How can we promote better marriage readiness among young people? For many, the answer to this question involves promoting three things: 1) encouraging the delay of marriage into the thirties or beyond; 2) endorsing the “sowing of wild oats” during the young adult years so that one is ready to settle down and get married later; and 3) 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? The fact is that the promoted path many young adults today are pursuing in an effort to be better prepared for a lasting marriage is actually producing the opposite of what they intend.
I believe that what we have in our culture today is the emergence of “marriage preparation paradoxes.” These are 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. The key here is that these behaviors are not being embraced as a departure from marriage or because young people are giving up on marriage, but rather because many young people mistakenly believe they will strengthen their future marriages. For these patterns to change, the faulty logic that undergirds them must be exposed and corrected.