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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hurry, put a ring on it!

I promised it'd be all fun all the time until Next Giant Post, but Sulli always gives me food for thought. Currently the chewy topic at hand is marrying in haste. My experience of LDS marriage culture is exactly so--I watched everyone from friends  my age to my mother get married after bare months of knowing the other person. There were some shotgun weddings as well. My hypothesis is that the urge to get married as soon as possible stems from the premium the church places on (temple) marriage; holding a person's salvation hostage is a pretty good way of getting couples hitched. Also worth noting is that once you get married, you can get laid. That's a powerful impetus for young people who aren't even supposed to be masturbating.

Relatedly, a few nights ago my gentleman mentioned that he'd seen some LDS missionaries out and about, which kicked off a conversation about how missions work in the Mormon church. In high school I kind of assumed that I would serve a mission, both because I was laboring under the impression that I was unattractive to all male specimens generally and especially to LDS guys, and because I didn't actually want to get married at nineteen or twenty. Needless to say, none of that came to pass, since I am unmarried at twenty-four and left the church before serving a mission became the road to take. I hope that in the years I've been gone the attitude toward women serving missions has changed from "sweet spirits no one wants to marry even though they're rilly rilly good people" to "life experience and valid personal choice." Has the stereotype of overweight/ugly/awkward/otherwise-non-marriage-material sister missionaries disappeared? Serving the church should not be  considered the second-best option for women who can't get a husband. At the time I disliked that one pole was Get Married and the other Serve A Mission (Because No One Wants You) but hadn't really figured out why. Now it's clear as day. Part of the reason I grew away from the church was that there simply weren't enough options for meaningful relationships. In the year or so before I left there were a couple of articles in The New Era decrying the rise of "hanging out"--the authorities were not happy that traditional dates seemed to be going out the window and that young men and women seemed to be (gasp!) becoming friends before doing the dinner-and-a-movie thing. If the tendency and/or cultural pressure for LDS singles to eye every member of the opposite sex with the Moroni spire glare is diminishing, all the better!

Now, of course, there are many reasons why I am yet unmarried, none of which are satisfactory to my mother. And I can't say for certain if the hasty marriages I witnessed as a younger person were a bad idea (or if the parties are repenting at leisure). I hope they're all doing well and they probably are. But LDS marriage culture as a whole seems unhealthy to me.


C. L. Hanson said...

When I was in my early 20's, I had already left the church, but I still had a remnant of this idea in my head that girls show how valuable they are by landing a husband. On some level, I wanted to make it clear that being a "sinner" doesn't make me inferior, and as a result, I ended up marrying the first serious boyfriend I had after graduating from BYU. He was a good boyfriend, but I never should have married him, and I'm sure I wouldn't have if I hadn't retained this Mormon mindset that being unmarried in your 20's means there's something wrong with you.

Reading your post just made me want to give you one piece of advice: Don't let your mom or your other friends and family or even your own past training tell you that you need to get married, otherwise you're inferior. Don't let social pressure rush you into it. If/when you choose to get married, do it because you really want to spend your life with the person you've chosen.

Diana said...

I think a lot of the baggage definitely remains in the subconscious. The guy I'm with, I've been with for five years--even after leaving the church, I didn't go the "wild sex walkabout" route that my mother seemed to assume I would. It didn't really occur to me that I COULD play the field. I don't regret not doing so, though it burns my biscuit a little that my mom equates my long-term, very serious relationship with freewheeling non-monogamy, simply because we're not married.

And believe me, we have no plans at all to become married.

Ultimately for me, the restrictive nature of marriage in the LDS church is really problematic. The church is sheerly disrespectful of people whose personal lives don't jibe...even if those people are outside the church.

postmormon girl said...

Great post --- and I hope you can resolve your issues with your mother. When I left, I found myself under a lot of pressure to "prove" that leaving doesn't turn you into some wild, crazy person. Even out of the Church, you do end up with a whole lot of baggage that means your life isn't exactly your own.

I'm married, I'm happy I'm married, but I find myself really irritated by the fact that getting married was the one action I did that "proved" to my parents I was OK after all. Almost made me want to just live in sin forever.

Diana said...

I confess, one of the many reasons we are still unmarried with no plans to become married is that it annoys my mother and stepfather. Not exactly mature, but hey. :B

I don't see anything morally superior about monogamy, but I know that the church does...no one likes to be judged, and no one likes to be thought sinful, especially by their loved ones.

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