is that no woman is allowed to question the narrative. Anytime a woman says that the feminist movement doesn’t represent them, they are labeled or treated as traitors or victims of false consciousness. I thought the feminist movement was a sisterhood where all were welcome and advocated for. I don’t feel like an autonomous individual in this movement. Do you? Where are the feminists?
It turns out I’m not alone in the feeling that the feminist movement is only capturing certain women. A recent pewresearch poll found that at least 7 in 10 women (72%) with at least a bachelor’s degree say the term feminist describes them very or somewhat well compared with 56% of women with less education.
The same poll also found that three-quarters (75%) of Democratic and Democratic-leaning women say feminist describes them well compared to 42% Republican or Republican-leaning women.
This looks like the feminist movement is not representative of all women and support falls on party and education lines. How did the movement that won women the right to vote, have a voice, and aspire to the office of the president lose so many women along the way?
Should I go back and tell that little girl that believed in girl power that there is no place for her in the movement. That girl power is only for those who think a certain way? Where are my feminists?
I believe that EVERY woman can do anything they set their mind to. I love men and believe they are the perfect complement to women. No one should ever need be diminished in order to feel powerful.
We need to celebrate the individual lived experiences of women and what it means to be feminine. We can do that today without starting an organized movement. We can make a big difference with small ripples of hope and joy we as women share on social media of the wonderful gift of being females who celebrate marriage, family, motherhood, the unborn, and each other. We don’t have to agree on everything to be in this united sisterhood. We just need to love, support, and believe in each other.
We’ve talked about the benefits of marriage, how to date for marriage, and how to build healthy and happy marriages, and now this series will wrap up with a discussion about three of the most important elements of family life- faith, healing, and forgiveness. A successful family relationship will be based on how well each of those areas are practiced by the members of you and your family.
Let’s start with faith; specifically church attendance. There are some specific benefits associated with church attendance that aren’t there for those who identify as religious but who do not attend church. While church attendance isn’t enough to save your marriage, it is a protection against infidelity in happy marriages. Here’s something interesting from Atkins and Kessel in 2008: “data indicated that individuals who had reported high religious importance but low church attendance were more likely to have had an affair than those in many other categories (pg 186).”
Another area that church attendance can help is in the avoidance of pornography. A study by Stack, Wasserman, and Kern in 2004 found that greater church attendance was related to lower rates of pornography use. Pornography is getting harder and harder to avoid and I don’t know about you, but I feel that the collective standard is slipping. Have you turned on a show lately? It’s alarming how much pornography is in just about every show out there. I can’t tell you how many times I started watching a series and within the first 2 min had to turn it off and look for something else. We are truly living in a sin sick world. Take note though that this study didn’t claim no instances of pornography use, but lower than those not attending church. What we want to do is give ourselves as many protections as we can to insure the best outcomes in marriage and family, and pornography destroys marriages.
In my previous article I talked about how it’s important to know each others stories about finances, marriage responsibilities, and traditions. These conversations can be difficult, but having a religious connection and an understanding of what it means to be equally yoked, will help you navigate those conversations with love and respect for each other. Social science data from Curtis and Ellison in 2002 suggests that “men who attend church with their wives have fewer disputes, not only over faith, but also over housework, money, how time is spent, and sex (pg 187).” Resolving the issues of how to be equally yoked will be easier when both partners come at if from a place of faith and commitment.
Healing is another aspect of a happy family life which occurs not only on an individual level, but also a family level. When loss of health, job, or family member occurs, how will you cope? There are many trials that can come between families which threaten to destroy relationships such as unresolved conflict. Healing will need to occur to repair the hurts, frustrations, and unmet expectations. The good news is that tests and trials come to all of us, so there’s no need to panic when it does. It’s how we choose to handle them that matter.
Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective under-stand that such refining is part of the perfection process (1979, p. 53).
James E Faust
The most important thing you can do as a family during these times is to not allow yourself to do what comes naturally- seek isolation. It’s during these times of crisis that it is crucial to focus on connections and how to come together instead of contention and disconnection. It will be a struggle, but stay connected to your family and to God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to heal all hurts, sorrows, and disappointments in life. It can also help you have the strength and power to draw closer together as a family instead of being driven apart by trials. If we can keep an eternal perspective, our trials can give us new eyes with which to view our circumstances and to be able to see the hurt in others around us. I have been the beneficiary of new eyes through many of my trials. For me, it used to be very hard to relate to someone who had a hard time coming to church because they felt like a failure or that they didn’t fit in. It wasn’t until I went through similar trials that I finally understood what they were going through. Our trials give us authenticity in our efforts to connect with others inside and outside of our families. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago or even last year. Our trials help us grow and evolve. I like to look at them as superhero training. We need resistance to gain strength.
Sometimes in order to help someone to heal, an apology may need to be given. I have learned throughout many failed attempts at giving and receiving apologies that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I’m sure everyone has received a backhanded apology at some point in their lives, and perhaps given a few. You know the type. An apology that starts with “I’m sorry you took that the wrong way” “I’m sorry but”… and then they tell you all the ways you’re a terrible person or they make it all about them. A proper apology is about saying you’re sorry. Taking ownership for what you have done and nothing else. There should be nothing in there about the other person and it should be void of excuses. A simple, “I’m sorry that I hurt you by doing/saying___.” It’s pretty hard to pull off if your pride is not in check or your self worth is not high enough because you will go into excuse mode and the apology will fall flat. If you’ve ever had someone say to you something like “I’ve apologized a million times, I don’t know what you want you want from me,” then you know what I mean by falling flat. The apology should be examined to determine if it was an actual apology. It may be that they’re not ready to forgive, but it could be that the apology really wasn’t one. You are not diminished as a person for taking accountability for hurting someone even if you didn’t mean to. Saying your sorry is a form of repentance and part of repentance is a restitution – righting a wrong. We ignorantly sin all the time and need to seek forgiveness from our Heavenly Father.
The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change. . . . Repenting means giving up all of our practices—personal, family, ethnic, and national—that are contrary to the commandments of God. The purpose of the gospel is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change (p. 37).
Dallin H Oaks
Repentance and apologies are similar, but not quite the same. “Repentance is more than apology. It is a humbling, all-encompassing experience. It requires offenders to see themselves through the eyes of the injured party as well as through the eyes of God. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the repentance process is explained in the manual Gospel Principles (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009), and includes the following (Walton and Hendricks):”
1. Recognize the sin. We admit to ourselves that we have done something wrong.
2. Feel sorrow for the sin. Feeling sorrowful, we are humble and submissive before God, and we come to Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
3. Forsake the sin. We stop committing the sin and pledge to never do it again.
4. Confess. We should confess all our sins to the Lord. In addition, we must confess serious sins that might affect our standing in the Church to the proper ecclesiastical authority.
5. Make restitution. Insofar as possible, we make right any wrong that we have done.
Gospel Principles Manual. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
We’ve talked about apologies and repentance, but what about forgiveness? Forgiving someone is one of the hardest things we can do and it can feel very counterintuitive- like you’re giving them a free pass. That you’re saying it whatever the wrong was is ok by forgiving them. It feels like giving up your power, but in reality, you are gaining it. One of the most helpful exercises that I go through when trying to forgive someone is to see if I can empathize with them. Things like wondering what they might have been going through that made them do/say what they did, wonder how I would feel if the roles were reversed. There is also a difference between forgiving and allowing someone to continue hurting you. Physical, mental and sexual abuse make reconciliation not possible. Forgiveness is not about saying that this person still needs to be part of your life. Think of it rather as a gift that you give yourself. It’s like removing the infection that causes a wound to not heal and eventually infects the rest of the body.
In the end, sincere repentance and genuine forgiveness are gifts from God made possible through the Atonement of Christ. With enhanced humility and empathy, the offender can gain new perspectives—that of the victim and of Jesus Christ, who atoned for that transgression. Likewise, victims also achieve forgiveness through sharing Heavenly Father’s perspective-infinite love for all His children.
Walton, and Hendricks. pg 210
Have grace for yourself and others in your family when it comes to the trials you will face together. Remember that this life is a time to practice. Not one of us here is an expert without faults and failures. It’s part of our human experience to get things wrong on the way to getting them right. Hang in there and use them as opportunities to grow closer together and to the Lord. A happy family life is possible if you remember to have faith and attend church as a family, allow yourself and others time to heal, say you’re sorry, and forgive.
Congratulations on making it through the dating process and arriving at wedded bliss! You may have started to wonder just how long this bliss will last. As we explore together some of the principles behind having a healthy and happy marriage, we need to start with a conversation and a reminder that your marriage will not look like the fairytale that you’ve been promised by every romcom and princess movie ever made. Now more than ever, marriages take commitment and work because we live in a disposable and upgradable world of consumerism. This culture has crept into how we feel about people in our lives. When things get old, tired, or in need of repair, it’s easier to just trade-in. How often have you heard or said “it shouldn’t be this hard?” The good new is that when we are willing to face the truth, our eyes begin to see the choices that we’re making which either lead us down the path to a lasting marriage, or to trade in. So, let’s lay a foundation that can be built upon.
When troubles come, the parties to a contractual marriage seek happiness by walking away. They marry to obtain benefits and will stay only as long as they’re receiving what they bargained for. But when troubles come to a covenant marriage, the husband and wife work them through. They marry to give and to grow, bound by covenants to each other, to the community, and to God. Contract companions each give 50 percent. But covenant companions each give 100 percent. Enough and to spare. Each gives enough to cover any shortfall by the other.
Bruce C Hafen
The first step toward a healthy and happy marriage is to understand that you have both come together with different stories you’ve written about how marriage works, how money is to be spent, how you show love to each other, how problems are solved, how holidays are celebrated, how much time to spend with extended family, etc… There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have a story. These stories could also be defined as rules or expectations. When two people come together, they each bring their own stories and they often will not match each other. This misalignment of stories will end up causing a lot of contention without really knowing why if you don’t know it’s the root of your problems. This happens because we falsely assume that everyone thinks exactly the way we do. It’s not true and the world would be pretty boring if that were the case. So, how do we overcome this problem? Start by understanding your own stories which were created by our experiences with people, places, and events. This may be a hard concept to understand, so I’ll explain 2 scenarios from my own life.
The first one is about money- which is the root problem of most marriages. My childhood experiences led me to formulate a story about money. To me it equalled freedom. I gave me the power to do things that I wanted, no matter the circumstances that I was in. This led me to a belief that having things was proof of my freedom and it made me a bit irresponsible with money. My husband on the other hand saved nearly everything he earned. He had a belief that money was the root of all evil so in order to avoid that he needed to save money to avoid being prideful. Now imagine what happens when those 2 people get together. It took us a long time to understand each other and where we were coming from. This was very hard on me in the early years of our marriage because I suddenly didn’t have my own income and I was feeling the loss of my freedom. There have been many different solutions that we came up with through the years to these conflicting beliefs. The important thing to get good at is communication. It’s crucial if you are going to be able to come together and dissect your own stories and build a new one together.
The second story I will share is about unmet expectations. We all have them. The way you can begin to identify them is when you feel triggered. That trigger is an opportunity to discover an expectation you have that you may not be conscious of. You identify it by asking yourself what happened to cause the emotion- why am I bothered right now? Then wait for the answer to come. This happened to me a month ago. I was very hungry and told my husband that I was going to go and make my lunch. He decided that he was hungry too even though he had eaten breakfast more recently than me. He beat me to the kitchen he kept bumping into me and getting in my way. I was triggered and hangry. I didn’t want to be triggered so I asked myself why I was so bothered. The answer I got was that I had an expectation that he would know I was more hungry than him and not be so selfish by getting in my way. Sounds silly, but marriage is full of silly reasons we get mad at each other. Now that I was faced with the truth I had a choice. Do I want to feel this way? Could something else be true? I decided I didn’t want to feel that way and the truth was that my husband loves spending time with me and he didn’t see it as being in my way but rather spending time together.
These unresolved expectations and conflicting stories will slowly chip away at your marriage. If you understand that your emotions are an opportunity for a conversation, and not something that needs to distance you farther from your spouse, you’ll be on your way to a loving, happy, and healthy marriage.
An eternal bond doesn’t just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities.
Robert D Hales
Let’s talk briefly about traditions. You are both coming from different backgrounds and family dynamics. You will both have family traditions that are important to you and that you want to bring to the marriage. You have to decide as a couple which ones to bring and which ones to create new together. It’s important that this conversation comes from a place of mutual respect.
What you may not have considered are other types of traditions like: how often to communicate during work hours, do you kiss first thing when one comes home, do you have a regular date night, when do you go to the temple, do you resolve problems before sleeping, when someone is mad does the other person make them laugh, does the husband open doors….The list goes on and on. The best thing to do is sit down together and talk about what kind of traditions make you feel loved and connected to your spouse and then decide what things will become your traditions. There is an app called Love Nudge that will help you identify your love language which is then sent to your spouse’s app. You are able to build reminders of the traditions you create so that you remember to do them. It’s pretty fun.
The next area of potential misery is found when couples don’t express how they define equality in a marriage. Does equality mean that you both have jobs, that one has a job and the other doesn’t, that the chores are divided evenly or according to skill, does the person who works still have chores, do you consider some chores “male” and others “female” etc…? This is another area of assumptions or stories that we come to marriage with, but may not have communicated. There is no one right way to define equality in a marriage except that equal does not mean the same. It is referring to your role in the partnership.
You must understand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a helpmeet. A helpmeet is a companion suited to our equal to us. We walk side by side with a helpmeet, not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.
Earl C Tingey
An equal partnership is about helping each other and making sacrifices for each other. There will be times when one spouse is doing more than the other because of illness or because of education or demanding jobs. Each spouse’s contributions to the running of the household needs to be recognized and appreciated. The important thing is to understand what it takes to keep your house in order and then discuss who is doing what. It’s something that you decide instead of just taking over and then resenting the other because you’re doing a chore or making a decision instead of them. Be on the look out for signs that you are off balance like: someone in the relationship dominates conversations and decisions, diminishes the other’s opinions, makes decisions about money alone, doesn’t view the relationship in terms of a team effort. If you notice any of these creeping into your relationship it’s time to adjust.
An equal partnership includes making decisions together. Deciding together what your budget is, when it’s time to buy a new car- I’ve never understood a spouse surprising the other with a new vehicle or decide they want a new vehicle and just buying it without discussing first with their spouse. That’s not a partnership. You can, however, decide how much money you each can spend without consulting the other. Equality in marriage is about being equally yoked in the decisions and responsibilities.
Just like dating, it’s important to communicate. You will save yourself years of contention and heartache if you can learn early in your marriage to communicate well and without contention your expectations about marriage. While it won’t look like a fairytale, it will be something much richer and deeper than you could have ever imagined.
I know what you are thinking. What does a woman who has been married 26 years possibly know about dating in the 21st Century? You are right to wonder. What I can’t give you are specific dating tips, but I can offer you some basic gospel principles to follow along with some social science statistics to help you make sense of the challenges you will face. My goal is to give you the tools necessary to achieve a happy and committed relationship that leads to marriage. This journey starts with you, who you are and your level of readiness, and then it’s turned over to God’s timing. What I hope to offer is some knowledge and peace so you can feel confident on your path toward marriage. With that, let’s talk about the things that are within your power.
A Journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.
The first step of this journey is to determine the type of marriage you want. “Your family experiences; your relationships with significant other adults and peers; and your personality, attitudes, and emotional health are just a few of the factors that influence how well you master the ABC’s of mate selection (Thomas B Holman, Frank Poulsen ch.2).”
With fewer marriages happening and higher divorce rates over the years, chances are that you know 1st hand about divorce. It is important to know that you are not doomed just because your parents, aunts and uncles, peers, etc… have divorced. You get to determine your destiny. That isn’t just some pie in the sky fantasy. It’s true because I did it. I broke the mold and so can you. You have to do some healing on your part and move past those bad experiences if you don’t want to drag low expectations and self sabotage with you into future relationships. You don’t have to believe me though. Researchers Martinson, Larson, & Jackson found in 2010 that those who had come to terms with their unhealthy family experiences had similar romantic relationship scores to those who came from healthy family backgrounds.
If you’re not in a good emotional state, you are going to choose people to date that don’t treat you well or are not compatible long term. I have seen so many settle for controlling and selfish partners because they convince themselves that something is better than nothing. You are worth more than that. Believe in good things to come.
As you strive to become a quality person, commune daily with your Heavenly Father who knows you best of all. He knows your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You are here on the earth at this time to develop and refine these characteristics. I promise you He will help you. He is aware of your needs.
True love is a process. True love requires personal action. Love must be continuing to be real. Love takes time. too often expediency, infatuation, stimulation, persuasion or lust are mistaken for love. How hollow, how empty if our love is no deeper than the arousal of momentary feeling or the expression in words of what is no more lasting than the time it takes to speak them.
Marvin J Ashton
Everyone is looking for that spark. We attribute finding true love to being physically attracted to someone. While that is definitely a factor in the process, it shouldn’t be the only one. You need to know what kind of person you will potentially spend the rest of your live with. Knowing someone doesn’t happen when the main interactions you have are elaborate, infrequent or group dates. They need to be smaller scale and more frequent to really have a chance at getting to know each other. You also need to see each other in a variety of scenarios to be able to accurately assess compatibility. You don’t want to only rely on what the other tells you they are like, you need to see their character in action. If one of your criteria for a spouse is that they are hard working and successful, doing a service project together is a good way to see their work ethic in action. Are they working or spending most of the time sitting around and chatting, or looking like they are working without actually doing anything? Sure it’s tempting to hang out with someone who is sitting around because they have time to hang out and flatter you, but they won’t be what you said you were looking for if that really matters to you. The same goes for yourself. Someone who is hard working wants a companion who is hardworking as well. The best piece of advice I have is that you need to be who you want to marry. Not pretend to be who you want to marry, but actually be the person because in order to have your best chance at a long and successful marriage, you will want someone with similar goals and aspirations.
Now that you’ve spent some time getting clear on what kind of character traits you are looking for, you’re wondering how you are going to get dating “right” when there are so many dating rules that it seems impossible and hopeless. What I can tell you is that there is research that shows how to progress from acquaintances to a relationship. It was done in 2008 by Guerrero and Mongeau that “showed those who successfully progressed had certain behaviors. Those behaviors included high levels of routine contact and activity (for example, calling, texting, going places together, and just spending lots of time together), providing emotional support and positivity (comforting each other, and being optimistic), talking about the relationship (sharing feelings about the relationship and feelings of love), and instrumental support (such as sharing tasks or giving advice).”
You may be tempted into avoiding heavy subjects or any talk of commitment due to fear of scaring your date off, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. That’s not to say on your first date you need to hash out everything because it’s not appropriate yet, but you do need to be working toward that if you are going to continue seeing someone. The best way to build intimacy is to be vulnerable. When you share meaningful things about yourself and the other person receives that information in a positive way, it builds intimacy. This causes the other person to allow themselves to be vulnerable which builds more intimacy and the next thing you know, you’re in love.
Courtship is a time for two people to get acquainted. It is a time to get to know someone, his or her interests, habits, and perspective on life and the gospel. It is a time to share ambitions and dreams, hopes and fears. It is a time to test someone’s commitment to gospel living.
What should you do if the person you are seeing is raising some questions that are leading you to believe that maybe you should break up? How do you know when to let go of a relationship and trust that you will find the right person?
“Church leaders counsel that when there is a lack of love (Widtsoe, 1944), temptations to break commandments and covenants (Tuttle, 1974), or partners who do not inspire the best in you (McKay, 1953), couples need to think seriously about ending the relationship. Certainly if one does not receive clear spiritual confirmation or if there are critical issues, one should seriously consider whether the relationship is viable” (Thomas B Holman, Frank Poulsen ch.2).
Dissolving a relationship is a confusing and difficult decision to make. There are some specific things to look for that will help you to evaluate fairly and feel confident in your decision to either move forward or dissolve the relationship. The following table is a great tool to help you in the evaluation process.
The most important thing you can do is to not lose hope. Don’t get caught up in all the social dos and don’ts of dating, be who you are and take mate selection seriously. Don’t stay too long in a relationship that is going nowhere and find yourself sliding into the next step (marriage) without really choosing it. Be purposeful. The most important thing you can do is work on you because ultimately you marry who you are ready for, so be ready. In the meantime, “… I recommend you come to know your Father in Heaven. Come to love Him. Always remember that He loves you and will give you guidance and support if you will but give Him the chance. Include Him in your decision making. Include Him in your heartaches and heartbreaks. Include Him when you take inventory of your personal worth. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men [and women] to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). Marvin J Ashton
Is there still a place for marriage in the 21st century or is it an impossible fantasy that is no longer a desirable milestone among generation Z? The facts are that less people are choosing marriage today than were in 2000. The CDC shows that the number of marriages per 1,000 has been steadily decreasing since 2000. It went from 8.2 marriages per 1,000 to 6.5 in 2018. By contrast the current divorce rate is 2.9 per 1,000. I would like to explore some of the reasons for this decline in marriage rates and offer some social science research why marriage is still a valuable milestone in the year 2020.
The first consideration has to do with the average age at first marriage. Why this matters is because it affects the way in which people date if the intended goal does not include marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average age for a woman to marry in 1960 was 20 and for men it was slightly over 22. In 2019 those numbers climbed to 28 for women and 30 for men. Because people are dating longer and not dating for the purpose of finding a spouse, it has created a number of pitfalls in dating culture according to Jason S Carroll in Successful Marriages and FamiliesProclamation Principles and Research Perspectives. Those pitfalls are pessimism about marriage, focus on personal financial independence, sexual permissiveness, and cohabitation before marriage.
I’m a child of the 80’s and growing up with parents who fought constantly and eventually divorced didn’t paint a very rosy picture of marriage. However, I had a friend who’s parents were happily married and I often went to church with her where I saw lots of happily married couples. Many of my quotes and experiences were shaped by my eventual conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I realized that just because some marriages fail, it doesn’t mean that I mine had to or that if I do end up in a failed marriage that it wasn’t still a worthy goal. A recent study showed that 90 percent of young adults in the US believe that marriage is very important (Bachman, Johnston, & O’Mally, 2009). This is good news despite having grown up with high divorce rates. Carroll attributes the problem to the low expectations they have for marriage and a high emphasis on experiencing single life before they settle down on the path of marriage and what they believe is ultimate divorce. Who would want to be in a hurry to enter something that you believe is sure to end in divorce?
Marriage is something I believe to be ordained of God and central to His plan, and the foundation of family units. In fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints felt it so important that there is a proclamation regarding the structure of family. Prophets and Apostles have also added their counsel.
“The family is not an accident of mortality. It existed as an organizational unit in the heavens before the world was formed; historically, it started on earth with Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis. Adam and Eve were married and sealed for time and all eternity by the Lord, and as a result their family will exist eternally.”
Robert D Hales
We also believe that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family.
“The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness, also called the plan of salvation, was a plan created for families…When we speak of qualifying for the blessings of eternal life, we mean qualifying for the blessings of eternal families. This was Christ’s doctrine, and it was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Julie B Beck
There is an old saying that maybe you’ve heard. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Don’t gasp at the thought of being bought. It’s a metaphor for commitment. Here’s another one. How you treat a home you own verses one you rent? You are much more likely to take better care of a home you own because it it your financial investment. You’re also not going to invest much time into upkeep and beautifying a rental. You will treat your marital relationship with greater care and put a larger investment into it than you will when you are dating with marital benefits or cohabitating. The rental mindset is evident in the current culture of dating where you go on several dates and are still unclear whether or not you are a couple. It’s often a an anxiety filled waiting game to see who changes their social media status to “in a relationship.” This has lended itself to a culture of casualness and non-committed sexual experiences. One study suggests “several reasons why so many are unwilling to marry early: they can get sex without marriage, they fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises, they face few social pressures to marry, and they want to enjoy single life as long as they can” (Whitehead & Popenoe, 2002).
What has social science found in regard to cohabitation before marriage? Studies have constantly found that “couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to divorce than couples who do not (Jose, O’Leary, & Moyer, 2010). There is some better news, as far as marital satisfaction and potential for divorce goes, for some than others depending on when cohabitation occurs, either before engagement or after. Before engagement have 43.1 percent reporting low marital satisfaction, and after engagement is 16.4 percent (Rhoades, Stanley, & Markman, 2009).
Now that we know that cohabitation before marriage does not lead to greater marital satisfaction despite many beliefs to the contrary, what kind of spiritual counsel have we heard and what benefits do you gain by waiting to be intimate until after you are married?
“We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
” Personal purity is the key to true love. The more pure your thoughts and feelings, words and actions, the greater your capacity to give and receive true love…Do whatever it takes to keep your thoughts, feelings, words and actions pure. Invite the Spirit to guide you. He will help you. As you work to become pure you will have the Holy Ghost with you more and more and your ability to receive personal revelation will increase. Which means, you’ll have clearer direction for your life. You’ll feel more at peace and more joy, less lonely and more hopeful about your future. You’ll also have increased mental clarity as you study and work. In addition to these works everyday to become just a little more pure, you’ll be increasing your ability to experience true marital intimacy.”
I really love how Wendy Nelson ties everything together for us. We all want to have true love. Isn’t that the message of every fairy tale ever written? It’s important to know how true love is found and what it looks like. There is reason to be hopeful that a future marriage will work when it is pursued in the pattern set forth by the Lord. Marriage would not be central to God’s plan if a way were not provided to obey the command. It reminds me of a song we sing in primary. It goes “I know the Lord provides a way he wants me to obey.” I like to say that sentence in reverse because it gives more meaning and impact. I know the Lord wants me to obey, so He always provides a way.