Actually, I had been brooding on this thought for quite a while - probably a few months already! - but with some of the recent articles floating around online on dating, marriage, affairs, and divorce, I just had to voice my view.
So, I'm sure most of you have read or heard about the Brangelina breakup. Well, I did too, no matter how hard I try to avoid reading about Hollywood scandals and all. But I did come across a rather interesting article on the topic. It refers to a study which revealed that "second marriages... have a higher rate of divorce, as do marriages that come out of affairs." And the psychotherapist being interviewed explained, “If someone has been capable of being disrespectful and dishonest with someone they cared about in the past, there is a possibility they can do that to you. Anyone can cheat, but this is a bigger risk.” I also read recently about how, sadly, the divorce rate in Singapore has risen.
So here's my two cents' worth! The thing is, when young people are dating, they will say or write stuff to each other like, "I will always love you!" or "I'm yours forever!" or "You can count on me!" etc etc... And although there isn't any formal contract, unlike in a marriage, such verbal and written promises they make are still promises that ought to be kept. But of course, most of these become empty promises when they break up. So the more they pair up and break up, the more 'practice' they have in making and then not keeping their promises. Later, when they get married, doesn't it then become much more likely for them to break their promise to each other since it's become a habit? After all, the marriage license is merely a piece of paper and can be easily annulled through divorce. It takes commitment on both sides to keep their vows in order for them to stay married for life. Therefore, in the same way that a history of extra-marital affairs points to a higher rate of divorce, I feel strongly that a culture of casual dating also leads to the same.
That's why I was quite surprised when I read the bad press on Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I'm not out to defend his book cos I'm not 100% convinced about everything he wrote in it either. But I do believe the general principle that one should wait till you are ready for marriage to embark on dating/courtship (or whatever you call it) rather than for teens to start dating casually is wise advice. There are many reasons for me to say so, but one of them is that just by postponing dating to a slightly older and more mature age means that you will (hopefully) be less likely to make empty promises. You would also have less 'practice' in breaking your promises since you would probably have been involved in fewer break ups. And as a result, when you do find someone whom you are happy to marry, you would not have formed the bad habit of breaking your promises and would thus have a lower risk of ending in divorce.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that this is a foolproof method for zero divorce. There's no guarantee in human relationships as we're all imperfect. [Just an aside - that's why I think it's really naive and unfair of some of Joshua Harris' adherents-turned-critics to blame him for their divorces!] I'm also not saying that someone who's been through many relationships and breakups wouldn't be able to sustain a lifelong marriage. There are (thankfully) always exceptions to everything and of course, there is also God's grace at work in our lives! My hope is just that young people will seriously consider and re-consider before jumping into any dating relationships and think twice, even thrice, before they start making promises to each other. In this way, you would be more careful about keeping your promises in general and that would help you in building a lasting marriage in future.