Ring by Spring
Reported by Emma Lindberg
Photographed by Coleman Weimer
One of the first experiences I had at George Fox University (GFU) was during Genesis, when students register for classes and receive information to prepare for the following fall. I remember nervously sitting in a classroom in Hoover, listening to a speaker describe what the next four years might entail.
In the midst of her presentation, the speaker said, “And who knows? Maybe your future husband or wife is in this room today.”
I remember being a little surprised that a representative of the university was promoting romantic relationships in her presentation about what GFU was going to be like. An employee using the idea of finding a spouse to get students excited about coming to college did not seem professional to me. The topic felt like something that freshmen women would gossip about, not working professionals.
A year and a half into my college career, I don’t even bat an eye when a professor or employee of GFU mentions something that pertains to the “ring by spring” culture.
This idea that students should aim to be engaged by the spring of their senior year is so deeply ingrained in Christian college culture, adding pressure to dating relationships and leading students to get married too soon.
College years are some of the most formative years of our lives. We are figuring out who we want to be, in more ways than one. I have learned more about myself in one year at college than in four years of high school. College is a unique time when we get to be independent and reflective, spontaneous and hardworking.
We get to live somewhere surrounded by diverse people, all of the same age range. As my uncle says, college is the time where we have the least amount of responsibility that we will ever have going forward, but also the most freedom we’ve had in our lives thus far. College is a recipe for disaster and good memories.
My point is, what’s the rush to get married? If you meet the love of your life in college, great! But if you know you are going to be together forever anyway, why is it imperative to get married right away?
What’s the harm in waiting a year or two? You have your whole lives to be married!
College is also when you figure out the type of person with whom you want to be. Dating is how you discern what you want in a partner.
The pressure that “ring by spring” culture puts on dating relationships does not allow for the casual dating that is necessary to explore compatibility. Instead the notion is always there, even if just as an undercurrent, making relationships serious from the get-go. While guarding your heart, making sure you are listening to God, and potentially seeing a future with that person are important, dating doesn’t always need to be so intense.
This formative time of our lives is beneficial, but also brings difficulties. There are financial issues, career dilemmas, and many other hardships that surface in and after college. While there is value in facing these alongside your partner, I cannot help but think this is one of the reasons people are 50 percent less likely to get divorced if they wait until after the age of 25 to get married, according to Psychology Today.
This is not to say that everyone who gets married in or right after college is doomed for divorce, and there is definitely value in growing and learning together. But this route will be much more difficult and will take work, and you can still do this as you are dating.
The importance of independence and self-discovery is worth waiting a couple years after college to be more established in yourself, your career, and your finances, and will ultimately make your marriage better.