Pressure to Marry Should be Re-evaluated

November 21, 2010

From the moment one arrives on ACU’s campus, there is a subtle countdown to graduation: you have four years to find someone to marry, tick tock. As we all know, there are only 4,700 Christians out there who are marriage material, all of whom attend ACU. Even though most probably enrolled in ACU to get a Christian education, let’s admit that sometimes it feels secondary to finding a Christian mate.

I’m only half joking. To find yourself holding a diploma and not a marriage license appears to signal you are very far behind. But it’s not just the culture of ACU that creates an expectation that upon reaching a certain age you should either be married or well on your way to it. According to a recent New York Times article, “sociologists traditionally define the ‘transition to adulthood’ as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.” Evidently, a person doesn’t enter adulthood until he or she is married with children.

Is marriage really a rite of passage into adulthood? Several of the most beloved and respected professors here at ACU are single by choice. Have they not reached adulthood because they are missing two of the five “milestones toward adulthood?” There’s a certain stigma that those who are not in a relationship are either lacking in maturity or fulfillment. I don’t think I’m the only one who would argue that this is an unhealthy mindset.

The prevailing attitude that marriage equals adulthood and fulfillment is not only harmful to those who find themselves single in their mid-twenties but also to those that may believe marriage will solve all of life’s problems.  Life’s challenges still occur after people say “I do.” At the ripe age of 22, I have already seen several marriages involving people my age which have ended in divorce. Plenty of those couples met at Christian colleges.

The pressure to marry by a certain age applied, by the Christian community as well as society at large, may be leading some to enter marriage before they’re ready. According to a study in the Journal of Family Issues, “young people who marry in their teens and early twenties are far more likely to divorce than those who marry later.” There are obviously hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of successful marriages that grew out of a college relationship – my parents, who have been married for over 25 years, are among of them. But the high number of divorces among this age group should give some pause.

Every single (or not-so-single) one of my older cousins is either married or engaged. The same is true of five of my six closest friends back home. Do I feel pressure? Sure. But I want to get married when I and the woman I’ve found are prepared to take on that significant commitment. I’m just not there yet. And that’s okay. I would go on, but I’m about to attend the wedding of a childhood friend, and I don’t want to be late for his special day.



One Response to “Pressure to Marry Should be Re-evaluated”

  1. Brent Bailey Says:

    Great column…this was especially important for ACU, where I think everyone can feel the pressure to get married before graduation. Glad you called attention to it and stuck up for the people who graduate single!

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