Hopeless Romantics: Should college students marry?

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Illustration by Mitchelle Gonzalez.

Love has no barriers but a recurring question emerges amongst the youth of the nation: Is marrying during college a wise choice? Most college students say no.
In-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse array of approximately ten UNLV students. Their responses coalesced into two discernible camps: “Follow your heart” and “Follow your future.”

Under the “follow your future” camp, most interviewees believe that college students should complete their education before entering a committed relationship. Their assertion centers on the belief that college students often lack the requisite preparedness and maturity to shoulder the responsibilities entailed in marriage.

Joseph, a sophomore at UNLV, stressed, “Prioritize your grades and education because if you don’t, it will eventually come crumbling down.” The pursuit of matrimonial love would likely result in the pitfall of academic success. Balancing commitments to college and marriage is challenging due to their time-sensitive nature. Navigating the demands of both education and marriage can be incredibly difficult, requiring a delicate balance of time and effort, something that the majority of college students can’t manage. 

Jad, a senior at UNLV,suggested, “Enjoy the relationship you have now and let it grow naturally; if they’re the one, you’ll marry them.” Rather than quickly rush to marriage, couples should “enjoy the relationship” as it is. If the couple believes that they are for one another, there will come a time for marriage, but not in college since it seems too premature.

In contrast, the “follow your heart” faction contested these arguments, emphasizing that if genuine emotional connections are established, students should not shy away from embracing matrimony. They posit that there exists minimal distinction between dating and marital relationships.

When questioned about the differences between married and unmarried undergraduates’ experiences, Eileen, a newlywed UNLV student, stated, “The commitment is more official, but I don’t think there’s a huge difference because you’ll be doing the same thing you would if you were dating.” In marriage, there is no omniscient and omnipotent rulebook that dictates how marriage should be conducted. Marital partners could and have conducted their relationships as when they were dating. Partners could decide to never have kids, have an open relationship, never own a house or any property, etc. The possibilities are endless. 

Upon reviewing the responses, concluding a reasonable verdict is not as simple as it seems. The responses from both sides aren’t contrived, but they are ambivalent. Each answer could be completely justified in one circumstance but could be completely obsolete in the next. Take these responses for instance:

– “Individuals should thoroughly acquaint themselves with their partner before marriage.” But what if the couple has known each other since the 9th grade? Would marrying during their freshman or sophomore year of college be acceptable in such a scenario?

– “If it feels right, one should seize the opportunity.” What if one’s instincts turn out to be misguided, leading to marriage with second thoughts?

– “Consulting with religious beliefs should precede marriage.” What if the couple identifies as atheists?

– “Responsibility is pivotal in a relationship.” Does the typical college student possess the requisite maturity for such responsibilities? A UCI News article details that students might reach emotional maturity by the age of 22. Furthermore, failure to share responsibilities could lead to divorce.

It’s difficult to make a generalized answer to fit every demographic. However, studies predominantly favor the “follow your future” camp. A peer-reviewed article from Psychology Today reveals that couples who marry as teenagers face a 38% risk of divorce, with those in their early twenties also exhibiting high vulnerability (27%). In contrast, couples marrying between ages 25 and 29 experience a substantially lower divorce rate (14%), followed by ages 30 to 34 (10%). This suggests that financial stability, clear goals and ample time spent dating contribute to successful marriages.

Moreover, one interviewee named Damon noted, “Honestly, people could date as long as they want, and they don’t have to get married. Being married is intentionally taking on some legal ramifications. You could love somebody more than anybody else could love anybody, and you still don’t have to get married.”

Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge that successful college marriages are not unattainable. Shannon O’Grady, a licensed family and marriage counselor, underscores,“There are always exceptions to the rules. People would say, ‘Oh, well, 60% of them don’t make it.’ Well, 40% of them make them. Also, look into the quality. Maybe, there are some great marriages.” 

Dr. O’Grady also provides guidance for those contemplating engagement, suggesting, “Why don’t guys have premarital counselors? You might talk about all the issues that you face in marriage. See if you get everything on the right page and then, if you set everything straight, go for it.”

Initially, I lean towards “follow your future” camp. If a friend came to me for advice asking if they should marry the love of their life in college, I would respond quite crudely and advise them not to marry them. I believe that college students are too immature and they are not built to shoulder the responsibility that comes with marriage. However, after conducting the interviews with UNLV students and with Dr. O’Grady, my advice, now, is to seek marriage counseling. College marriage can and has been successful but students must understand why it’s successful. 

College is constructed on the foundation of knowledge. If a college couple brings a level of astuteness and diligence to marriage as they would for college, I see no reason not to marry. It displays a level of responsibility and commitment that any successful marriage requires:growth, mutual respect, and unwavering support.

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