A looong time ago, early high school, there was this fad at the church I went to at the time, and probably other churches too, that had the teenage girls (I don't know about the boys) make a list of features they wanted their future husband to have/be. Of course they didn't want us to just put stuff like "must be super hott". They wanted us to think of the character of this alleged future husband of ours and they told us that in doing that, God would honor our list. He would actually give us even better than our list. Oh Golly!, even better than our list? I, of course, made a list. I was trying to be super deep. I actually think that was the time in my life when I was convinced that I would get married. Even more than now, when people are getting married like it's the flu shot. They told us that while God was making him (future husband) into the man I needed him to be, God was making me into the perfect woman for him. Nice sentiment, huh? I'm not entirely sure what the overall objective was for this whole list-preparing-yourself-for-your-future-spouse ordeal was; perhaps to keep us from having sex (that will likely always be the objective, in some underground way), perhaps to focus on our relationship with God, perhaps to grasp the holiness of marriage, perhaps to have us be in constant pursuit of becoming better people (even if only for your future spouse). I don't know exactly what they were trying to accomplish, but I don't exactly agree with the mentality.
1) Marriage isn't guaranteed. Getting teenage girls (and boys) all amped up about marriage when there's no guarantee they will actually ever get married seems terrible. While this is the South, and people get married ridiculously young down here, not everyone gets married. Having girls focus their hearts so fiercely on marriage seems sadistic. Yes, you'll likely, more than not, get married, but what if you don't? Does that mean something's wrong with you? No, but, to me, it does mean you wasted a heck of a lot of time prepping for something that's not even happening. I think this 'marriage will happen' mentality will inevitably backfire for anyone who expected to be married by a certain age and then isn't.
2) Purposeful life. Raising girls to think that their sole purpose on this Earth is to be the best wife ever is wrong. There's nothing wrong with being a wonderful wife, but that's not all you are. And you certainly shouldn't glean your value from how good a wife/mother you are. Our value as human beings rests not in what we do or don't do, not even if we do it well, our value rests in what/who our Creator says we are. We are His beloved and He sees us as His Bride, His Love. Being seen as so valuable by the Creator of the Universe is far more impressive than being liked and loved by faulty humans.
3) Useless Prayer. Prayer's great, like really awesome. I think nothing's too small/big/major/minor/augmented/diminished/whatever to pray about. But I do often wonder if God gets annoyed at our prayers. Something that I was taught was to always be praying for my future husband, praying that he was becoming and being the man of God I want and need for him to be. That's a nice enough prayer right? But I was taught to not just drop a prayer in the jar for him occasionally, but to always be praying for him. Everyday. To me, that seems a lot like nagging God. Hey God, you're still molding my husband right? Is he gonna be as handsome as I like? Can he play the guitar? Is it true about opposites attracting? Have I already met him? When am I gonna meet him? Please let him be a vegetarian. Are you still working on him? Can it be that guy, he's super hott. Is he gonna like me? I mean seriously, already obsessing over this man before having met him seems like a terrible idea. It's okay to wonder and pray about him/her, but to constantly be bringing it up to God seems like you don't trust God enough to just work. He's the Creator of Time, He doesn't need constant reminders about your future spouse. And He certainly doesn't feel pressured to work on your schedule. Why don't you focus your prayer on Him (God) and how you can be more like Him. Or, brace yourself, pray about something other than yourself and your life; there are few wars happening right now.
(just to go on record and say that this above prayer isn't at all useless, it's quite beautiful; I just think of this when I think of prayer)
4) Intrinsic Responsibility. Something that's hard to teach my students is the intrinsic motivation to do the right thing. They want stickers/points/tickets/candy/rewards (all of which are extrinsic motivators) for doing good things. Good things like: fixing my chairs at the end of class, letting someone be in front of them in line (this is actually a HUGE deal for all grade levels), finishing their work on time, all stuff they should just do because it's the right thing. But we want a world of people who do the right thing because it's the right thing. We want people who practice self control because they know it's healthy for them and others and not because they can get something they want later. Telling girls/boys to keep pure and live a Jesus filled life BECAUSE you don't want to make your spouse feel cheated (because he's/she's not your first or because you have a less than pristine past) seems a lot like extrinsically guilting them into doing the right thing. Why don't we try a different approach and let youth experience, freely, the love and life God has for each of us. It's not like we could ever earn God's love and approval so why should we be busting our butts for beings that matter less than God. How about teaching youth to stay pure and live a Jesus filled life because that's the way it's meant to be. Why twist their arm saying they'll be disappointing their future spouse? They don't even know their future spouse or if said spouse even exists. I want youth, and everyone, to have an intrinsic responsibility to do the right thing because it's what's best for them and everyone else, because that's how their life is meant to be led.
5) Embracing Youth. Also, why are we having kids focus so hard on marriage? Isn't it illegal for kids to get married, or something? Yes, children grow into adults, adults typically get married. But if we're doing a good job of modeling wonderful marriages and of raising intrinsically motivated people, then why do we have to have this big even when talking about marriage and family? Children have so much to worry about just being youth. They have the ever competitive school, they have have puberty (which takes up a large part of their brain power), they have peer relationships, they have so many things they need to think about. Let's not preoccupy them with a possible future marriage added to their load. They have enough responsibilities as youths to think about, why add something very adult to their plate. Of course what they do in their youth effects their futures, but if they are becoming wonderful human beings (who are compassionate, respectful, communicative, and responsible), then the transition to adulthood, with all it's glory, will not be nearly as bumpy as people anticipate. Kids shouldn't be worried or preoccupied about adult things, they should simply be becoming.
I really wish the Church did a better a job at growing youth with a healthy view on marriage. I know there are presumptions about marriage I am dealing with now because of how marriage was handled in the churches I went to as a child. I know that marriage isn't something I'll truly understand unless I'm married, but that's really all that needs to be said to kids. Don't try to explain away the holiness of it, just tell the kids it may or may not happen, but you are no more or no less whether it happens to you or not.