By Eleanor O’Hagan
Pursuing and encouraging the ‘Ring by Spring’ culture on campus is unhealthy and can jeopardize current relationships, ruin future ones and limit couples’ ability to grow both as independent individuals and as a pair. The idea of pressuring your boyfriend or girlfriend to fully commit to a relationship status by a certain date is not healthy. Agreeing to pursue engagement is a decision that must be made voluntarily with no coercion or pressure from the other in the relationship or from outside parties. In the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church the priest will ask the couple who present themselves to be married if they have come to altar by force or coercion, and if they are entering into the marriage fully of their own accord. The same question should be considered in a marriage proposal. An engagement is the couple stating that they intend to marry, and while it is not sacramentally binding, it is still a huge commitment!
Ring by Spring culture also forces a couple to follow a linear timeline, which means putting a highly important and intimate relationship on one’s own timeline and not God’s. Yes, you should go at your pace in a relationship, but the Lord should be leading you through every step. Even if that means going slower or faster than what you are comfortable with, it is all God’s timing. God is not the one who gives you a sense of urgency or a need to be engaged at the same time as your friends.
Often, in young Catholic circles, people say that they’re “ready for marriage” and that they are at peace and excited to have a ring on their finger. While it may be true that you know you want to marry a certain person in the moment, you have to consider how things might change in a few years. The issue with couples who meet in college and get married right after graduation is that neither of them have had experience in the real world on their own. Sure couples grow with each other through out their marriage, but there’s a certain maturity and self-awareness that comes when you’ve been on your own for a time. The real world is hard enough to navigate and some real-life knowledge is best learned on your own.
In all things there is a need for balance. It’s great to have a partner who you can rely on and face hardships with, but its unhealthy to place whole identity in another person. Time on your own allows you as an individual to grow and become an even better version of yourself for your future spouse. Being able to have this time outside of a college environment to be on your own helps you learn that you can do things by yourself. By growing in self-confidence, you become more sure of your role in a relationship and more confident in you ability to be there for your partner.
Spending time together and apart is part of any healthy relationship. As the saying goes “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. Having time away from each other makes the time together all the more meaningful and precious. And though starting your adventure together in the big world right after college sounds romantic, a little bit of practicality goes a long way.