Getting married in college is a complicated decision.
My husband and I were 21 years old on our wedding day. I had one semester left before getting my bachelor’s degree, and he was working on his master’s.
Should you get married in college, like we did? The answer depends on several factors. Before anything else, though, it depends on your answer to the question, “Should we get married?”
If you don’t know that answer yet, that’s okay. Discernment takes lots of time, prayer, and seeking wise counsel. However, you don’t need to be considering the pros and cons of a college marriage until you’re sure you want to get married.
The question also depends on where you’re at in life. In addressing this question, I’m assuming that you’re most likely between the ages of 18 and 22, and you’re working on your undergraduate degree. Students who are older or working on graduate-level coursework may face the same questions, but they’re often in different life circumstances.
But if you are a young college student with a relationship heading quickly toward marriage, knowing some of the pros and cons of an early marriage can help the two of you make a wise, Christ-honoring decision.
A Word on Parents
First, though, we need to address what will probably be your biggest barrier to getting married in college: your parents.
If you anticipate your parents will be against the idea of you getting married in college, I would recommend talking with your pastor. He will be able to advise the two of you much better than I can.
Most parents have more wisdom than we credit them. But even if your parents are non-believers with a low view of marriage, if you’re financially depending on them — for tuition or other expenses — I think you have some responsibility to listen to their opinion.
Pros of Getting Married in College
1. Marriage is good.
Marriage is a gift from God and a symbol of the gospel. If you’re not sure you fully believe that, read Ephesians 5 and Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. That’s what convinced me.
A fundamental realization for me was that through the mystery of Christ, my husband and I are stronger together than we are apart. God uses each spouse’s strengths and weaknesses to support and refine the other, such that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
So, if you both believe that marriage is good and you’re both confident that God wants you to marry, why wait? Why wait to display the gospel and experience it in new ways?
I think most of us know that marriage is good, but we believe that careers are better. In reality, God is best. Seek him first, and then do what’s most likely to lead you and others to treasure Christ more.
2. Sexual temptation is hard.
The apostle Paul says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).
As I’m sure you know, the longer you date, the stronger sexual temptation becomes. This is one reason why boundaries are important.
Growing sexual desires for each other are normal, but until you marry, you won’t have any healthy outlet for them. Only marriage creates the freedom to enjoy physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy without guilt or shame.
3. Marriage is a witness.
If you get married in college, your friends will think you’re crazy. They’ll ask you why you’re so confident about committing your life to someone.
These conversations are an opportunity to share the gospel. Tell them you believe the purpose of marriage is about so much more than sex and companionship — it’s about the sacrificial love of Christ. Once you’re married, show them how the power of Christ sustains the marriages of sinners.
College students need to see more Christ-centered marriages. No other relationship speaks so loudly of commitment and sacrifice, and few other groups need to hear that message more.
Cons of Getting Married in College
1. Possibility for pregnancy in college.
As Christians, we deeply value human life. As a couple, this means that if we get pregnant, by God’s will, we’ll have the baby. Abortion isn’t an option.
Depending on what you believe about contraception, the potential for pregnancy can be pretty high once you get married. God is ultimately in control, but the reality is that if you’re having sex, there’s always a likelihood you could become pregnant.
While people do finish their degrees with children, I think you’d be crazy to think that having a baby won’t disrupt your education in some way.
At the very least, having a child will increase your expenses. One of you may need to start making money and stop school to support your family.
Children are a blessing, and quitting college isn’t the end of the world. However, it will affect your financial future, so it’s something to consider.
2. Potential for moving.
Before getting married, we decided we would never be long-distance again if we had the choice. Distance was especially difficult for us, and we felt that the daily rhythms of God’s design for marriage are best worked out while living in the same place.
So, as God would have it, my move to where my husband lived wasn’t my last. Two months before we married, my husband received the opportunity to do his research in a foreign country for one year.
I had only one semester left. Yet we prayed and felt that was where God wanted us, so we moved across the world exactly three months after our wedding day.
At the time I’m writing this, we’re still living out of the country. I’m so thankful to be living here, and God has taught us so much. But going back to school is going to be hard, and there’s always the risk that something will come up and I won’t be able to finish.
I don’t regret it, but when you get married in college, the potential for moving is a real risk you take.
3. Changes in Social Life
Marriage profoundly affects your existing friendships. During your first year of marriage, you’ll probably spend a lot of one-on-one time with your husband, and that’s a good thing. Your schedule isn’t just “yours” anymore, it’s “ours.”
Does that mean your friends will never see you again after you say, “I do?” Of course not. You should continue to make time for your single friends.
But even if you have lots of time for your friends, you may find that bonding with them is a little harder. It’s a prideful trap to believe you’re maturing faster than your single friends, but you are growing differently than them.
The stereotypical “college student life” isn’t always sustainable for married couples, so connecting with friends can become challenging.
Questions to Ask Before Getting Married in College
Once you’ve considered these pros and cons, you have some important questions to ask. These might include:
- Are we spiritually, emotionally, and mentally mature enough as individuals?
- Are we financially ready to separate from our parents and start life together?
- Are we in a season where it’s wise to reduce distractions to focus on the work God has called us to right now?
- How are we handling sexual temptation currently?
- How will getting married affect how we do ministry with our peers?
- Whose degree and career will take the lead once we’re married — and why?
I’m sure some of these concerns seem too practical for you. If it seems like God’s will for us to get married, we should get married, right? Marriage is good, after all.
But while God can make even the most ill-timed marriage work, he gave you a brain and a Bible for a reason. His wisdom doesn’t contradict his will. If it does, you’re misunderstanding something.
I don’t regret getting married during college, and personally, I really think more people should consider it. However, it’s not the right timing for everyone. If you are considering it, consider it wisely and prayerfully.