Viewpoint — College about more than finding a mate

A new semester is upon us here at Weber State University, and with our new classes come not just learning opportunities, but endless social opportunities, as we all have seen (as if the social aspect wasn’t half our motivation to even go to college). Sure, we pay attention in new courses to the teachers’ personalities, how much homework they’ll require, and important deadlines, but let’s face it — a big thing a lot of us pay attention to when placed in a room of strangers is which ones look date-worthy and, in an extreme but possibly common case (at least in Utah), even which ones look marriage-worthy.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It is a natural part of college and, well, of being human. But as recently as a few decades ago, there was even the perception that the only reason for women, in particular, to go to college was to find a husband. It doesn’t help that we’re in Utah, which has gotten a bad rap where young marriage is concerned. We’ve all heard the running joke comparing “Utah marriages” to arranged marriages — tragically young people who barely know each other getting married under familial and societal pressure.

There might be a grain of truth to this in many cases; it is a statistical fact that Utahns get married younger than the average American. According to the 2008 American Community Survey cited by the Pew Research Center, the median age for Utah women’s first marriage is the lowest in the nation, 24, with the men not far behind at a median age of 26. And many of us who grew up in Utah might say even that’s generous, as we might have seen at least 1 in 5 of our peers get married and have two children within four years of graduating high school.

The question is whether or not there is anything wrong with this. There certainly has to be a correlation between living in Utah and the high marriage rate. And, of course, it generally isn’t advisable, no matter how much you believe in marriage and want it to be part of your life, to marry someone based solely on two weeks of breathless mutual attraction and a gut feeling.

However, that’s not to say that these marriages will never work out, or even that they are formed and sustained on a superficial basis. All of us should definitely avoid applying an umbrella rule to marriage, one of the most complicated human dynamics. Obviously, no two couples are exactly alike, and there comes a point where we might have to just trust people to know what is best for themselves and their significant others. A couple of high school sweethearts who marry a week after graduation can have a healthy, lifelong marriage, while two mature, levelheaded college graduates can have a two-month union that ends in a train wreck. Even that annoying couple who gets engaged after a week might know what they’re talking about when they say they just have a feeling it’s right, and go on to have a much happier marriage than a couple who dated for six years first.

As we are all sick of hearing by now, marriage is almost comically far from the happy ending that fairy tales and romantic comedies insist it is. The true mark of the right one, regardless of age, circumstances or length of courtship, might simply be how they act when the chips are down. Whether we date someone for a week or a year, we need to see how they handle real-world situations and conflicts, not just cute dates and beautiful romantic moments, before we can truly say we know them and know that we can make it work for the rest of our lives. If you’ve seen a person at their worst as often as you’ve seen them at their best, and still want to get married, then maybe that’s a safe parameter. Who knows? Again, there is absolutely no rule that can be applied to every person or situation, except maybe this: Enjoy your college experience for what it is, not merely because you’re expecting to get married, and whatever it is you really want out of it — whether it be straight A’s, a powerhouse degree, the realization of your dream career or, yes, romance — might come with it.