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Marriage Talk for College Women

April 5, 2013 | Karin

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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