We’ve determined that the 18-22 is way, way too young to be married. There is definitely some truth to this insofar as the way the system is set up now. Most 18-22 year olds have yet to take responsibilities for themselves so it seems insane to expect them to take responsibility for a family. But part of the reason that we’re not ready at 20 is that we’ve not been expected to take responsibilities and we’ve provided a plethora of excuses if our responsibilities don’t work out. After all, we don’t expect marriages to work out between 19 year olds and so when they don’t it’s not a surprise.

Statistically speaking, Deseret has a pretty average divorce rate. Considering how important marriage and family is to the Mormon Church this may sound underwhelming. And perhaps it is. On the other hand, they maintain their average divorce rate despite the fact that an abnormally high number of their marriages are within groups that shouldn’t make it. Young couples, couples still in college, couples with little work experience and a less thorough dating experience than I saw back in Delosa. I haven’t looked at the facts and figured but I suspect if you compare the demographics, Deseret would come out very favorably. Why? Because Deseretians and Mormons expect their kids to be able to handle marriage at a young age. They demand it, at least more than most churches do when the rubber hits the road.

Of course, I think about my own life and experiences and it doesn’t wash. If expected to, I probably would have married and settled down with Julie. The thought of that these days sends shivers down my spine. The darkness I felt in that final year was our destiny and as time passed it got better and not worse. On the other hand, if it had been expected of me maybe I would have found ways to make it work. A couple of pregnancy scares have left me debating the issue for stretches when I haven’t had a lot of other things to think about.

Maybe I could have risen to the occasion. Maybe, if we’d been Mormons or good Catholics or from a culture where young marriage was encouraged or demanded. But it seems that the most spectacular of my not-huge (or at least I like to think not-huge) collection of failures and missteps have stemmed from a desire to rise to an occasion and be someone that I am not or fill a role that I am not the person to fill.

Yet when I think about concerns of identity, who I really am and what I am meant to do, I am left to wonder: aren’t these questions the frivolous spiritual tedium of the citizens of a wealthy nation? Throughout history it’s pretty rare that a people get to have so much control over their destiny. Has it served us that well? Might we be better off in conscription to service to family, god, and country? As miserable as I think I might have been with Julie, most of the married Mormon couples I know seem to be relatively happy. Even or especially compared to marriages between those people that have the idle time to consider what it means to be who they are.

By my observation, the more concerned a person seems to be with such questions the less happy they are. Are they searching for these answers because they’re unhappy or are they unhappy because they spend their time and energy looking for these answers?

Category: Coffeehouse

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5 Responses to The Good Soldiers vs. Existentialism

  1. Abel says:

    I wouldn’t say getting married at a young age is expected or demanded by the LDS church. I think it happens at a younger age on average simply because they’re taught that marriage is important and once you’ve met the right person, it’s what you should do.
    Along with this, they’re taught to take marriage verty seriously and not to simply “give up” when hard times come along in marriage which is probably a lot of the marriages work out despite them getting married young, while still in college, etc.

    That being said, I think young, single LDS people put pressure on themselves to get married. They seem to view themselves as “flawed” or “incomplete” if aren’t married. This isn’t because of any direct teaching in the church but more of the emphasis the church places on the importance marriage and families.

    It was interesting dating the second time around because I felt no pressure to get married again. (I really didn’t feel that much pressure to get married the first time anyway.) I dated a girl who was 29 and absolutely desperate to get married and would have accepted a proposal from me after dating for just a few weeks. (All detailed in my book, BTW.) About six months after we broke up she ended up getting engaged to the next guy they dated after their second date. (The thought of getting engaged that fast send shivers down my spine.)

    I don’t know if she’s still married or even happily married but her problem, in my mind anyway, was she defined her existence as “single” and that was some sort of burden she couldn’t live with. Truth of the matter is that if she would have come across as less desperate to be married, she probably would have been married long before I came into the picture.

    With MG it was the exact opposite. She was planning on medical school to become a doctor and considering running marathons full time when I came around. Marriage was the last thing on her mind. It was the fact that she wanted to do things with her life and wasn’t going to let her marital status define her happiness was one of the things that really attracted me to her. She wanted to get married and have a family but wasn’t willing to rush into it until she was sure she had found someone she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. If a guy didn’t come along for another 10 or 15 years, that was fine with her since she already had things she wanted to do with her life.

    eh,…I’m rambling….

  2. trumwill says:

    You would certainly know the actual stance of the church better than I, but there do seem to be some elements within the church that are very distressed about the flock’s increasing tendency not to get married so young.

    I could definitely see how most of the pressure comes from the singlings themselves, though. It’s not entirely irrational, I’d guess, as in Deseret the chances of finding a good partner appeared to drop considerably as early as the mid-twenties.

    After the second date… wow. Did they know eachother long before hand? I had one coworker (the much-maligned “Golden Boy”) that dated and became engaged to a girl in under a month. Progress to engagement usually seemed to happen within six months with my coworkers, which is very unusual back home.

    On the other hand, I met and became engaged to Clancy in an incredibly short period of time (by Colossian standards), though part of that was that she was going to be leaving for residency and I had to decide very quickly whether I would leave with her or not, so our circumstances didn’t permit our relationship to flow naturally.

    Clancy’s outlook was similar to MG’s. She had already set a course for her life without meeting a husband. In fact some friends pointed out that she talked more about kids she wanted than the husband that would father them. Fortunately for all involved I came into the picture.

    When does your book come out?

  3. Abel says:

    Book comes out this fall — probably September/October. Won’t have a solid release date until this summer. Keep an eye on my blog, I’ll post it then.

    As for the Des News article, I think the concern wasn’t the reasons people were getting married later, but the reasons they were delaying marriage. After going through the whole dating thing a second time, I have to agree with some of their observation. Funny thing is most of the “older” (over 25) people in singles wards would tell you they want to get married but don’t do much about it.

  4. Webmaster says:


    “wanting” to get married, and rushing into a relationship, are two different things. There’s one woman in my life I could see myself proposing to right now. But at the moment, we’re not even dating. I’m pretty sure that isn’t even in the picture for her life right now, but it’s ok. If I meet up with someone else, great, but I’m not actively on the prowl for relationships – trying to force anything just isn’t going to work.

  5. trumwill says:

    I think it’s hard to separate the motives from the action because assumptions are made when people marry too early, too late, or not at all, but I get your point.

    I feel like I should offer up a defense of “rushing” into a relationship (though definitely not of rushing into a marriage!). Being romantically flexible, dating and getting into relationships that you aren’t sure about provides valuable experience to help you out when you do meet the right person. It also helps you realize from the standpoint of a relationship what you’re looking for. Most people have an idea of what they’re looking for, of course, but without dating people that meet that profile and other profiles they don’t necessarily have a firm foundation from which to determine whether or not the type they’d like to be in a relationship with is precisely the type of person they are best suited for.

    (note that I am using the collective second person for “you” and not referring to you specifically)

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