Marriage preparation paradoxes
From an article by the Institute for Family Studies
How can we promote better marriage readiness among young people?
Some people promote three things:
encouraging the delay of marriage into the thirties or beyond;
endorsing the “sowing of wild oats” during the young adult years so that one is ready to settle down and get married later; and
insisting on cohabitation during courtship in order to properly test the relationship’s readiness for marriage.
But do these patterns really deliver the later marital quality and stability they are expected to provide? Do they in fact, produce the opposite of what they intend?
What we see is the emergence of “marriage preparation paradoxes.”
Perhaps the best example is the "cohabitation" paradox. The primary reason that young people, and their parents and families, give today for encouraging cohabitation prior to marriage is that it will be a “test drive.” In short, it is believed to be a way to lessen the risk and chance of a later divorce. We now have 30 years of studies that have shown just the opposite. Cohabitation before marriage has historically been associated with greater odds of divorce. And while some of the more recent studies have shown that there may be a weakening of this association, no study to date has ever shown cohabitation to have a protective factor on divorce.
Another example is the "sowing wild oats" paradox. The central logic behind this way of preparing for marriage is that young people need to do this to “get it out of their system” so they will be ready “settle down” in marriage. There is ample evidence that what is happening is the exact opposite. Instead of settling down, we see people getting worked up. Sexual experimentation before marriage does nothing to get such attitudes and behaviors out of your system, rather it gets them into your system. Dozens of studies have shown that individuals with greater patterns of sexual promiscuity and more sexual partners actually have higher, not lower, chances of divorce when they marry. Research shows that a pattern of sexual restraint—where commitment precedes sex—creates the best pattern for lowering the risk of relationship dissolution.
Then there is "older is better" paradox. Too many of our young people today are growing up with the view that marriage is a transition of loss, rather than a transition of gain. That it is something that adds to our lives, allows us to start doing meaningful things, and gives us a better and richer life. Numerous studies have shown that getting married and staying married is linked to several aspects of individual health and well-being, such as better financial status, improved physical health, enhanced mental health, and higher sexual satisfaction. Therefore, as marriage is delayed in order to avoid the perceived losses associated with it, many young adults begin to miss out on these known benefits of marriage.
Over 80 years of research on premarital predictors of marriage outcomes have shown that true marital competence or readiness involves helping young people develop the capacity to love and the capacity to communicate. Thus, the foundational factors of personal maturity, emotional readiness, commitment, forgiveness, religious devotion, sexual restraint, communication skills, and the management of conflict are far stronger predictors of marriage trajectories than a person's age at marriage.
Finally, we should also stress the “success sequence” of family formation, which involves gaining maturity and education prior to marriage and marriage prior to childbearing.
The article continues with how to foster marriage readiness.
Read the full article here
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