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I realized very quickly that Christian colleges are seen as a place for women to find their spouse.
And I say that very intentionally—for to find their spouse—because the pressure didn’t seem to impact many of the male students on campus. I went to graduate school, graduated, and came back to teach at a Christian college.
Also, almost all of the responses were critical of the “ring by spring” culture. Tell me a little bit more about the scope of the survey and the limits of it. I created an anonymous online survey and sent the link out to my students and colleagues, requesting that they ask their students to complete the survey.
[And yet] it seems to me that this culture is very prevalent. Anyone with the link on campus could respond; 171 people completed the survey, though not all of them answered all of the questions.
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.
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?
Singleness is a viable alternative to marriage, and young adults need to be especially aware of this.
The survey sample is what we call a “non-probability” sample, which means that the students who responded do not necessarily represent the views of all students on campus.
At Whitworth University, a Christian liberal arts college in Spokane, Washington, one hears faint echoes of a social expectation that’s common to Christian campuses: “ring by spring.” It’s the idea that college students should have given or received an engagement ring by the spring of their senior year.
“Ring by spring” is not encouraged in any official way, and it’s generally invoked with a heavy dose of derision. Stacy Keogh George has observed in a recent study, this dismissive humor belies a very real pressure felt by some students to measure success by finding a marriageable partner.
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.