When Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was a girl, her father gave her some rules for selecting a husband.
- He should be a man of good character and conscience.
- He should be a man who will make a good father and be a good provider.
- The last rule was: No asthmatics. (Her father was a doctor and an asthmatic.)
Dafoe Whitehead has been married to a man who exuded all of these qualities for more than 40 years. The one area in which she rebelled: her husband is an asthmatic.
“Things are different now for girls,” says Dafoe Whitehead. “Both of my girls are single and in their 30s. In college, someone told one of my daughters that to think about marriage shows a lack of ambition.
"The reality is, we have left a lot of teaching about love, sex and marriage to the popular culture – reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc. Young women today hear messages of heartbreak and failure, heartbreak and cheating, heartbreak and lying. There isn’t a lot out there about being successful in marriage.”
According to Dafoe Whitehead, only 20 percent of young adults came from broken homes in the late 70s compared to 40 percent in the late 90s. Many women have personal experience with divorce. These young people gather a lot of misinformation along the way that, if acted upon, will significantly lower their chances of marital success.
“I believe there are five pervasive messages of failure that young women are receiving today,” Dafoe Whitehead says.
These misleading messages are:
- Teenage sex has nothing to do with having a healthy marriage later. Two-thirds of today’s teens believe it is okay to have sex if you are in love. Unfortunately, the consequences of teen sex can last a lifetime--but the relationship usually doesn’t.
- It is okay to have kids first because you can find a guy later. The highest percentage of unwed births today are to women in their 20s. Although they hope to find a guy later on, evidence shows that their chances of successful marriage, or every marrying at all, decline.
- People should live together. The evidence suggests that living together does not increase one’s chances of having a successful marriage, but there is strong evidence that it increases the chances for divorce.
- You cannot prepare for a healthy, successful marriage. There are many who believe having several bad relationships is the only way to have a good one, and that heartbreak is unavoidable.
- Your chances of divorce cannot be changed. The mantra for today’s young people is, “Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.” They believe that a successful marriage is a roll of the dice. Not true. There is a lot you can do.
“The truth is, young women in their teens and 20s should have tremendous hope for a successful marriage in the future,” Dafoe Whitehead says.
A lot can be done in the teen years to prepare for a healthy marriage later.
Making a Love Connection is an excellent resource to help teens make healthy decisions. At the heart of its hopeful message is the issue of sequence or timing. Young women can significantly improve their chances of having a healthy marriage by finishing high school, waiting until after the teen years to marry and having children after marrying. This sequential order also dramatically decreases the chances of poverty or divorcing.
If you are looking for a committed relationship, don’t settle for any old guy, and don’t settle for living together. Most women want a committed relationship.
Marriage is typically a public ceremony, leaving no doubt regarding the couple’s commitment to each other. Moving in with someone is private, and the only witnesses may be the moving people. One young lady said, “I really didn’t care about wedding vows, but when I lived with my boyfriend we didn’t vow to do anything.”
If you want a healthy marriage, here are some things to consider.
- Plan to complete your education in your 20s.
- Marry before the age of 30. In general, research shows that people who marry in their 20s are distinctly happier than those who marry later.
- Date with the intention and thought of marrying. Know what you are looking for in a mate and don’t date guys who aren’t marriage-minded. Frequent places where you are likely to meet the kind of person you'd want to marry.
- Don’t wait until you are engaged to get marriage education. Get as much relationship education as you can, value the knowledge and share it with others. People who know better do better.
- Finally, consider a small wedding if you're planning to marry. Many people delay the ceremony until they can afford a huge bash or a destination wedding that causes stress and fatigue. Focusing on the relationship instead of the big day itself has its perks. It allows couples to get a good emotional and financial start. Plus, it gives them more time together instead of creating debt and overwhelming tasks with the potential for conflict.