By Ashley Davis
To wed or not to wed … that was the question in the minds of BYU students who attended a lecture sponsored by Women”s Services and Resources on March 22 entitled, “Predicting Marital Satisfaction Before Marriage.”
Dating relationships develop at three different levels, Jeffry H. Larson, professor and director of the marriage and family therapy graduate programs at BYU, said.
At each of these three levels, a balance of assets and liabilities exists, he said. Assets are positive attributes, skills and habits that contribute to a successful relationship.
Liabilities are those habits, shortcomings, and philosophies which detract from relationships and ultimately cause their downfall, Larson said.
When liabilities outnumber assets, relationships become unbalanced and fail, he said.
Individual character traits comprise the most basic level of a relationship, Larson said. Liabilities in this category include anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, self-consciousness, vulnerability, stress, anger and dysfunctional beliefs.
“If these are strong points in your character, wait until you have worked through them before you start looking to get married ,” Larson said.
Good self-esteem, flexibility, assertiveness and sociability are important assets for individuals to bring to a relationship, Larson said.
The next level of a relationship deals with traits specific to the couple, Larson said. Areas of concern include dissimilarity in important life values, short acquaintanceships, premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, poor communication skills and poor conflict resolution skills, he said.
Larson made the recommendation that couples wait at least one year before they start discussing the possibility of marriage.
Larson explained that while a couple may receive spiritual confirmation about their desires to get married, the Holy Ghost will never instruct them not to take time necessary to get to know each other well before that event takes place.
“I thought his point was very applicable to students at BYU. I don”t think it hurts to take a little extra time to match the information received through spiritual confirmation with the preparation of taking time to get to know each other well,” said Jeremy White, 24, from Fort Wayne, Indidana.
The last level of a relationship rests upon the context of the association. Marriage at a young age, unhealthy families-of-origin, parental or peer disapproval and pressure to marry all serve to produce unhealthy, unsuccessful relationships, Larson said.
Assets at this level include older, more mature marriage partners, significant educational and professional preparation and healthy parental relationships, Larson said.
“Just because you or your relationship might be characterized by some of these traits, doesn”t mean it cannot be successful. Any of these liabilities can be resolved through maturation, counseling, prayer etc. The skills necessary for marriage don”t come naturally. It requires a lot of work,” Larson said.
Lisa Nordin, a senior from Arizona majoring in English, has come to understand that relationships require a marked, constant effort and sincere desire to develop successfully.
“Couples have to be committed to making the relationship work,” Nordin said. They have to want to develop the necessary skills, and they have to make a conscious effort to develop them together,” she said.