By Erica Starr
Jeff Larson, a professor of marriage, family and human development, answered the question, “We”re in love, but should we get married?” at Thursday, March 13”s, relationship series presentation sponsored by Women”s Services.
“Our society values marriage, but it doesn”t value preparing for marriage,” Larson said. “I have 25 predictors of whether students will be happy or not in their marriages. Students should be thoughtful and courageous enough to talk with their partners and dig into each other”s information.”
Larson said most couples think all they need to know is that they”re in love and that they can”t wait to see each other again. However, he said, that is why there is a 40 percent divorce rate in the United States. Larson emphasized that during his research with premarital predictors, he found a theory suggesting relationships develop at a number of levels.
“Before couples get married they need to ask these questions together: What predicts happiness in marriage? How do I assess it?” Larson said. “Then couples need to compare themselves and their answers of these questions and set goals for improvement before they get married, not after they get married.”
The predictors Larson has established are grouped in three categories: context and environment, couple traits and individual traits.
Larson suggested couples need to look at their emotional, physical and cognitive present state before preparing for marriage. Larson listed individual traits that, if extremely high, can hinder happiness in marriage. These traits included anxiety, depression, impulsivity, self-consciousness, vulnerability to stress, anger and hostility and dysfunctional beliefs.
“It is important to note that all people possess neurotic traits,” Larson said. “It”s part of the human condition. We are talking about people who are extremes. Even then, nearly all of these can be changed, improved and dealt with before marriage through medication, your bishop or counseling.”
Couples should then evaluate couple traits before considering marriage, he said. These include similarities, length of acquaintanceships, premarital sex or pregnancy, cohabitation, communication skills, conflict resolution and skills or style. Larson said these traits are good predictors for experts to determine if a marriage will last.
“Dissimilarity can add stressors to the relationship, as well as premarital issues and cohabitation,” Larson said. “Any one who says they need to live with someone before they get married should be told that it won”t help them to be any more happy. These kinds of people have difficulty with commitment and tend to be liberal with their views of relationships.”
Communication skills or resolution skills are all skills that people can develop, Larson said. MFHD 302 is a class for engaged students that address these issues.
The context and environment is the third category couples should assess together. This deals with issues like age at marriage, family origins, parental marriages, parental or friends” approval and pressure to marry.
“The national average for males to get married is between 26 to 27 years old,” Larson said. “The female national average is between 23 to 25 years old. We”ve found that 23 is a crucial age for women and is the age where there are significantly better chances of staying married. People under age 20 have a 70 percent chance of divorce because they are too immature or have little or no education. Individuals should be emotionally, cognitively and physically mature when they get married.”
After you dig through this information with your partner and you feel you don”t know each other well enough to get married, have the courage to slow down,” Larson said. “There are all kinds of resources to help you with this process of preparing yourselves for marriage.”