By Meredith Schellin
We’ve all heard it. It is asked almost as frequently as what are you doing after you graduate. We get asked about it at family reunions, church, even by people we don’t really know. “When are you getting married?” I mean it’s what every twenty-something does as soon as they graduate, right?
As a 20-year-old college female who has been dating the same guy for almost five years, one would think I would be planning on getting married the day after I graduate. Well, here’s the thing—I’m not.
Yes, you read that right. I have had a boyfriend for almost five years, but we probably won’t be getting married right after I graduate. And I’m fine with that.
This shocks most people, especially in a place like Asbury where it seems like everyday we receive an email about an upcoming marriage retreat and phrases like “Getting a Mrs. Degree” and “ring by spring” are parts of our native language. Often it feels like people are literally going to come unglued if they don’t get married as soon as they graduate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you cannot get married as soon as you graduate. I know there are people that even get married while they are still in school and have perfectly happy, stable marriages; however, there have been several reasons that have made me content with waiting a year or two after I graduate to get married.
Lets just start with some statistics. Everyone thinks that you’re going to become a crazy cat lady if you don’t graduate at least engaged. However, The Huffington Post reported that as of this year the average age a woman in the United States gets married is 27, and the average age for a man is 29. So, if you have done the math, that gives a person enough time to go to college, even graduate school, and settle into a life of their own before marriage. It allows for people to figure out who they are, the general direction their life is taking and how to care for themselves as an adult.
Obviously I haven’t been married before, but it would be a good idea to be independent, self-aware and stable before permanently adding someone else to your life.
This might take you a year or two after college. If you are dating someone in your final years as a college student, if they really care for you—enough to be your potential spouse–they should be more than happy to let you figure out the details of your personal life, before you put a ring on it.
Not only are most recent college grads still trying to figure out who they are and where they want to go in life, many of them graduate with an enormous amount of debt. According to Forbes.com, two-thirds of college students are graduating in the red. The average amount of that debt—$26,600.
If you’re lucky, you will marry somebody who landed in the one-third that is debt-free. If you’re not, you and your new spouse are looking at using your starter job salaries to pay off a combined average debt of $53,200. That doesn’t sound like the best way to start off a marriage, especially when financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce.
Not only are there factors like independence and finances to think about, but you have to think about the fact that marriage is a big deal. I can barely make a decision on what to wear in the morning, let alone make a decision that will affect my future forever. I have the rest of my life to live. I am not saying that I don’t want to live it married; I am simply saying there is no rush.
So before you call home and tell your parents your living with them forever, or you adopt 100 cats, remember that most of us will graduate unmarried, and probably not even engaged. That is okay. Be content. There is no rush to get your ring before spring.