Recently I saw a movie called Arranged, that tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who work together at a school in New York City. Both are extremely orthodox in their religion to the point that their marriages are arranged for them. Their principal tells both of them to abandon their religious lifestyles several times, implying their faith is destroying their opportunities. Finally the Jewish woman, Rochel, tells her off. She asks what makes singles’ events or dating or anything else superior to arranged marriages and if people who meet that way are any happier than those in arranged marriages. I thought this was an interesting question; what makes one courtship or relationship style superior to another? (Bear in mind, while these women were set up by family and matchmakers, they did have the option to say no to men they didn’t like, and both ended up with men who they liked and chose to be with.)
I’ve heard many times that getting married young ruins your life. I realize that might sound odd, considering the push for marriage among Mormons, but I’ve heard it from rather unexpected places. I’ve heard BYU professors tell people not to get married. I’ve heard members say that they wish they hadn’t married young. I’ve read it on various blogs, heard it on various podcasts. I’ve heard people say they tell their daughters not to marry young because it will mess their lives up. I used to say that I wouldn’t get married until I was 25. But then I met my husband. We dated for a year, then got engaged. I was married a week before I turned 22. My mom and friends were amused, my grandparents are still mad three years later. I was pretty concerned myself; after all, marrying young messes your life up.
Granted, it’s only been three years, but my life isn’t ruined. I’ve still been able to do most of the things I’ve planned on and take opportunities and projects that came along. And I still have the same plans for further education, etc. Of course there have been sacrifices made on both of our parts, but I also have no way of knowing if the things I haven’t done would have worked out had I been single, or if opportunities I’ve had since getting married would have existed if I hadn’t. I made a choice, and there is no way of knowing what direction my life would have taken if I’d done something different.
Everyone wants some kind of assurance that they are making the right decisions for their lives. For many, that means wanting rules that will help us make decisions. So things like “getting married young is a bad decision,” and “you need to date longer than a year to make sure you know each other” make many feel better about relationships. If we follow the rules, then our relationships will work out. But in practice, I haven’t seen relationship rules about age, courtship length, etc. guarantee anything. I know seven couples my age who are divorced and couples who dated for a week before getting married who are still together and happy many years later and people who are quite happy being single. There does not seem to be a pattern as far as age, length of courtship or how people met that ensures a relationship will be successful. I believe that those who say that marrying young ruins your life are taking personal experience, whether their own or someone they know, and extrapolating it out to everyone. So I’d like to say that marrying young will not automatically mess things up.
Do I think that everyone should marry young? No, I don’t. Do I think everyone should marry at all? No, I don’t. I don’t advocate anything as far as relationships go, except doing what feels correct to each individual. With that said, why do people believe that one courtship style is superior to another? There are advantages and disadvantages to any decision, but why do many seem to believe there are more advantages to one choice than another?