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Desperate for Their MRS. Degrees

May 16 2013
Pressure to put a ring on it can distract from other pursuits and callings.

In the mid-90s, at 18 years old, it never occurred to me that a woman would go to college for the primary purpose of securing a spouse. Even attending a conservative Christian college, I never heard the term "MRS. degree" until many years later, when I lived on campus as a resident director of a dorm with 150-plus women.

Something changed between when I went to college as an undergrad and when I returned to work on campus. Maybe it was just a lack of awareness on my part about what others were discussing; after all, this was before social media. We weren't constantly connected by cell phones and Facebook (now the prime destination for "relationship status" updates and engagement pictures). Maybe it had to do with my personality, friends, and interests. Back then, girls and guys talked philosophy, theology, and music. Sure, my friends and I all wanted to get married, but we weren't obsessed with it. Now, the pressure of college matchmaking has become palpable. I can't even count the number of times I've heard, "My mom and dad told me that if I don't find a husband now when there are so many to choose from, then chances are slim that I'll find one after college."

They feel the need to make the most out of every opportunity, out of every chance encounter with a guy, to prove they are marriage material. Even though guys too have told me that male-female relationships become about sizing up marriage prospects, ladies feel like the onus to snag a husband is on them. Guys, they say, have their pick because on our campus, the women outnumber the men. Just a few weeks ago, several female nursing students told me, "Now that it is spring, it seems like all of our friends are either getting married this summer or getting engaged. And here we are…. Sometimes it's hard attending so many bridal showers and engagement parties. But, we're trying to be happy for them."

I worry that this Christian college version of The Bachelor has too many young women focused on finding their mister, at the sacrifice of the academic, spiritual, and personal development that the undergrad years are meant to bring. Many young women admit restraining their personalities, talents, interests, and the display of their intellect—basically playing the part of the fool—just to increase their chances of snagging a mate.

The thought of women masking their identities for the sake of a potential husband appears to be a peculiar feature of a culture that idolizes marriage. A marriage-at-any cost mentality produces unhealthy people, relationships, and communities. Is it any wonder the divorce rate among Christians, even committed, active, church-going ones, is at 38 percent?

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