Why Did We Get Married?

I got married in college.

That is to say, my wife and I are both undergraduates at the University of South Carolina. That is to say, we get a lot of raised eyebrows when we introduce ourselves to classmates.

Few have the courage to ask it outright, but the question is implied: What were we thinking?

Rest assured, the little lady and I did a lot of thinking. We talked it out, argued a bit, cried a few times, and came to the conclusion that we ought to get married in the summer before our senior year.

So now here we are, one month into the married life and two weeks into the fall semester. She’s getting used to the fact that I eat too much cereal. I’m watching old seasons of “Gilmore Girls” with her. We have a kitten together. We’re adjusting.

Maybe you’re in the same spot as we were last year, weighing your options and debating whether to tie the knot pre- or post-grad. I’m not much for giving advice, but I will share our point of view.

Here’s what we were thinking:

1. We were tired of not being married. Believe it or not, we’d been dating for seven-and-a-half years when I finally wised up and proposed. We were one of those rare high-school couples (middle-school couples, actually) that make it across the great divide between home and the college years, and, frankly, the whole dating thing was getting old.

We were tired of living apart, even if our apartments were just down the street from each other. We weren’t one of those trendy Millennial couples who “hook up,” “move in,” or “communicate via text messages.” We kicked it old school.

I’d had my taste of bachelorhood, and I was ready for the next thing. As much as I loved my previous roommates, I’d rather wake up next to my wife than to a thrice-snoozed alarm clock and the smell of Old Spice.

2. We wanted to live for each other. One day my freshman year, an older friend and I were getting lunch together when he asked if my girlfriend and I were tossing the M-word around yet. I was caught a bit off guard, and then he said, “The sooner you get married, the sooner you can start living for someone other than yourself.”

As Christians, we both believe that a self-centered life is a wasted life. I had to admit, most of my days in college were spent seeking my own success or comfort — my career, my physical fitness, my dinner. When I stopped constructing my sentences around the subject “I” and started to ponder “we,” virtues like patience, charity, and forgiveness took on a new light.

I am told that all of this changes again when you have kids.

3. We were financially stable. Thanks to some serious scholarships and a heaping helping of elbow grease, the two of us are on track to finish college debt-free. We aren’t wealthy, but neither are we depending on our parents or a student loan officer to put groceries in the fridge.

This point is usually the clincher when we’re explaining ourselves to doubters. Money — or lack thereof — is one of those harsh realities they warn you about out here in the real world. My wife recently commented that our family budget planning was the most adult conversation she’d ever had.

It also helps that neither of us have extravagant tastes. We cook simple meals at home rather than dining out, and we’ve gotten much of our furniture from hand-me-downs and yard sales.

4. The timing was good for a wedding. We’re both graduating in May of 2011, and conventional wisdom would have us wait ‘til then.

But the main problem with waiting until graduation, aside from the we’d-rather-not-wait-another-year factor, was that my wife is a nursing student. Nursing students finish out their senior year cramming for a hellacious licensing exam called the NCLEX, and we figured that would hardly leave time or mental energy for wedding planning.

In some ways, it’s easier to have a wedding when you’re a student than when you’ve got a career. This summer, we worked at our jobs until a week before the wedding and then called it quits. This left us a week to make last-minute preparations and two weeks to honeymoon before we started classes and new jobs in the fall semester.

5. We were ready for something concrete. This might sound incongruous coming from a male, but I wanted commitment. So did she. We wanted to take each other off the market for good, and we’d thought long and hard about the promises we’d be making.

In college, everything is in flux. You can change your major, remodel your worldview, and cower at the specter of graduating in a recession. Your script is unwritten. But there’s an amazing sense of comfort that comes with knowing the protagonist will have a leading lady.

So, no, we don’t know what comes next. But we’ve got the important parts nailed down.

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About Paul Bowers

I'm learning.
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32 Responses to Why Did We Get Married?

  1. Renee B says:

    Well said. We are so proud of both of you!

  2. Gina says:

    Found a link to your blog on another website and was intrigued by your post…
    My husband and I got married the summer before our senior year and had dated since high school as well. The important news is that we just celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary!
    We weren’t alone though – we lived in ‘married student housing’ and had lots of neighbors struggling too, they were some of the best years of our lives.
    Good luck to you both!

  3. Gary says:

    My wife and I married for many of the same reasons before our junior year of college. After 38 years, four wonderful children, and two terrific grandkids, we still think it was the right decision. Recently, we even found our way back to grad school together.

  4. So nice to see someone so in love and ready to commit to each other. It’s a rare thing now days. Congrats

  5. Rose says:

    It’s nice to see someone as in love with their spouse as I am. We aren’t in college but we are married and enjoying each other. Great post!

  6. I don’t know you from Adam, so I will say this first… congrats. Marriage is a lot of work, but it can be very rewarding.

    The one thing that bothered me about your post was that you said you were both “sick of dating”… honestly, the only difference is the legal document that says you are married. I don’t know if you were living together at college already, but if so, then there really is very little difference. When I hear people say things like “sick of dating so we got married” it shoots up a red flag in my head…. but, I hope on wrong.

    Good luck all the same!

    • squidneyzee says:

      For a Christian, that usually means “sick of temptation”. No sex, no touching, in some cases no kissing. A lot of young Christians no longer save themselves for marriage because it is the one area in our lives that is an instinctual urge that can be nearly impossible to restrain, especially with someone you deeply love and cherish.
      To me, that is the biggest difference.

  7. Paul says:

    Dating and marriage … big difference. When you’re married you are more committed to each other. Dating … not so much.

  8. SuzRocks says:

    1) To the above commenter- there is a huge difference between marriage and dating. Especially if you’re not going to quit when it first gets hard.

    2) Your #2 resonated- While I’m a bit older (28), I just got married last year, and have been learning everyday about how selfish I really am. I just started reading ‘Sacred Marriage’ by Gary Thomas. So far, it’s really good, and its whole point is how maybe marriage is a way to make you more holy- not necessarily just happy. I think you’d like it. (since I know you so well and all)

    3) As you may have surmised, I really don’t know you at all. But I pretend well…I think. I came across your website quite randomly- through the ‘Win a trip’ video you submitted. (which I’m applying for this year before I graduate and get too old)

    4) I’ve been a nurse for more than 6 years, tell your wife to keep trucking. Nursing school itself, really sucks- but being a nurse rocks!

    5) Everyone thought we were crazy for getting married before I started anesthesia school, but we didn’t care. To this day, I’m glad we did.

    6) I don’t normally leave six point lists on strangers blogs. You must be special. Good luck!

  9. pacific. says:

    I too found this on another website while browsing the internet for “how to get married in college” to be honest. This really made it certain to me (among many other articles) that it is possible to get married while still chasing a dream academically while on the other hand my boy-friend is arguing my head off saying it’s not possible.

    I think i’ll be showing this to him soon.. maybe it’ll also help show that dreams can be combined with wants. At least I hope so, especially since this was written from a guys POV. Thankyou so much.

    • Paul Bowers says:

      Well, I hope you don’t use this blog entry as a bludgeon, but I’m glad to have provided some perspective! The married college life is still treating us well, and we’re on track to graduate in May.

  10. Sarah says:

    Glad to know there are other people out there like us. My husband and I have been married for 15 months – he’s in his third year of undergraduate work, and I’m finished with school and work full time. It’s nice to hear about other people juggling school, work, and marriage responsibilities. Best wishes!

  11. Karina says:

    Congratulations! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I got married in university as well. People looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I was married since I was only 20 and he was 22. No one expected it to last. Everyone thought I was pregnant when we told them we had eloped even though we’d been together for 5.5 years. Now, I am pleased to say 13 years and 3 kids later we are still happily married and still best friends.

  12. mfosterbrouse@gmail.com says:

    My husband and I got married the day after I finished college. I was 20 and he was 21. We had tons of people tell us that we would be divorced in 6 months because of our ages. Now, we’ve been married 18 years and have outlasted couples that got married much later. It’s not about the ages of the couple it about whether or not the individuals are ready for the commitment. Some people are ready at 20 and some people aren’t ready at 60.

  13. Janet says:

    My husband and I married when we were juniors in college. 33 years later we have two grown daughters and he still is my husband and best friend.

  14. Kim says:

    My husband and I did the exact same thing….married before our senior year in college at NC State….after dating 6 years! That was in 1983! Still blessed by an awesome God, still married, still happy and still loving married life! 3 grown kids now (2 of which are married, 1 of which married while in grad school). Absolutely NO regrets! Love that we’ve grown up with our children and are now young enough to really enjoy our empty nest.

  15. Alexa says:

    Hey my husband and I got married last year and we are still in school. We were both 20 on our wedding day, and everyone kept asking if I was pregnant lol. We are loving married life, and it so beats living apart, like you said. The dating thing gets old. It’s good to know we aren’t the only ones :)

  16. Taylor says:

    Your relationship sounds pretty similar to the one that my fiance and I have. We’ll be getting married next November: he’ll be 23 and I’ll be 20. We’ve been dating four years, which sounds like a looong time to people our age, but to me, our relationship isn’t measured in time. He’s been the only person to stand by me in some of the toughest time and we’ve already weathered some challenges that most wouldn’t make it through: his 6 month study abroad after only dating for 8 months, my moving 2 hrs away to college last year and my mom being diagnosed with cancer this year.

    I feel like my age is just a number and I really want to thank you for writing this. The truth is that naysayers don’t know what you have, only you can know that. Thank you for your encouragement in a sea of doubt.

    • Taylor says:

      Sorry to write again, but I feel like it’s worth it to mention that my mom’s the very cancer that took his mother’s life. I just think it speaks very highly of his character.

  17. Michael Braley says:

    I am 17 and married, in fact my one year marriage anniversary is the day after my 18th birthday. Which just happens to be in a week and one day from this post.

  18. Cera says:

    I’m soooo glad to read this and hear your story and also all these people posting about their happy marriages.

    I’m 21 and my husband is 23. We have been dating for a little over 3 yrs and actually went to high school together and have been close friends since freshman yr. We got together right before i went away for college, he was going to Temple in philadelphia and i’m in my sr yr right now in Westchester, NY near the city. Over the past years together we’ve been in a long distance relationship with me taking subways, trains and busses haha and him driving up to see me and us spending the vacations together.

    We always had talked about getting married and when i was in my sophomore year of college he proposed to me and we planned the wedding for a yr and a half later, the summer before entering my sr year. Some people were estatic that we were finally engaged, other people not so much. I don’t know how many stares i got from professors and random people at my college telling me “my god, you’re so young, why don’t you want to wait?” and i shared the same reason many of you have posted. why wait? Yah, we may be young, but we’ve gone through prob. much more than other people our age. We were always very responsible, not even just surviving a long distance relationship for 3 yrs but him being in the military and dealing with his month + long training away from home, we’ve basically been on our own since leaving our parents houses, inducted into the world of paying bills, me paying monthly payments of my loans while in school, both of us juggling 2 jobs, eating lots of ramen noodles, all the wonders of family problems and even the loss of a parent. People who know us wonder how we are so strong to have gone through so much, and the answer is having each other. I don’t understand why people are so judging of those who want to marry young. My father was convinced planning a wedding in school was going to hurt my grades, that semester i got straight A’s while doing a DIY wedding AND my husband and I paying for pretty much the whole thing.

    I don’t care about what “statistics” there are out there about couples. A number on a sheet of paper does not describe who they are and the circumstances of whether it works out or doesn’t. Both of our parents are divorced, one remarried and very happy. My husband and I were well aware of seeing marriages that don’t work out and all the mistakes that went along with it. But we have something that other people don’t. We’re dedicated and have been dedicated to each other through anything and everything, all of the ups and downs we’ve already been through for each other and all of the challenges we’re going to go through in the years to come. No one can tell you when you’re ready and when you’re not ready for marriage, the only people who know are the couple. It’s 3 months since our wedding and i love my husband more than the day i married him, because each day we grow closer to each other and the unbreakable bond grows stronger. Whether it’s 3 months, 3 years, 30 years to come, no matter what we go through, I will never regret getting married young because of societies standards of “go to college, graduate, get a job, then get married, then have kids”. No one should feel the need to be thrown into a cookie cutter version of how to run their lives. I applaud other young couples for following what THEY want to do and when they feel it’s right to take the journey into marriage. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with my husband and sharing all of the things i’ve yet to experience with him. I’m not trying to say anything against people who choose to wait to get married, EVERYONE is different, there are so many different types of relationships, it’s what works for the couple and their decision, no one else’s.

    This sunday i go back to college which is 1 hr 45 mins away from my husband. I have monday and firdays off and plan on coming up if not every weekend then at least every other weekend. We’re committed to making it work. In february my husband will be leaving for training in virginia for 5 months where we’ll probably going to only see each other for once a month but we’ll make it work like we always do. It does take a dedicated couple to be in a young marriage, but it takes a lot to be in a military relationship, i’m not saying it’s for everyone, but i wouldn’t change my husband in any way. :) I want to thank all the people on this post who shared their stories, whenever someone tries to get us down about being married young, or gives us dirty looks i’ll remember all of you who are still happily married, with children or even grandchildren :) In a few years we’ll be starting a family of our own! Thanks everyone for your inspiration!

  19. I got married to my husband at the end of my second year at university; needless to say I also got a lot of “what are you thinking?” and “are you pregnant?”. We had been dating for three years, and to be honest we were just sick of not being married to eachother. We didn’t live together, and we are Christian, but that has very little to do with it in all honesty. We’ve known that we wanted to get married since about three weeks into our relationship; to us, the only reason we waited so long was because I was only 16 when we started dating. And 16, at least for me, was just a step too far!
    Good luck guys, and God bless.

  20. Jalissa G. says:

    It was so refreshing to read this blog! I have been with my boyfriend for close to three years already and we are seriously considering marriage, but we fear both of our families will not approve. I also didn’t think it would be possible as an undergraduate student. Reading this blog gives me hope that maybe one day soon, we will be able to be married as well, I am very happy for you two and wish you a lifetime of happiness!

  21. Camille says:

    “As Christians, we both believe that a self-centered life is a wasted life…”

    That point really rubs me the wrong way. Since when does being SINGLE make you SELF-CENTERED?? You can “ponder ‘we'” in more ways than just with a spouse. There are single people who are out in the world doing all kinds of great things, helping others, serving God, advocating social change. Are they self-centered because they are single?

    • Ashley says:

      Marriage long has been idolized within the church. Marriage is lifted up as the best (or even as the only) way to better know God, to be sure of His blessings in your life, and to learn to be less selfish and childish. If you are blessed and favored of God, you will marry. Marriage is treated as the norm, the ideal, and best possible thing for believers. The problem with that line of thinking is that it is directly contradicted by scripture and by the life of Jesus. Marriage is a blessing, but so is singleness. Scripture uses the word “charisma,” or gift (the word used of spiritual gifts) in speaking of singleness. In terms of ministry and service, singleness can be better than marriage (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 7). Scripture absolutely does not link holiness to marital status.

      The statement in this blog about thinking as “we” may have been intended to say only that marriage is ONE way to learn that lesson, and this particular author needed marriage to get past his selfishness. Had he not married young, God graciously could have taught him lessons about community and sacrifice and helped him grow up in other ways. But the statement also may have unwittingly betrayed a bias in favor of marriage and the idea that single people are more selfish than married people. Such a bias is bad theology and is not supported by scripture and the realities of church history, but it is a common bias in many American churches.

  22. Emily says:

    “We wanted to live for each other. One day my freshman year, an older friend and I were getting lunch together when he asked if my girlfriend and I were tossing the M-word around yet. I was caught a bit off guard, and then he said, ‘The sooner you get married, the sooner you can start living for someone other than yourself.’ As Christians, we both believe that a self-centered life is a wasted life. I had to admit, most of my days in college were spent seeking my own success or comfort — my career, my physical fitness, my dinner. When I stopped constructing my sentences around the subject “I” and started to ponder “we,” virtues like patience, charity, and forgiveness took on a new light.”

    Frankly, I don’t agree with the view above. As a single woman, I have more time to “unselfishly” devote myself to others than my married friends. Those that have husbands and wives are wrapped up in making sure they get home to their spouses in-time for dinner, dropping off their kids to soccer practice, etc. Yet, I can unselfishly drop by a friend’s house to check up on her if she’s not feeling well. I can spend a few weeks in the summer with my sister to help her when she has a newborn and 5 other kids at home. I can take a missions trip to Haiti without having to worry about a spouse and children living at home. I can allow myself to be completely unselfish as I give of my time to serve others with more freedom and flexibility than that of my married friends. Being single doesn’t mean you are selfish just like being married doesn’t mean you are unselfish. The choices that you make regardless of whatever circumstances you are in will reveal your state of mind and priorities.

    • Ashley says:

      Amen. Most of the people I see truly living in community either are single or are married people who intentionally spend time with people different from themselves. For many married people, living “unselfishly” means focusing only on one other person (and then your children), not focusing outward beyond just your own home. Many of the people doing the most community service and outreach and focusing on church planting and international missions are not married.

  23. Syd says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! Beyond the topic, I want to say that you’re a very good writer, which I have such an appreciation for. My boyfriend and I started dating in high school and have been talking about marriage for a nearly two years now, which always shocks people. In general, the advice we got leaving high school was that we should break up, especially we actually go to college in different states. For us, marriage during college isn’t really plausible, but we are definitely planning for the future. It’s great to see another young couple so happy and committed! I wish all the best to you and your wife, both in your relationship and in academics!

  24. MC says:

    I came across this wonderful blog thinking about a situation I have. My boyfriend and I have been dating since our sophomore year of college and are now entering our freshman year at the same university, we are the absolute best of friends. He feels he is emotionally and physically ready to have premarital sex while I still want nothing but to wait for marriage, so we’ve discussed the option of getting married our sophomore year of college but I’m concerned this isn’t a good option either. Feedback is appreciated.

  25. Shane says:

    Ok so maybe I missed this in your article, but what were you and your wife majoring in?

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