I was engaged once to a man I didn’t marry. For the record, he was a good Latter-day Saint and a good man. But I came to discover that even good people can have bad relationships. We were engaged for 4 tumultuous months before I finally called it off.
I knew it wasn’t right early on. I could bore you with all the reasons I entered into an engagement with a person I wasn’t in love with, but that’s a longish, whiny tale. More importantly, I think, is why I stayed as long as I did. 4 months doesn’t seem that long, I suppose, but it was longer than it should have been.
We fought. A lot. About little things, big things, and everything in between. We weren’t very good at communicating with each other, and during one exasperating conversation I pulled the ring off my finger and held it out to him.
“Don’t,” he said. “Don’t do this.”
“We’re not getting along,” I told him. “People who get married are supposed to get along. It’s supposed to be better than this.”
“No,” he told me. “It’s not. This is real life, babe. This is how it works. You’ve just been brainwashed by a lifetime of Young Women’s lessons that tell you that some shining knight is going to come up on a white horse and sweep you off your feet and you’ll live happily ever after. I’m here to tell you it just doesn’t work that way. This is it. THIS is how it works. I’m the best you’ll ever get.”
It wasn’t exactly the nicest thing he’d ever said, but the worst part about that moment is that I believed him. For a little while, at least. It wasn’t until I saw my best friend’s face on her wedding day and the pure joy she radiated that I realized he was wrong. White knight or not, everybody deserved to be that happy on her wedding day. I came home from the wedding and broke off my engagement. It was hard to do, and I felt I had humiliated us both, but I figured a little short term humiliation was better than long-term misery.
Also, I actually did believe in the lessons I had received as a youth, which essentially told me that marriage was supposed to make you happy, that marrying and building a family was the path to joy in this life and in the life to come. And so I held out until I found somebody who did make me happy, and I assure you that on my wedding day, my face was just as bright as any other bride. Sitting across the alter from my husband, I had the thought, “This is the definition of joy.”
I tell you this story because this month, our bishop had us read a talk by Julie Beck on the Doctrine of the Family. I don’t know how to link it for y’all, as it was a talk she gave to the CES. But it was powerful. In addition to reiterating what the brethren have taught us about the eternal nature of family, she brought up the disturbing idea that the youth today have lost confidence in their abilities to form and manage a family.
I was prepared to hear that young people today are making different choices about families–marrying older, putting off having children, having fewer children. But losing confidence in their own ability to make lasting bonds? Losing confidence in their ability to be parents? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was as clueless as the next gal when it came to being a mother, and I am still learning how this whole thing works. But I always wanted to be a mother, even as I struggled (and continue to struggle) with the decisions and sacrifices that entails. And I figured that somehow, I’d manage.
When I broke off my engagement, I was shaken and left off balance, and wanted to swear off dating for a while. But I remember a conversation where somebody said to me, “Does this make you think you’ll never get married?”
It didn’t. Not for a second. I was always fairly confident that someday it would happen, that one bad relationship didn’t mean I was incapable of making something work with someone else.
Apparently, this is not true for our youth. They don’t have confidence in their ability to form eternal bonds because they aren’t very good at forming bonds now. According to Sister Beck, they have underdeveloped communication skills borne of overuse of technology that makes it unnecessary to engage in actual conversation.
Does anybody else see this? Does anybody else see that our young people have lost confidence in the doctrine of eternal family?
I don’t have teenagers, so I don’t have a front row seat. But I’ve always felt that the messages the media sends about the absurdity of being a virgin and the uselessness of marriage could be successfully counteracted with consistent and strong messages about marriage and family that come from the home. But if your kids don’t believe you, what next?
It’s one thing to have a child who chooses something against what they’ve been taught, who gets caught up in sin and temptation. It’s something else entirely to have a generation of youth who don’t think that the doctrine of the family is something that could ever apply to them.
How can we teach our children confidence in their abilities to be wives, husbands, fathers, mothers? How can we battle against Satan’s new arsenal of technology and isolation? This is big stuff, people. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially the parents of teenagers. And if you are interested in seeing the full text of Sister Beck’s talk, I will be happy to email it to you. Just let me know in your comments if you are interested.
UPDATE: Ah, Matt found a link (comment #2) . Thank you so much, Matt.