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Wednesday, February 16, 2005 

Under Pressure

I almost married someone I shouldn’t have.

I graduated from BYU in December of 1999. I moved back home and out of Utah to be close to friends, family and because I would have better prospects finding a teaching job.

But… I moved back very apprehensively. I felt like an outcast because I graduated from BYU without getting married (I never did receive that tuition refund for failing to receive my M.R.S. degree). I felt that my chances of finding someone weren’t very good. I did the most logical thing I could; I threw myself into the social scene.

At one dance I was joking with a guy and said, “Yeah, some people think that there MUST be something wrong with you if you graduate from BYU without getting hitched.”

“Well… is there?” he asked.

Maybe there was. Maybe I wanted it too bad. I found it soon after, though.

I got engaged to someone that I’d dated for just a few weeks. This is not a guy that I would have been attracted to, respected, or considered a possibility for myself when I was at BYU. There were specific things about him that I hated from the beginning, but I smothered those feelings. After a few weeks of our engagement, I broke it off.

Agreeing to marry him was the stupidest decision I’ve made in my entire life. I am positively ashamed of it to this day.

Why did I do it? There were a few contributing factors. I was lonely—all of my friends from home were married when I got back. I felt like there was something wrong with me that made Mormon guys not like me—too outspoken, too educated, too tall? Plenty of other people got engaged to people they barely knew and it worked out fine—but this wouldn’t have.

There is something in Mormon culture that makes getting engaged and married in a short time acceptable. The primary reason seems to be to prevent fornication. Does it actually work? Not well enough to warrant the pressure that is put on people to marry quickly and/or make bad decisions.

This was the event in my life that put the seeds of doubt in my mind. I didn’t leave the church for over a year after this, but this is where it started. I’m happy now with my life as it is now, so maybe it’s a good thing that I went through this, but I still reflect upon those events with embarrassment and some self-disgust for being so weak and spineless in the face of the pressure.

I will be married this August to a man I’ve loved for the last four years. We will be married outside at a vineyard by a judge. I know exactly what our marriage will be based on—our love for and commitment to each other and the desire to build a future together. It certainly won’t be hurried on unduly on by outside pressures or a desire to prevent fornication.

And I’ve got to say… that’s just how I think it should be.

I've often thought about why the rush for short engagements. The best I can rationalize for myself, outside of traddition and social pressure, is this;

There is an assumption among the LDS community that we all understand and accept the commandment and the need for the ordinance of marriage. Since we are all seeking the Celestial Kingdom and the highest glory thereof, it should be something we all seek after.

But I think we also make the false assumption that everyone in the church has the same goals, or rather mixing temporal goals with eternal goals. Marriage, family, children, ordinances are all good for eternal goals, and most people in the church are after these things. But where to live, lifestyle, jobs, education are different for everyone.

I think people mix these goals together and assume because the eternal goals match the temporal ones will, and if they don't it shouldn't be to hard to make it work.

This leads to a rush on getting engaged then married. Compile that with the idea that marriage is eternal and once married we should work at it, despite any problems, people tend to feel comfortable with shorter engagements.

Well, yes and no.

I felt pressure to be married; I dated a girl who was clearly wrong for me; she wanted to get married, and we even went preliminarily looking at rings (after dating two months), but I broke it off and didn't do anything like get engaged or worse, married to her.

My wife and I had a very quick courtship and engagement -- engaged in six weeks, married three months later. That was fast, but it's been for the best.

So I think that this is an instance where your miles may vary. For some people, it's a very bad incentive. For others, particularly the social-wallflower types, it's a helpful kick in the butt.

I've given a lot of thought recently to why Mormons are so inclined to hasty weddings (and even touched on my impressions of BYU-dating-marriage culture here, but intend to blog more directly on them soon). As someone who takes a long time to get to know someone well enough to consider dating/wedding them, such short engagements have always bothered me.

But if the point of long periods of dating and engagement really is to get to know the other person -- a trial period, if you will? -- then it makes sense for them to be far shorter in Mormon culture, because we assume that other Mormons are so much like ourselves. If I date a non-Mormon guy, I have to figure out what his value systems are and whether his values and standards meet mine; if I date a Mormon guy, I pretty much assume (correctly or not) that he and I share a system of values and standards and that I know what they are, so we can skip that part of the dating ritual.

Now, when those assumptions are incorrect, trouble naturally ensues. And I think that hasty dating can me dangerous because it is based on possibly faulty assumptions. That's where it doesn't work "well enough to warrant the pressure that is put on people to marry quickly and/or make bad decisions," and not even a shared faith can solve problems that are based on such faulty foundations, I think.

I don’t think quick engagements and quick courtships are such a bad thing because I have seen too many successful relationships resulting from quick courtships and engagements to find the process bad. I dated my ex-husband for four years; we were married for almost five and now divorced for a little over two years. My little sister met her husband right before my wedding and was married a year before my one year anniversary… she is incredibly happy and I know that they will be together forever. My two older brothers also had short courtships, short engagements and have marriages that anyone and everyone could easily be envious of.

Now what I do agree with is that many young women, of all denominations and of no denomination at all, get lonely and desire to be married, especially when everyone around them is getting married and their friendships are changing significantly as they watch close friends change their priorities to their new family. It is easy to ask the question, why everyone but me? Or to jump into a relationship that doesn’t really make you happy because you desire the family life. This is human, but not healthy.

And congratulations on the August wedding… Can’t wait to hear about the bachelorrette party (on your other blog of course.)

The reason why so many LDS couples have short courtships/engagements has to do with personal revelation. The gospel is based on the principle of continuing revelation, and personal revelation.

I dated my husband for 4 months, then was engaged for 3 1/2 months. We both loved each other, felt very thrilled with the idea of being together forever, and to "seal the deal" (no pun intended:) we both felt like when we prayed about it, the answer was "Yes, this is the right person for you." Looking back, I feel like I barely knew this man, considering how quickly it all went. But, I know that it WAS true revelation (to marry him), because I never could have imagined for myself just how perfectly his personality would fit with mine. We compliment each other in ways I never would have thought of.

I think the general concensus in LDS culture is that if you receive personal revelation that it is the "right thing" to marry a person, then why wait? Oh, and the whole "preventing fornication" thing. Once you feel it is so right to marry someone, it is hard to keep your hands off, knowing he's all your's. :)

The down side: I was very young when this all happened for me: 19 when we dated, 20 when we married. I don't regret my life's choices. I don't think they were wrong, but I often wish I had been an adult on my own, figuring out who I really was as an adult, before combining my life so completely with someone else and having children. I feel bad that my husband and kids often have to go through "mom figuring out who she is" periods. Maybe if I had figured it all out before getting married, it wouldn't be such an issue for me.

Again, I am SO excited for your upcoming nuptuals! Let me just throw out there the future topic of how LAME mormon weddings tend to be. I'm a little jealous of your vinyard wedding. My reception SHOULD have been SO much cooler... Another time perhaps...

I have to admit that while I have all sorts of prejudices about the Mormon dating/engagment/marriage ritual, I REALLY believe that for the vast majority of couples, they are doing the best they can, and what was "right" for one couple may not be "right for another.

And one more thing...how interesting that SO many comments have also dealt with people they "almost" married. What a great learning experience. I know (I KNOW) how painful it is...but it sure made it easier when a better candidate came along. He was SO much easier to recognize... I literally shudder to think how my life COULD have turned out...

I think short engagements are fine- as long as you are not an idiot. Idiots get engaged and married very quickly because they think it is the "socially proper" thing to do. They do it because they want the "status" of being married, so they rush themselves through a superficial courtship and a sham marriage. What an idiotic thing to do!

But thank heavens there are people who aren't total idiots. People who aren't idiots can handle a short courtship, because they court for LOVE and the "right" reasons, whatever those reasons are. These reasons can differ from couple to couple. But there is more than some superficially idiotic desire to fit in behind successful short courtships.

In other words, in case I did not make my point, there is NOTHING WRONG with short courtships- only when IDIOTS engage in them. But that's not a problem with the short courtship- it is a problem with the idiot engaging in it. Those people need therapy.

Bathroom Bert... I feel as if you have more to say, don't be shy... tell us more about these idiots!

Well, I've felt the pressure to get married. And it seems that since I've turned 30 (which has not even been a month yet) I've been getting more pressure. Though, it could be that I'm a little more sensitive about the whole thing as of late.

I think that there are examples of people who rushed into marriage and it failed and people who rushed into marriage and it worked fabulously.

I just think that if there wasn't so much pressure, there might be less that failed.

Incidentally, regarding personal revelation, I did pray about becoming engaged and felt that I should have said yes.

This is where my seeds of doubt sprouted. If I felt the "Spirit" about that and it felt just like the other times I felt the "Spirit" then how could I know if there really was one. The decision to marry him definitely did NOT come from God.

Very interesting addition Kaycee!!

Kaycee,
I feel kind of stupid about my comment now - not that I don't believe what I said. But, I guess I'm feeling naive about everyone's varied experiences here at VSoM. I hope I didn't offend... I'm sorry if I did!

Suzie Q-Zie... No offense taken. I'm glad that you mentioned it. I was considering writing that part into my post, but felt that it was not on-topic. I guess it was, afterall.

I understand your point of view, because I've been there. Like you said... we've all had such different experiences.

*warm fuzzies resulting from good communication, sharing life experiences, and mutual understanding* Thanks Kayee.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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