Engagement rings, wedding invitations and smitten couples seem to be trending—especially on social media. Shiny rings plaster themselves all over the Facebook feeds of at least 10 of my college classmates, adjacent to photos of lovers smooching in celebration while the rest of us update our Tinder profiles for the third time this week. I find myself wondering how those students manage to find time for their life partner while juggling classes, work and a social life.
According to Campus Explorer, only about seven percent of college undergraduates are married; however, the number of married adults 25 years of age and older returning to college increases every day.
Many college students envision settling down in post-grad life settling down with their significant other and slowly it’s becoming a norm. Contrary to popular belief, it can result in a happy ending for some couples.
Take Florida State University alumni Helena Marklin and Spencer Gould. The high school sweethearts are deep into planning their wedding just eight months after graduating from college in May 2015. About a month before graduation, Gould proposed to Marklin at FSU in the Diffenbaugh building during his final speech about why true love exists.
“Being in a serious relationship throughout all four years of college was one of the best experiences for me because it taught me so much and it helped me in so many points of my college life,” Marklin said. “It wasn’t always easy, but I’m so happy I had him there with me all four years.”
During college, Marklin and Gould both worked part time jobs and participated in school activities while maintaining a healthy, balanced relationship. They found comfort in each other as they conquered the typical college struggles of prioritizing school, work, social life and finding themselves.
“I would say our sophomore year was our most difficult year. We were branching out into different groups of friends and the stress of both having jobs, classes and figuring out who we were was intense,” Marklin said. “We made it through because we realized we were better together and [he] makes me want to be the best version of myself.”
Marklin and Gould currently live in New York City while preparing and planning for their wedding (and the rest of their lives) coming up in September.
Happy ending or not, many people still doubt whether a college relationship can last. Many partners often fight against negative stereotypes about their commitment to each other.
University of West Florida senior Madison Boukas and her fiancé experience this negativity surrounding their engagement despite their happiness and four years of dating. “They think we’re too young, and because we’re not financially stable or own a house that we aren’t where we should be to get married,” Boukas said. “[The] negativity from others takes away from the joy of being engaged.”
Considering college’s ever popular hook-up culture, it’s challenging to break away from common misconceptions about college relationships. We all know that classmate who sleeps with a new “babe” every night they return from the club, but no campus is desolate of students who date for the long haul.
FSU alumnus Allie Taylor also heard doubt from outsiders when talking about her upcoming wedding. She dated her husband for five years before he proposed during her sophomore year. “The first question every single person would ask after I told them I was engaged was, ‘How old are you?’ As innocent as that question seems, it’s not,” Taylor said. “The implication [was] that I was too young to be taken seriously.”
While friends and family supported Taylor’s marriage, others reacted cruelly. Some even told her to rethink getting married so young, and that it wouldn’t work out in the end. “Being judged so harshly made it extremely difficult,” Taylor said. “People’s rude reactions made me feel like I was being irresponsible or naive, when in actuality I’d been preparing myself for this for half a decade.”
On top of overcoming the negative feedback from their peers, the Taylors’ financial situation took a toll on them. Who knew love actually costs something? “Everyone knows that ‘college student’ is essentially synonymous with ‘broke,’ and getting married then made it a lot harder,” Taylor said. “Our parents stopped supporting us financially and we had used a lot of our own money, as well as extra loans to pay for the wedding, so it was hard to learn to stand on our own.”
Marriage, though a seemingly tame lifestyle, often pushes couples to face adulthood prematurely. ”My friends told me after I had been married for a while that it seemed like I grew up a little,” Taylor said. “I still went to parties, stayed out too late and was super childish and silly, but getting married does nudge you to be more responsible.”
These life events and lessons that come with committing to a significant other usually don’t make the typical college experience to-do list. But even though commitment causes some of us to run in the opposite direction, serious relationships in college don’t seem that out of the ordinary anymore. A college engagement now almost equates to a college norm—just as natural as buying someone a drink at a bar or sending a flirtatious message on Facebook.
Despite the negative stereotypes surrounding serious relationships in college, couples continue to show the world that the longevity and success of a relationship after college has nothing to do with age but everything to do with responsibility, strength and dedication.