To Try On or Not to Try On? That is the Question.
I don’t like to buy clothes online. I have, but it always seems to be a 50/50 proposition. I’m a tall, Scandinavian gal and concerned that things won’t fit right, and I’m correct at least half the time. For me, heading to the store where I can try them on works best. I want to make sure it’s long enough. I don’t want it to pull and tug and bunch up. I want to twist and turn in the clothes, in front of that three-way mirror to be sure nothing that shouldn’t show doesn’t. Many of my friends enjoy shopping for the season’s latest styles online in their sweats with a cup of hot cocoa. Whatever they order comes right to their door and fits great for them. I wish things were different for me that way. But then again, if they were, maybe I’d miss out on that big chunky necklace hanging by the check-out counter that looks perfect with my new blouse.
How about shopping for a spouse? Do you think someone might have better success, find a ‘better fit,’ by trying a person on first? Can people find a great fit or a good match, by not engaging in ‘up close and personal’ behaviors before the wedding? What do you think the prevailing thoughts in society are on this?
The Four Marriage Preparation Paradoxes
Jason S. Carroll, PhD  gave a terrifically interesting presentation I attended on the financial consequences of delaying marriage. As part of that he introduced the four marriage preparation theories the world has touted as wise. Unfortunately, all of these have proven – through studies and statistics – to not provide a better fit in a marriage partner and not provide for a higher percentage of martial success.  In fact, they produce the exact opposite results. These have turned out, not surprisingly, to be paradoxes – a proposition that, despite the apparent sound reasoning, leads to a conclusion that is senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory. So the definition of a marriage paradox would be – “Behaviors believed to increase one’s chances of marriage success, which actually on average diminish one’s chances of having a loving and lasting marriage.” 
These ‘Four Marriage Preparation Paradoxes’ are:
1 – The Cohabitation Paradox: The Test Drive Hypothesis – You need to live with someone for a while to be sure you’re a good fit for each other. But studies show cohabitation before marriage has historically been associated with greater odds of divorce.
2 – The Sowing Wild Oats Paradox: The “Getting it out of your system” Hypothesis – Findings are that “spouses who have had multiple sexual partners before marriage have lower levels of sexual quality, communication, and relationship stability in their current marriages.” Often infidelity occurs in these marriages. Apparently ‘sowing wild oats’ doesn’t get it out of your system at all, but in fact may create a pattern of behavior.
3 – The Sexual Chemistry Paradox: The Test Drive Hypothesis (again) – “What if we’re not compatible in bed?” is their concern. While “in fact, it is the case that people who take longer to become sexually intimate with their partners report significantly greater levels of sexual satisfaction”.  And if you add virginity at the time of marriage into the mix, the satisfaction scores go even higher.
And lastly –
4 – The Older is Better Paradox: The Age Equals Readiness Hypothesis – This is also not true. Extended singleness breeds independence which can be both positive or negative in an eventual ‘older is better’ marriage. Selfishness, though unintended, can develop when we have no one else to think of or consider but ourselves. This makes transitioning into a couple potentially more jarring and difficult. The phrase ‘set in your ways’ comes to mind. “We would do better to promote understanding of individual and couple factors that are strong predictors of marital quality, rather than waiting for an arbitrarily selected age.” 
God’s Ways are Not Society’s Ways. Shocker.
In the first paragraph of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the Lord himself states what marriage is and what its’ divine purpose is to be:
“…marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Further down we read:
“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. 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.” 
One man and one woman are to leave their families and venture out into the world together and begin their own family. That is… to have children. This, our Heavenly Father says, is what His whole plan is centered around, FAMILY – a family with a father and mother living together and welcoming children into their home.
Stepping Out in Faith
In young single adult members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we see a marked difference in the age that many choose to begin their marriages and families compared to their peers of other, or no religious persuasion. This is more cultural than doctrinal, though LDS young adults are encouraged to not delay marriage for education or vocational training, but to move forward in those pursuits while actively looking for a spouse. After that lucky ‘one and only’ is found, and the wedding bells have tolled, then the encouragement is to move towards beginning their own family, prayerfully, with faith and wisdom.
What the Numbers Say
This practice baffles many not of our faith. They counter that it’s risky and foolish to make such large commitments at such a young age and without most educational, financial, and personal goals yet reached, and though some marriages within the Church are struggling more than we’d all like to see, our overall success rate is better than many outside our ‘marry-young’ culture and ‘in the temple’ doctrine at about 24% failure.  Another study shows an interesting factor:
“Mormons who marry fellow believers have an extremely low divorce rate:
“A 1993 study published in Demography [magazine] showed that Mormons marrying within their church are least likely of all Americans to become divorced. Only 13 percent of LDS couples have divorced after five years of marriage, compared with 20 percent for religiously homogamist unions among Catholics and Protestants and 27 percent among Jews. However, when a Mormon marries outside his or her denomination, the divorce rate soars to 40 percent — second only to mixed-faith marriages involving a Jewish spouse (42 percent).” 
And outside of the Church…
“The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “Probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue. However, that is only a projection and a prediction” .
Personal emotional, educational, and spiritual development prepares any of us to become the best adults, single or married, we can be. The best whole is comprised of two solid halves.
God’s Divine Plan
- delayed marriage
- disposable marriage
- no marriage
- same-sex marriage
- and who-knows-what-other-kind-of-marriage- they’ll-begin-to-suggest-in-the-future
I’m grateful for the knowledge we have received concerning the divine order and purpose of marriage and family from God through His prophets; for the knowledge of why we have our bodies, what their purpose is, and when we are free, even commanded, to fully engage in that divine partnership with our spouse and the Lord to create physical bodies for His spirit children. I’m grateful for the principles of faith, choice, and personal revelation available to us in the choosing of our ‘one and only.’ Doing things Heavenly Father’s way, and living His commandments, gives us the best possible chance at not only finding the right fit, but in having an enduring and eternal marriage.
Now, I’m off to the mall to try on some clothes.
 – Dr. John Carroll – Professor for the School of family Life at Brigham Young University; Fellow of the Wheatley Institute – “For Love or Money? The Economic Consequences of Delaying Marriage”, World Congress of Families IX
 twentysomethingmarriage.org, “Knot Yet – The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America”
 Dr. Pat Fagan – Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) – “Marriage and Religious Faithfulness”, World Congress of Families IX
 – “The Family: A Proclamation To The World
 – http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm – “Divorce statistics collection: Summary of findings so far,” Americans for Divorce Reform, at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
 – Bob Mims, “Mormons: high conservativism, low divorce, big growth,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1999-MAR-6, at: http://archives.his.com/smartmarriages/
 – “Divorce statistics collection: Summary of findings so far,” Americans for Divorce Reform, at: http://www.divorcereform.org/