Let’s Kiss Dating Hello – Ring By Spring Culture at Christian Campuses, by N. Sheets
(Link): Let’s Kiss Dating Hello by N. Sheets
A sociologist reveals her research about ‘ring by spring’ culture on a Christian college campus.
…In the fall of 2014, George gathered some initial data on students’ attitudes about “ring by spring.” The results of her study are (Link): forthcoming in Christian Reflection.
I had the chance to talk with George about her research, the surprising sticking power of “ring by spring” culture—especially at a time when the age of first marriage in the US (Link): keeps climbing —and its implications for Christian college students.
…[Question]: In your forthcoming article, you’re very clear to point out that this is not an indictment of young marriage or young engagement. You’re trying to stay neutral on that. Do you anticipate any pushback?
[Response]: We all have different journeys in life. Some of us are called to be married young, others of us later in life, and still others don’t have marriage in their life journey at all. I am pro-marriage for any adult couple, regardless of age, that feels the timing is right and is prepared for marriage.
Still, I am sure there will be pushback from some who believe that we all need to marry young. And for some cultures, that is the norm. However, the sociological literature is very clear on the implications of younger marriages, and I think we need to consider the science behind those studies when addressing marriage trends.
In general, younger marriages don’t succeed as often as marriages when people are older.
And young/old is really fluid depending on what research you’re looking at, but over 24 would be an “older” marriage just because you’ve got more of a financial grounding.
And what [social scientists] find is that women do better if they get married older than if they get married young because they’ve established themselves financially.
In sociology, when we talk about “success” in a marriage, we’re basically talking about whether you get divorced or separated, and that’s very black and white.
You can be with someone for 50 years and not have a great relationship, and there’s a lot of internal turmoil happening that is not documented. And so we don’t know those figures and how they work into it.
If somebody were to push back and say, “No, young marriage is great,” I would say for some, yeah, it very well could be, if both people understand what they’re getting into.
But I think if we are going to promote [young marriage], then we need to better prepare young people, because we’re seeing a lot of evangelical and other Christian populations mirroring—if not exceeding—the national divorce rate in broader US society.
…[Question]: What would you say to church leaders, especially those who minister to college students, about how to address and even offset these common marriage pressures?
[Response]: I would encourage church leaders to have open conversations about the pressures of dating and marriage. Evading the “ring by spring” topic only perpetuates the culture because no one is doing anything to change it.
Singleness is a viable alternative to marriage, and young adults need to be especially aware of this.
We need to recognize that marriage isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone.
For young women especially, the engagement ring seems more like a fulfillment of social expectations and a seal of approval from more traditional voices.
However, if we look closely at Scripture, we will see God honoring many different types of relationships for men and for women, not only married relationships. As far as we know, Jesus and many of his closest followers (men and women) were single. Paul even encourages singleness in 1 Corinthians.
Part of some traditions’ encouragement for men and women to marry young is so that they don’t fall into temptation and have sex outside of marriage. That’s fine, but as I say in the article, then we need to provide other tools [for dealing with sexual temptation]. If somebody doesn’t find a spouse at 20 or 22, that temptation is still going to exist.
What other resources can churches, church institutions, and friends give to students if temptation is their reason for feeling like they have to marry young? There’s some great research out there on this subject.
(Link): Husband-Hunting is the Worst Part of a Christian Upbringing – Christianity Made Me Obsessed with Finding a Husband – by B. Ramos