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.