I’ve been attending a Christian university for the past three years, and every spring, like clockwork, my Instagram feed is overrun by posts captioned “Finally got my ring by spring!” or “Graduating with my MRS. degree!” This is because — on top of the normal pressures surrounding college such as making good grades, having a booming social life and deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life — many students in Christian colleges feel pressure to get engaged by the end of their senior year, aka “ring by spring.”
I, too, have been affected by the “ring by spring” culture. I have found myself questioning if there is something wrong with me not being engaged or feeling a little excluded when I receive yet another friend’s wedding invitation. While I am nowhere near ready to tie the knot, I feel as if I am expected to be.
It feels like more and more of the conversations I have at school, with students and professors alike, revolve around upcoming weddings or marriage advice. During these conversations, I feel pressured to jump in with my own non-existent wedding plans. Then, when I don’t tell a marital anecdote of my own, others will inevitably turn to me with a sad smile and say something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone soon.” While most of the time this is said with the best intentions, it often causes me to feel incomplete in my singleness, like I’m a project to be fixed.
Why the pressure to get married?
While most students don’t go into college with the express intent of finding a spouse, many feel the pressure to become engaged before graduation once they get there. Whether it’s the appeal of guilt-free sex, the underlying tone that a person cannot be complete without a significant other or feeling left behind due to being the last single friend, there is a consistent push in Christian colleges to get married.
Some may feel college is their one opportunity to meet a Christian husband or wife before entering “the real world.” In fact, many of the top 25 colleges where men are most likely to meet their spouse are private Christian colleges. And, while the average age for marriage in the U.S. is 28 for women and 30 for men, Christians tend to get married much younger.
Obviously, there is no perfect age to get engaged. The idea that a person must find their husband or wife before they leave school can cause many issues, including self-doubt and lower self-esteem.
Unattached students ask themselves questions such as, “What’s wrong with me?” or “How am I going to find someone after college?” simply because they aren’t married — or at least engaged — before graduation.
The pressure surrounding “ring by spring” can also cause young couples to jump into a lifelong commitment before they’re ready. Marriage is a huge decision and one that should not be made lightly, especially if the decision is based on peer pressure. While a young marriage may be the right decision for some couples, it isn’t right for everyone.
The pros and cons of marrying young
The culture of Christian colleges often seems to glorify getting married as soon as possible. However, it’s important to remember that those who get married early often face certain hardships due to the added responsibility of starting a family, finishing their education and trying to launch a career. According to “The Best (and Worst) Ages for Couples to Get Married,” “Divorce is 50% less likely for someone who is 25 years old when they wed, as compared to someone who gets married at age 20.” Another article titled “What’s the Ideal Age for Getting Married?” states that “people who marry early seem to have an increased risk of depression.”
There are also benefits to marrying young. Getting married earlier in life means establishing a life together right from the start. The couple grows and bonds through shared events rather than having separate experiences. As Ecclesiastes 4:9 points out, “Two are better than one.” Early marriages also give couples more time together to plan for their future careers and family goals, while those who marry later may have a more difficult time integrating their lives or creating shared goals.
It is important to have a Bible-driven approach to marriage rather than a cultural “ring by spring” approach. God’s timing is always perfect. The desire to get married and start a family comes from God (Proverbs 18:22). God knows what we need more than we do. Psalm 37:4 puts it perfectly, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
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