Taking the plunge

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While many university students are living on their own for the first time, some students are taking a different path. Getting married young is becoming increasingly more popular among university students. Victoria Stunt reports

For many young people university is a scandalous time. From hooking up with strangers to making out on the dance floor, it’s the perfect time to explore our sexual identities.

But some Ryerson students are cutting those rowdy years short and saying “I do,” instead.

Evan and Jae French have been married since May 2010. The couple met in elementary school, and although Evan had an instant crush on his future wife, they didn’t start dating until after high school. Now they both go to Ryerson.

“To be, married to, us is perfectly logical…I knew I wanted to marry her. So, why wait? This is our relationship. This is what we want. This is who we are,” said 21 year-old Evan.

In Canada, where the average age for a bride is 32, and 34 for a groom, Jae said there’s some navigating to be done in the social scene before people realize they’re a normal, young and cool couple.

“They have a lot of assumptions of their own as to what [marriage] means. Like, I don’t go out,” said Jae. “Or, I wouldn’t want to leave anywhere without my husband.”

Evan agrees. “It’s a very classic idea of marriage that people think of.” He said people assume Jae needs to be home to make dinner. “That’s not us. We talk a lot, we understand the need for us to be our age and hang out with just our friends.”

“We don’t have to fit ourselves into a traditional concept of marriage,” said Jae.

Psychotherapist and couples counsellor Kimberly Moffit said it’s lovely to see university students have a life-long commitment to each other. “You have a best friend by your side during every moment of university, and you have someone to support you.”

“… If you can last,” she adds.

She’s afraid that if university students get married, they will miss out on crucial learning experiences. It’s important to have a chance to be single, to experiment, and to learn to be independent, she said.

“Mariage could actually take away from the youthful experience that you should be getting to know when you’re young, because you’ll never really get that chance again.”

It could deny young people the leisure of exploring their identities on their own.

“I want to enjoy the independence until the right moment comes,” said Charlotte Moffatt, a 22-year-old theatre production student. “But for everyone I think that’s a different moment.”

Nick Paddison proposed to his fiancé Michelle Gecan while lying in bed last April.

“I was really, really bad at it,” said Paddison. He put the ring on the wrong finger.

The couple, who are both in second- year theatre production, had only been dating since Valentine’s Day 2011 when 20-year-old Paddison popped the question.

“We both knew what we were looking for, and we were both really happy with each other. That’s why it happened so fast,” he said.

The couple hasn’t told their parents they’re engaged yet. They think it would cause a lot of family drama.

“All my mom ever says to me is, ‘you’re in school, so focus on school. Don’t spend all your time with Nick.” said Gecan, 19.

A 2006 report by Statistics Canada said someone who marries in their teens is two times more likely to divorce than someone who marries between the ages of 25 and 29. Someone who waits until their mid- 30’s to marry runs a risk 43 per cent lower.

The report said that young people might not be mature enough, or in a good enough place financially, to cope with the demands of marriage. It also said that young people’s personalities and needs often change, and this could upset the balance of a new marriage.

Jae can see what there’s a high rate of divorce among young people. “Financially, we’re broke,” she said. “I can see that probably being a big influence, and stress in general.” She said bringing home stress from school or work and not communicating about it could be a dangerous in a relationship.

Jae spends many late nights, even all-nighters, working on homework, but said the couple makes it work to suit their marriage. Evan brings her meals and comes to visit her in the studio she is working in.

“I don’t know how to get through this program without having someone to support me and to be there for and encourage me,” she said

As we change, and as our partner changes, sometimes it can be very normal that we kind of grow apart,” said Moffit.

Kathryn Stewart, 21, who is getting married to her fiancé Adam Broad this July, thinks differently.

“When you’re young, you’re still kind of forming what your ways are. When you’re married young you kind of just get to do that together,” she said.

Nevertheless, Moffit said it’s important for any couple to go to premarital counselling to reflect on all the possible outcomes in a marriage.

“It will make you face the reality of what marriage could be. It may drive you away from it after all, but in a way it’s a good thing if it helps you realize what the experience of marriage is,” she said.

Stewart and her fiancé are seeing a counsellor to prepare for marriage. “We both felt that it was important because obviously we’ve never been married before and there’s a lot of issues that will come up,” she said. “The fact that we’ve talked through stuff has helped us a lot,”

Although young people now are expected to explore their identities, work and love lives by delaying marriage, it was not long ago that couples were married and having children by their late-teens or early twenties.

Just because expectations of young people have shifted, doesn’t mean love should always have to be put on hold until after graduation.

“People say we’re too young to be engaged. Who are they to tell us what we can and can’t do?” said Gecan. “Nick’s my best friend and that’s what it comes down to.”

With files from Nicole Siena

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