Hooking up, getting hitched and everything in between

Which do you think is more difficult: your college statistics class or your college relationship? Is this a trick question you ask? Nope. In fact, it’s a question many students have to ask themselves every day. However, relationships don’t have to be difficult in college, and many couples actually do make studying for exams and their relationship work — all the way to the altar.

John Parker, Ph.D, an Arizona State University sociology professor and creator of a course called, “Picking Up, Hooking Up and Breaking Up,” says there are many factors that lead to marriage in college.

Parker says the class is not only about understanding basic facts about relationships but also teaching college students the necessary skills in order to navigate relationships over time.

“(This class) deals with a lot of core issues in interpersonal relationships,” Parker says. The course provides the students with the practical skills for a relationship as well as learning general processes of why and how couples break up. As part of an assignment in the course, Parker says he has his students go out into the real world and flirt with five other people and then write a report on what they experienced.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average age to get married nationwide is 27 for women and 29 for men. But 50 years ago, the social norm was to be married well before these ages, with women and men getting hitched around 20 years old.

“There are a lot of factors as I understand it," Parker says. "Part of it is economics, and part of it is because it’s difficult for young people to come together and have a solid economic foundation for a marriage."

Out of 20,928 undergraduates surveyed by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2008, about 18 percent reported they were married.

For Richer, For Poorer

According to “The Knot Yet Report,” a report generated by the National Marriage Project at The University of Virginia, 91 percent of college students want to be financially independent of their parents before tying the knot.

Also, more than 90 percent of students say they should finish their education before marrying, according to the report. Money is tight as a college student. We often ask ourselves: Do we eat out or do we eat Top Ramen?

Tyler Castro, a public policy and public service sophomore, says he avoids serious relationships for financial reasons.

“Personally, I’d rather wait to get married because I want to be financially stable and have a career,” Castro says.

Castro says he thinks it would be hard for him to balance a full-time student gig, a part-time job and a serious relationship. After getting his degree, establishing his career, and being financially stable, he says he will then have the "resources" to enter the world of serious relationships.

Similarly, establishing personal independence is just as important to Zia Tyree and Ryan Francis. Maintaining a serious relationship just comes naturally, but they aren't worried about marrying anytime before graduation.

Tyree and Francis, both juniors, have been in a serious relationship since their freshman years of college.

The couple began their romantic relationship in middle school, taking a break in high school to see other people and ultimately reuniting in their senior year.

“I’ve never felt for anyone a fraction of how I feel for him,” Tyree says, as she looks into Francis' eyes and smiles.

Tyree and Francis plan to wed after they graduate and say they are established in their careers. Ideally, Tyree and Francis want to live and have their careers be in Arizona. After obtaining his undergraduate degree in physics, Francis plans on attending the law school at ASU. Tyree is a nursing major and hopes to work at a hospital in Arizona after graduation. 

“We want to make sure we’ve set ourselves up so we can have the wedding that we deserve,” Francis says.

Today, society expects people to go to college, get a degree, have a career and then get married. But what does that mean for the relationships you have in between college and a career?

Boys on the Side,” an article published in The Atlantic, says that over the past 15 years, the hookup culture has largely replaced dating on college campuses.

“You see there’s this sort of tension where on one hand, career is really important, and dating and sexuality are opening up for women at the college age,” Parker says, in reference to the article.

He also says there is potential trouble with this lifestyle because as you get older, it is difficult to have all the things you want.

“It is this classic tension that has happened for a lot of women, which is ‘How do I have a career and also have a family?’” Parker says. “There’s more people over the age of 35, unmarried and without kids, right now.”

But for some, the idea of getting married young — even without kids — just isn't appealing.

“For me, I would want to graduate and establish my career first before getting married,” says Jenna Aronson, journalism sophomore.

Aronson says if a girl is lucky enough to find her husband in college, good for them, but getting a "Mrs. Degree" is not her reason in attending college. With her journalism degree, Aronson would like to be a news anchor on a major news network.

Aronson is not the only college student who feels this way about these stereotypes. Many students, both single and in a relationship, would like to make a name for themselves before heading to the altar.

Following Tradition

According to the National Marriage Project, the national marriage age is increasing, and with that, the divorce rate has gone down since 1980.

A recent Facebook Data Sciences study shows about 28 percent of married graduates attended the same college as their spouse. Only 15 percent of those who participated in the study reported they attended the same high school.

However, religious communities continue to support young, traditional marriage, according to the National Marriage Project.

Hannah Warren, a kinesiology senior, got engaged to her long-time boyfriend Jeremiah Dwight in March 2016 while hiking in Sedona. Warren and Dwight met in their high school marching band and have been together for six years.

Both Warren and Dwight grew up in Christian households and are waiting until after they are married to move in together. Warren’s parents married when they were 20 and 22 years old, and her siblings all married young. It's become a family tradition to marry young in Warren's family.

Warren is very close to her family and after being together for six years, her fiancé is already considered part of it. Warren says Dwight has been a part of major milestones for her family, from being there when one of her siblings married to watching her nieces and nephews grow.

“I’ve never thought about dating just for fun," Warren says. "It’s always been with the intention of getting married."

When Dwight proposed to Warren back in March, he asked for her father’s permission first. Warren says after her and Dwight got engaged, her dad wanted them to marry right away.

Warren remembers her dad asking her, "Why don’t you guys get married this summer?" But she told him that there isn't any time to plan a wedding in just a few months.

While Warren's family may also be thrilled for the two to marry, she says she also cannot wait for the big day.

“I am just excited to be able to share everything with him and be a family and start a life with just the two of us,” Warren says.

Preparing for the Big Day

Multitasking: One of the necessary skills of being a college student. When most students multitask, they are studying for exams and watching Netflix, or doing homework and balancing an internship. But for English literature senior Kristine Brintz, her version of multitasking is planning her wedding to fiancé RJ Ybarra, sociology and communications senior, while getting her degree.

Brintz and Ybarra got engaged over the summer on the ASU baseball field — a true fairytale engagement, as Brintz says.

Baseball is an important part of both of their lives. Brintz grew up in a family where baseball is the “family sport,” and Ybarra grew up playing the game. He played for the ASU baseball team from 2013 to 2016 and is now playing professional baseball in Mexico while still attending ASU.

On top of Brintz working a part-time job, going to classes and studying for exams, she and Ybarra are also facing the obstacle of planning a wedding in California while living in Arizona.

This has added more stress for Brintz not having Ybarra around all the time, but Ybarra does his best to be a part of the planning process when he can.

“Wedding planning would be going a lot easier if I would decide on a wedding venue," Brintz says. "I think that’s partly because I want one thing until I see another on Pinterest.”

But Brintz’s and Ybarra’s families have helped tremendously.

The stress of wedding planning, school, work and a long distance relationship is only temporary, but the pair says the love they have for each other makes it all worth it.

“It’s just amazing to be able to find the person who finally accepts me for the woman I am with all my flaws because I know how much he loves me and cares about me,” Brintz says.

Married on Campus

Take a look around your class. I bet you there is at least one married person in there. How do these couples make it work? How do they plan a wedding or maintain a marriage and study for exams? How are they married and college students?

For Taylor Moskowitz Gratil, a nonprofit leadership and management senior, married life has made her college experience just as memorable.

Although, Gratil definitely feels overwhelmed at times between juggling classes, exams, internship, work and spending quality time with her husband, she says the greatest part is constantly having someone there for you while you’re stressed.

“I do the same things I did when I was single in college, except now I have a partner-in-crime through it all,” Gratil says. “I never thought I’d get married so young, but Jeremy changed all of that. He makes my life more amazing than it could ever be alone.”

She and husband Jeremy Gratil recently celebrated their one year wedding anniversary.

“My favorite part is experiencing everything in life together," Gratil says. "The good, the bad, the travels, the growing, it’s all just so incredible.”

The Gratils live in Phoenix while Gratil takes her classes on the Downtown Phoenix campus, but ASU does provide housing for families on the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. There are five different floor plans that range from two to five bedrooms. Rates for each home vary, depending on size, from $7,094 to $11,194 for a 10-month agreement. Residents can either pay per semester or monthly.

Good news for all 20-somethings, there is no doctrine telling you what the best time to get married is — it’s about love and wanting to be with the one you love the most in this world in whatever way (and time frame) that best suits your relationship.

There is no right or wrong way — there is only your way.

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