After the Ring by Spring
We all know the joke. We pay for a college education, but if we don’t snag that ring by spring we should get our money back, right?
Although this idea seems to be based on relationship hungry girls that come to college to get their MRS. degree, it actually reflects real statistics. Marriage is a relevant topic for college students and so I sought out recently married GC students or alumni to discuss the triumphs and trials after the ring by spring.
Of course, older couples that have lasted the test of time may have more experience and advice on marriage, but newlyweds hold an especially important perspective for those who are thinking about getting married in the near future.
I interviewed three young couples about married life who are in or right out of college: Andy and Sarah Mulholland, Greg and Cortney Schimke, and Eric and Emily McAfee.
Andy and Sarah Mulholland
Andy and Sarah met at sixteen and fifteen at the summer camp where Andy worked. These “high school sweethearts from different high schools” dated for two years and were engaged for two more years. As a fun fact for all you romantics out there, Andy proposed to Sarah in a gazebo on a lake with 100 post-it notes, each post-it with one thing Andy loved about her written on it. When he got down on one knee, he said “This is what I love about you” and pointed up towards the 100 post-it notes arranged on the pavilion that spelled out “everything”. This May, Andy and Sarah said “I do”.
Greg and Cortney Schimke
Greg and Cortney met in high school and began dating their senior year. They dated long distance for the first two years of college, and then Cortney transferred to GC. Greg cleverly proposed that November at a Proposal movie showing, by then they had been dating three years. Greg and Cortney got married the following summer (June 15th, 2013), and they spent their first year of marriage as seniors in college.
Eric and Emily McAfee
Emily and Eric went to the same church growing up. Emily’s sophomore year at GC, Eric reached out to her and began talking with her. Eventually, they had their first date at a small town picnic. Before they knew it, they couldn’t imagine their life apart. Emily and Eric dated a year and a half before Eric proposed on New Year’s Eve in their future home.
When I asked these couples about the biggest blessing in marrige, they gushed on about the closeness that comes with living together. Andy Mulholland said: “You get to discover new things about your spouse when you move in together. There are a lot of firsts to share and have fun with. You get to see one of your best friends every day at home; what could be better?”
Greg Schimke agreed, expressing how he loves sharing each of life’s moments with his best friend. “It makes the best times even better, and the tough times not so bad. It also allows us to have a more meaningful relationship with Christ than we could have on our own.”
Greg’s wife Cortney says that adventuring through life and all its obstacles together is the biggest blessing. She loves waking up next to Greg, especially after they had to spend times in their relationship miles away from each other. “I love that his home is my home, and that no matter where God leads us, Greg will be there beside me until death parts us” she said.
Closeness in marriage is a wonderful thing, but this kind of love puts you in a vulnerable position. Emily McAfee explains that “being so close to someone that you make yourself vulnerable and open to sharing the good and bad… with no filter” is really the greatest of all the blessings.
For all the joys that marriage can bring, there are also some struggles. When living in close quarters with someone, problems are bound to arise. Sometimes the reality of living together doesn’t match the preconceived notions the couple had while they dated. Andy Mulholland pointed out that when you get married you see all the unflattering sides of each other in a much greater magnitude then you do when you are dating.
Greg and Cortney Schimke realized truly becoming one is a difficult task. In their interview they stated that through marriage, you realize that your own well-being isn’t the only thing to consider anymore. Cortney said, “My greatest struggle has been God refining me and showing me my selfishness”. And of course, like any relationship, disagreements and arguments do come. However, Greg discussed the importance of maturely handling these conflicts. He explained, “The good news is that working through these arguments can be one of the most beneficial things we can do for our relationship”.
Even though Emily McAfee is blessed by the vulnerability that comes with marriage, she also recognizes that all the bad uncovered along the way can be a big struggle. Another not so serious but still valid struggle of marriage for Emily is finding time to hang out with girlfriends. “I believe that continuing those friendships is key to a strong marriage!” she noted.
So, what advice do these couples have for the singletons and young couples of GC?
“Do not enter marriage believing it is always going to be like a fantasy. Its real life; bills are due, work takes over, something around the house breaks, and temperaments can fly sometimes. Also, don’t fall for it when people tell you that your “giddy love” will fade. Marriage takes work and if you constantly put time and effort into it and understand a marriage involves you, your spouse, and God, you will always be okay. Your love for each and desire to make the other happy (even if it means waking up super early on days you don’t work to make their lunch) will never fade. Aside from your relationship with God, treat your marriage as your highest priority.”
“Love each other, enjoy your relationship, and have fun. Most importantly, look at your spouse or future spouse for who they are. You’re going to like what you see”.
There are engaged couples all over campus. Some couples have been high school sweethearts, some are quick “when you know you just know” couples, and some are best friends that eventually realized they were in love with each other. Each love story is different, but each couple made the decision to love someone else for the rest of their lives. While it can be easy for singles to be annoyed by what they don’t have, and for long term relationship girls to be bitter about how he didn’t “put a ring on it”, it shouldn’t be that way. When I see these couples I admire them for their willingness to open up to one another, and I pray that their marriage is one full of communication, trust, and a reliance on God.
I am a 21 year old single woman, so I am definitely not going to sit here and proclaim that I am an expert on marriage, or even relationships for that matter. But I do know this: Love is a powerful thing. It is scary, it is exhilarating, and it is hard work. It is more than a Pinterest board of wedding ideas. It is more than the picture perfect ending to a Disney movie. So even though this “ring by spring” attitude is often just a joke, we should remember that getting engaged isn’t just something to cross off on our life “to do” list. There is a life after the ring by spring, and it’s called marriage. Marriage is not something to be entered into lightly. When you’re ready and you follow your heart and God into marriage, know that there will be struggles up ahead, but there will also be blessings beyond measure.
I would like to make one last note. If you didn’t know this already, I will let you know now: It is okay to graduate single. It is okay to get married at 40. It is okay to never get married. It is okay to get married young. Don’t let this “ring by spring” mentality get you down about yourself if you’re not engaged before you graduate. If you do find the love of your life, don’t let the “ring by spring” joke hinder you from going after what you want. Love happens when it happens. Marriage happens when it happens. Trust in God to guide your life and the relationships he puts in your path.