There was a joke I learned when I started as a freshman at my Christian university: “Ring by spring.” Clever and rhyming, the phrase describes how Christians tend to marry early, how freshmen are already on the lookout to see who might be their future spouse so they don’t have to face the failure of still being single by the time they graduate college. Because in life after undergrad, there are no opportunities to find a spouse, and within undergrad, there are no opportunities to do anything other than seek a partner.
Another joke thrown around is that young women are here at college to earn their "MRS" degree. Because it's funny to pretend like you're not actually spending $40,000 per year to further your education and better yourself as a member of both society and God's kingdom, but that you're actually just here because it's the only place you'll find a proper husband, right? Right. Ha ha, it is a funny joke.
It’s one of those things that you initially chuckle at and say, “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.” But for that very reason, I think it should stop being funny. It is a true phenomenon in our Christian college culture, but I don’t think it’s a very healthy mindset. When we continue to joke about it, we're just perpetuating the gross pressures that many church-raised students (particularly females) have been feeling since they were kids.
Here’s something that I believe: as a human, you should continually strive to make yourself better. However, I also believe that you shouldn't want to make yourself a better person simply as preparation for a future relationship. You should make yourself a better person because it's good to be a good person, it's good to be happy, it's good to live a full life, it's good to be a positive addition to your community, it's good to be present, it's good to be a loving friend, and on and on and on.
It’s entirely okay to make yourself healthy and content for the sake of being healthy and content.
You don't have to live a life that implies being in a relationship is somehow the "real" life and being single is a failure of achieving that. Selfishly, there are things you can do as a single person that you simply cannot do as a married person. Selflessly, there are ways you can pour your life into friends, communities and projects that you simply cannot as a married person.
We talk casually about “God’s plan for our life,” especially in conversations around dating. I fear what we really mean by "God's plan" is, “The marriage I will have someday soon,” ignoring that it could just as easily be God saying, “That is not what your life is right now.” If we’re going to talk about God’s call for us, we need to be prepared, faithful and trusting for any direction that call might take – because it just might not turn out to be the exact desires and hopes you have in your mind and in your heart right now.
The incentive to get married should be that you found the person who you are supposed to marry. The motivator should not be societal pressure, familial pressure, religious pressure, purity, sex or security that you’ve "made it" as an adult. Marriage is a beautiful thing that is entirely okay to long and hope for; but it sure isn’t healthy for it to be the only thing you long and hope for. There are things to do, achievements to work toward, love to give, time to spend, communities to invest in and many other things of life that are hindered by an obsession over marriage. Being single – whether permanently or for certain seasons of life – is okay, and probably necessary.
You don’t have to worry about whether you have a ring by spring or not. Your education shouldn’t be stunted or defined by the worries of finding a spouse. Be careful of the pressures you’re putting on this time in college: it’s only four years. Yes, you might find your forever-person within those years, but that does not have to be your goal.