One of the Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make; Whom You Will Marry
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"Is there anything we can take with us?" asked Scott R. Braithwaite, assistant professor of psychology at Campus Education Week at BYU on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Brother Braithwaite said there are three things that people can take with them after this earth life.
1. Their souls (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15,16)
2. Their intelligence (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19)
3. Their relationships (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19, D&C 130:2)
He quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie as he told those in attendance that marriage was the most importance decision individuals will make and the choice of a spouse will influence their lives.
Brother Braithwaite said there are scientific studies that conclude people who divorce are more likely to have children who also divorce. He referred to this as the "intergenerational transmission of divorce."
"What do we know about what predicts marital success versus marital distress?" he asked. While in graduate school, Brother Braithwaite did research on what predicts who will stay married. He said that studies can predict with up to a 94 percent accuracy who will stay married and who will divorce. He asked the class what they thought were things that could lead to future problems in marriage. Some answers included money, life goals, mental health, difference in religion, pre-marital habitation and relationships with family members. There are also some things that cannot be predicted.
Brother Braithwaite said it is important to look at personality. He noted that President David O. McKay taught:
"In choosing a companion, it is necessary to study … the one with whom you are contemplating making life's journey."
Is it better that "birds of a feather flock together" or "opposites attract?" Brother Braithwaite asked. "Birds of a feather" win. He noted it is important that couples balance each other out and complement each other.
"If the two of you are like each other you are not going to have to work as hard at your marriage," he explained and said that President Spencer W. Kimball taught difficulties in marriage are increased when backgrounds are different.
Studies have found that Latter-day Saints have the most stable marriages and also the least stable. This is because if both people in the partnership are LDS, the marriage is usually stable. If one person is not LDS then it increases the probability of divorce by 27 percentage points, said Brother Braithwaite.
He noted that President Kimball warned the youth about the hazards of interfaith marriage when he said, "Marriage may be eternalized through righteous entry into the holy temple."
"The only way you can marry in the temple is to marry inside the faith," said Brother Braithwaite. "You need to be as much alike as possible."
He told the audience that "you need to pay the price," in becoming acquainted with your future spouse. Those who marry at a young age are more likely to have marital dysfunction, according to one study. He also advised not to marry too late.
"The single best predictor of marital problems is the way you handle conflict," Brother Braithwaite said but also pointed out that conflict is a natural part of relationships. How one deals with that conflict is key.
He quoted President Ezra Taft Benson who said: "Spiritual growth comes by solving problems together — not by running from them."
Marriage is like the three bears story, according to Brother Braithwaite, and it is important that marriage is approached as partners and not too hot, not too cold but to be "somewhere in the middle." Couples need to have a healthy way with disagreements. He noted studies have shown that it is the exposure to the negative conflict can cause the most damage to children.
He asked a series of questions: "Who decides whom we marry? Is there such thing as a 'soul mate'? Is there a 'one and only' out there for you and is it your job to find them?"
In answer to these questions, Brother Braithwaite noted Elder Boyd K. Packer who said: "While I am sure some young couples have some special guidance in getting together, I do not believe in predestined love."
Brother Braithwaite said it is up to the individual to choose. The idea of a "soul mate," according to President Kimball "is fiction and an illusion" even if unromantic, said Brother Braithwaite.
"You might turn down a bunch of people when you could have had a fantastic life," he counseled. To think there is such thing as a 'soul mate' may lead to "a lot of really stupid behavior."
"If things start to go wrong in my marriage it is a sign I married the wrong person. You start to think, 'I need to get out of my marriage.'"
"So, how should we go about finding a husband/wife?" Brother Braithwaite has counseled with people who say they went on a couple of dates with a person and then prayed to know if he or she was the one.
He said the Lord is not going to "pick our spouse for us" and related the story of Glenn L. Pace, who served as managing director of the Welfare Services Department of the Church before being called to the Presiding Bishopric. Bishop Glenn L. Pace prayed for a solution and then counseled with some of the General Authorities and told them further revelation was necessary. They countered with the same counsel and told him to "go get it!"
"We have to do everything we can do and then we can ask the Lord to confirm the choice we have made," advised Brother Braithwaite. He said love, as a feeling, is not enough. It must be charity, which is an action and unfolds over a lifetime.
He said that revelation is 95 percent hard work. The normal way to receive revelation is through the small, subtle way of line upon line and precept upon precept.
"During the engagement, focus on the marriage, not on the wedding," Brother Braithwaite said. "He [the Lord] wants us to make the right choice but it is our choice."