With three pinnings in Howard this quarter and several other engagements cropping up around campus, you could say love is in the air. Spring Break is on the way and with it comes the possibility of even more forthcoming engagements. Accordingly, the old phrase “ring by spring” can be heard in snippets of conversation all over campus.

Recently, a friend tried to tell me that “ring by spring” is a “Prin thing.” I’m not quite sure about the accuracy of that statement. There are plenty of traditions that are “Prin things” (going to college with the same people you went to camp with, a campus flooded with parents for Dance Prod, etc.), but “ring by spring” is not one of them. It’s actually a nation-wide phenomenon. It’s the idea that you’re supposed to be engaged by the time you graduate, and it’s most popular at Christian universities.

So, after thinking about the “ring by spring” phenomenon and the number of people who don’t stay married in the U.S., there are some things I’ve realized from talking with successful married couples as well as observing why married couples have split.

Before I go on, I should make a note: This article is not aimed at anyone, nor is it meant to pass judgment on couples I’ve seen. This is simply advice for those thinking about getting married.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll continue. There are some things to think about before you pop the question or say “yes” to a proposal.

1. Before you start thinking about getting married, you need to consider whether you can see yourself spending the rest of your life with this person. You think this person is “the one.” Why? What is it about him or her that makes you think in those terms? What do you value? What makes you say, “Oh my gosh. I don’t want to spend a day of my life without you?” Hint: If you can’t answer those questions, it’s probably a red light that you should not proceed to number 2.

2. Getting married is not all about the wedding. It’s about what comes after the wedding. I’ve seen and read about too many couples that look at the wedding as the finish line instead of the starting gate. A very intelligent woman I know once said, “May your wedding day be the day you love each other the least.” While your wedding day will be filled with love, that love will grow exponentially in years to come…or it should, anyway. If you feel like your love and care for one another has deteriorated in your dating life, marriage might not be the best idea.

3. College life is very different from married life. You need to make sure this person is the right one. If your relationship has been a source of “stress,” slow down there, bucko. Imagine being in a relationship with this person when you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed. Your relationship should be a source of enjoyment. Your relationship should be something that makes life easier, not harder.

4. You should never, ever settle. You should absolutely know in your heart that the person is made for you. It should be straight, clear-as-day, hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-sack-of-bricks obvious. This won’t necessarily mean the person is perfect, but you should feel that the person is perfect for you.

5. Don’t just get married because it’s “that time” in your relationship. Somehow, people have gotten it in their heads that you’re supposed to meet, be friends, go on a couple dates, “officially” become a couple, date for two years, be engaged for six months to a year, and then get married. There’s no rule that says when you have to get engaged or get married. You could date someone for 10 days and realize that’s the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, or you could date someone for four years and realize you definitely should not be spending the rest of your lives together. Don’t just say, “We’ve been dating for two years, it must be time.” You should think: “We’ve been dating for two years, and holy moly, you’re clearly made for me.” You should definitely not think: “We’ve been dating for two years, and…I don’t know…but we’re supposed to get engaged now,”

If you saw He’s Just Not That Into You, Bradley Cooper’s character talks about why he and his wife got married and says something along the lines of, “You’re a jerk if you date a girl for too long and don’t marry her.” Wrong. It can take some time before you realize the person you’re dating isn’t right for you.

Bottom line: Don’t jump the gun before you’re sure.

Now, on the upshot, you might be ready for this step, and the end of your college career might be the perfect time to pop the question and start your life together. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t feel bad if you get to graduation without being engaged. You’re 22 (probably). You’re young. You should be having fun, married or not.

Love from me to you,

Lauren

Lyrics from Title: “I Do” by Colbie Caillat