Spring is right around the corner (hopefully) and, with it, another round of engagements and weddings. If you are not engaged yet, it may be time to start applying the pressure on your partner so that you, too, can have a ring by spring.
All jokes aside, many students at John Brown University have heard the term ring by spring, which usually refers to the desire of upperclassmen at Christian universities to be engaged by the spring. While some perceive this trend to be a legitimate source of pressure on both single and dating students, others believe it to be less gripping and more of a joking way to explain the relatively small percentage of students who actually get engaged while at JBU.
The majority of JBU students are single and graduate unmarried. However, of the top 25 colleges where students are most likely to meet their spouse and get married, all are Christian colleges, according to the Washington Post. Edward Blews Jr., former president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, attributes this to the fact that Christian students often have similar backgrounds, have a set of shared values and may face a “bit more pressure” to find a Christian spouse before entering a more secular workforce. Some statistical evidence also shows that Christians may be more likely to marry at a young age. The National Marriage Project found that, while the national marriage age is increasing, people in religious communities tend to get married at younger ages than the general population. Christian and Hindu Americans are also more likely to get married than the general population. However, factors, such as age, family background and education level, also impact the likelihood of whether or not an individual will get married and when. Ultimately, students who attend Christian universities are not significantly more likely to get married while in school. Additionally, the way that individual Christian schools handle the topic of dating and marriage varies. The way that JBU students perceive the ring by spring trend also varies. Jo Brazile, a junior political science major, recently got married. She believes that JBU does promote young marriages, but that it is more of a Christian trend than a JBU trend.
“I think ring by spring culture exists and that JBU people rush to get married,” she said. “But I think it’s a Christian culture thing really. I’ve seen it a lot in my church. It seems like Christians tend to get married faster than the average person.”
However, Brazile does perceive a level of pressure from the student body and administration to take relationships to the next level.
“I think JBU promotes ring by spring because, when most people who date for a while here, other people will be like, ‘When are you gonna get married? When are you gonna pop the question?’” she said. “The marriage housing also kind of promotes it, but I don’t see that influence as strongly as the pressure that comes from other students.”
Some other JBU students have also noted a sense of pressure on romantic relationships. Rodrigo Garcia, a junior international business major, who is not currently in a relationship, said that, while ring by spring doesn’t affect him personally, he believes it is promoted on campus.
“When you think about ring before spring, it just seems like unnecessary pressure because people tend to put a lot of pressure on new relationships,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like people are expected to commit to the first person they date.”
Josie Calloway, a junior nursing major, agreed that ring before spring culture exists and believes that it negatively impacts romantic relationships.
“As someone in a relationship, I feel so much pressure from the ring by spring culture,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can deny that the pressure is there. I think it kind of depends on who you’re around, but it’s such a small school, so you can’t totally escape it. There’s always a friend group where it feels like the entire group is either married, engaged or seriously considering it. Sometimes I feel like I can’t have a normal dating relationship because people are acting like he should be about to propose. It can feel like you’re either single or if you’re dating that you’re about to be engaged, and there’s no in between.”
Like Brazile, Calloway believes that both the students and the administration create this culture.
“Definitely the pressure comes from students,” Calloway said. “The administration also plays a role in that they’re giving scholarships, and they’re giving housing [to married couples] and they’re always affirming it by talking about it all the time and joking about ring before spring culture. It’s like they are planting the idea in everyone’s head.”
Garcia also perceives pressure on relationships from both students and the administration.
“The way that the student body handles new relationships—they make it a way bigger deal than it needs to be. And the fact that married couples have their own housing or get to live off campus is, in a way, a promotion of ring before spring culture.”
Garcia believes that ring before spring culture is a symptom of a larger dating culture that encourages students to pursue more serious, fast-track relationships.
“The rules about open dorm and visiting hours, for example, create additional pressure and create a taboo about girls and guys hanging out, when in reality they’re just meeting in secret outside of open dorm,” he said. “It’s the culture of having to pursue any romantic relationship with the intent of getting married.”
While the dating and marriage culture at JBU impacts individuals in different ways, married students have their own reasons for getting married while at college. Brazile said that while marriage comes with additional duties, it also comes with additional support.
“I have more responsibilities now that I’m married… so it’s a lot on my plate. But it also comes with companionship and support,” she said. “He supports me in everything. If I have to wake up and do homework at 2 a.m., he’ll wake up with me and support me. It can sometimes be a distraction, but, most of the time, it actually really helps me.”
Brazile said that, ultimately, it is not about whether or not you are a student. It is about being in love and finding the one.
“You don’t really think about, ‘I’m in college; I can’t get married.’ Once they ask, ‘Will you marry me?’ that’s not the first thing I think about. It’s like, what the heck, duh! So it wasn’t something I really thought about, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
Photo courtesy of Nick Karvounis