Just like clockwork, at least once every three months, my Facebook lights up with news of a fellow college student becoming either engaged or married.
The couples are typically young Protestants who attend Christian colleges like SPU. While the average age of couples getting married in America is getting older, the age of married Protestant couples is getting younger.
This phenomenon is affectionately nicknamed “ring by spring” and can have damaging effects on those who have chosen not to get married young. It can cause young men and women of our generation to feel panic, insecurity and inadequacy about their choices and future.
According to a study done by the United Nations, the average age for marriage in the U.S. is 27, a record high for our country. In the 1980s, the average age was 23 and has continually been on the rise. More individuals in our generation are opting to continue their education and advance their careers before settling down. It makes you wonder why so many Protestants are deciding to get married young.
It could be that we have been indoctrinated to believe that marriage directly correlates with our self-worth. It could also be due to the desire to be sexually active or the need stay pure before marriage. Furthermore, we may feel pressured by our community, family and church. The reasoning is different for each young couple, but those of us who will not be getting married or engaged in the foreseeable future are left questioning those reasons and filling our minds with insecurities.
Marriage is a gift from God that should be treasured and valued, but not one to be taken lightly. The decision to get married is one of the biggest decisions a person will ever make, and I fully support every couple’s right to make it whenever it is right for them. What bothers me is not the fact that couples are getting married young, it is the fact that those of us who don’t have that desire are at times left feeling inadequate and insecure.
I remember being a freshman in the dorms gossiping with my floormates about the junior couple that had just gotten married, and imagining our own future weddings. We spent time scrolling through wedding pictures on Pinterest and fantasizing about finding our future soulmate to settle down with.
For most young Protestants at SPU, there is an expectation that you will find your soulmate in the dorms or in class. SPU is full of like-minded Christians who have similar values and goals, so it is only natural that students will pair up and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately for many students, this is not the case. When this fantasy does not happen, we are filled with fear that it if it didn’t happen here, then it won’t happen anywhere else. This fear comes from the pressure we feel around us by our peers and even professors.
During my sophomore year here at SPU, I met with a professor to talk about my four-year plan. One of the first questions I was asked was if I had a boyfriend, which I did and still do. The second question was, “When are you going to get married, before or after graduate school?”
Being 20 years old at the time, I had not given it much thought, but quickly started to panic and question my aspirations. I was planning my future career as a lawyer, but I had suddenly been made very aware that I had failed to plan my future as a wife and mother. I was plagued with feelings of inadequacy and immaturity. I felt that I had failed my Protestant duty of desiring to be a wife and mother first, lawyer second.
Unfortunately, this is a feeling that many of my peers are familiar with. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are constantly reminding us of our lack of a fiancé and are plaguing us with unnecessary insecurities. The choice to not get married young shouldn’t reflect poorly on those who choose it.
Getting married and settling down is a great thing and something that most people that I know want for their future. The desire to graduate college, attended graduate school, travel the world or achieve career goals before you settle is just as admirable and should not leave a person with feelings of inadequacy.
Instead, they should feel proud that they have chosen the path that works best for them and are pursuing their dreams.