Marriage Talk for College Women

by Karin on April 5, 2013 · 1 comment

As students gear up for finals this month, many are likely questioning their college priorities after Susan Patton wrote a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Princetonian, Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had. She advised the women at Princeton to search for a husband. She wrote:

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Her blunt advice has led to strong reactions. What is the case for finding your husband in college and marrying young? Monday, Julia Shaw wrote an article published in Slate advocating for marrying young, Marry Young: I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for? She wrote:

I’m a married millennial. I walked down the aisle at 23. My husband, David, was 25. We hadn’t arrived. I had a job; he, a job offer and a year left in law school. But we couldn’t buy a house or even replace the car when it died a few months into our marriage. We lived in a small basement apartment, furnished with secondhand Ikea. We did not have Internet (checking email required a trip to the local coffee shop) or reliable heat.

Marriage wasn’t something we did after we’d grown up—it was how we have grown up and grown together. We’ve endured the hardships of typical millennials: job searches, job losses, family deaths, family conflict, financial fears, and career concerns. The stability, companionship, and intimacy of marriage enabled us to overcome our challenges and develop as individuals and a couple. We learned how to be strong for one another, to comfort, to counsel, and to share our joys and not just our problems.

She concluded with some advice for resume-conscious young women:

Marriage doesn’t require a big bank account, a dazzling resumé, or a televised wedding—it requires maturity, commitment, and a desire to grow up together. My husband and I married young. We don’t have a fairytale marriage or a storybook ending because our story continues. Going forward, we anticipate new challenges and joys: children, new jobs, new hobbies, new cities, family weddings, and family funerals. There will be things we can’t predict. But one thing is for certain: We are committed to each other and we will grow through them. We don’t have the details of the later chapters, but we know who the two main characters are.

Royal Wedding 3

Amanda Marcotte wrote a rebuttal in Slate, The Case Against Marrying Young. She wrote:

Not that any of this matters anyway. Watching conservatives desperately try to bully women into younger marriage with a couple of promises and a whole lot of threats is highly entertaining but clearly not persuasive. Women marry later because it makes sense given their own career aspirations. Even many of those pushing the ideological argument for young marriage, like Megan McArdle, tend, when it comes to their own lives, to opt out of the pressure to be young divorcees martyred for the cause. I’m glad young marriage is working out for Shaw, but for the majority of women, dating and cohabitating until they’re more sure is working out just fine. If he’s good enough to marry, he’ll still be around when you’re ready to make that leap.

As much as these articles prompt strong reactions, I think it is helpful to college women that we are having these conversations. Instead of assuming that they should focus on their careers and then worry about family, these conversations will help them to make better decisions about their own lives. This is something to think about this weekend.

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fran froelich April 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm

My husband & I met in 1966, @ the beginning of our sophomore year in college. I felt then, & still do, that college is still the best way of meeting each other, both for men as well as women. You meet people on your level of interests & intellect & there are lots of good ones to choose from. It certainly beats singles bars & other functions where there is much more in the way of social as well as sexual pressures. You get a chance to share a variety of interests, which doesn’t take place in a bar. There are a lot of different venues, such as plays, concerts, sporting events lectures, as well as classes. It doesn’t center around drinking & sex as it does @ bars. A campus courtship is whatever you want to make it. Given this atmosphere, we fell in love w/in a few months, were engaged w/in a year of our first meeting.
We were married just before our 21st birthdays with a year of college to go. We lived on the second floor of a converted row house in a working class area of Philadelphia, Pa. I worked & went to night school while my husband continued f.t. (It was 1968 & if a man dropped out of college, he lost his student deferment.) For the first several months, we didn’t have a telephone. In those days, there were still plenty of pay phones, both on the corner & in stores. We realized it was carrying economy too far, so we got the phone. We didn’t have our first tv till the following spring when we got a tax refund. We never did own a car. We operated on a strictly cash basis.
Once my husband graduated, he was, of course, liable for the draft. Instead, he enlisted, I moved in with his parents for the next two years. During that time, which included a year in Viet Nam, I finished college while we saved all we could towards a down payment on a house. I graduated from college (Temple U) a few weeks after he came home, fortunately in one piece—or so we thought.
The next several decades were tumultuous but loving. At first, they were easy. He got a good job w/in a couple of months of his discharge & we were able to buy our first (and only) house. Children were harder in coming. I was infertile, something we knew upon our pre-marital exam. (We were, technically @ least, virgins till our wedding nite.) There were a couple of miscarriages & a lot of years before our first son arrived after 12 years of marriage. There were more misses & more medical work until the birth of our second son 12 years later. No two kids were more wanted than ours.
As a couple, we also had to deal w/a mild PTSD, several job losses, major financial losses beginning when I got pregnant w/our younger living son. We also, @ the same time, had to care for his aged parents for a decade. At the end of that time, his parents, by then in their 90s, died peacefully @ home w/in a year of each other. My husband, diabetic for 20 years, collapsed w/complications. I had to care for him, with the kids’ help, for the next decade before he died. It was @ that time, we discovered that he’d been exposed to Agent Orange residuals, which had made the diabetes worse than it should’ve been.
As we said when asked about our marital longevity, a certain # of marriages don’t survive any one, let alone all, what we’d experienced. No particular formula. We understood @ 21 that marriage was for adults & for keeps. I’ve known other couples whose marriages collapsed for far less than ours survived. And these couples had been older & presumably had a better $ & career resume than we’d had. Some of these couples felt sorry for us, some superior. But our marriage lasted till Sept. 2, 2011 when I left the house to buy groceries one afternoon & came back to find him sprawled out dead on our bathroom floor. Apparantly, he’d had a dizzy spell & placed himself there until it passed. It was a shock, but no surprise. God was good. Had he not died then, he’dve been dead soon, probably from the shock to his failing heart of the kidney dialysis he was about to begin w/in the next few weeks. He’d already had had a partial leg amputation, congestive heart failure, was in constant pain & was slowly going blind. I was & am grateful that we had no decisions to make about which plugs to pull.
I was as much in love w/him on that last day as I was on July 4, 1968, our wedding day. Ours was not an easy marriage, as much because of our passionate, argumentative natures as the circumstances we experienced. But I can honestly say that I never felt for a single minute that I made the wrong choice. Murder, yes. Divorce—never. I miss him terribly, of course, but I could bury him & move on w/o any major regrets. I hope that in God’s good time, I’ll be blessed w/another husband. I miss having someone to share my life w/and enjoy the good days & happy times I have had. But I can wait for the right one.
Marry young, before you’ve finished college? If he/she is truly the right one, I’ll shout a loud YES!!!!!

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