May 012005
Authors: Jennifer Johnson

The lifelong commitment of marriage is a big step in any relationship, and college students should consider both the negative and positive aspects of married life before saying, "I do."

"The decision to get married needs to be really thought out," said Steve Ross, a clinical psychologist at the University Counseling Center. "Students especially need to think about what it means to marry young and all the responsibilities that come with it."

Ross said many times students may be blindsided because they are looking through the "rose-colored glasses" of love, rather than thinking about the impacts of marriage.

"It's important to really think about what the commitment will mean and understand how deep the love truly is," he said.

Although there are several stresses to married life, one of the main concerns for students is how school will affect their marriage, or vice versa.

"There is a lot of research about how the stresses of school can put a strain on relationships," Ross said. "There are several demands involved in both a marriage and a student's academic life. It is important to be on the same page and communicate."

Because of the added stress of college life, some students may feel that it is too early to jump into a marriage. However, Ross said this might also have advantages.

"Young people may have a naive approach to the commitment of marriage, but I think that this can also provide a sense of hopefulness," Ross said.

Shawn Reagan, a junior art major, said school could have both a negative and positive effect on a marriage.

"I personally feel that there would be more negative aspects to getting married while still in college," Reagan said. "On the other hand, I think that it could be beneficial because you would have more support."

Reagan said finding time would be the most difficult part of married life as a student and thinks it is important to make sure priorities are in line.

"I wouldn't want to get married right now," he said. "I definitely want to be settled and be able to support a marriage first."

For those students who are married and dealing with school or other negative issues, couples therapy is a resource for seeking advice, talking about all aspects of a relationship and working through problems.

The Center for Family and Couple Therapy at CSU offers counseling for a variety of issues, including relationship enhancement and a premarital program.

"The premarital program is really focused on making the relationship work," said Michelle Ayres, the center coordinator for CFCT. "We really want to help the couple look at their relationship and find out if they are ready to make such a big commitment."

The 10-week program focuses on the philosophy of marriage or intimate partnerships, decision-making, balancing all aspects of life, finances, conflict resolution and more.

"Over 50 percent of our clients are students," Ayres said. "These couples are generally seeking out counseling for a variety of challenges including stress-related to school, lack of time and finances."

Ayres said the impact school can have on a marriage depends on the couple and how they handle the situation.

"The difficultness of a marriage depends solely on the quality of the relationship. If you have a good relationship and are happy, the benefits will outweigh any stresses that come along," Ayres said. "Having someone there could counteract the stresses of school."

While the stress of school may have a negative impact on a relationship, Ross believes that people can always find the positive aspects of a marriage, even when they are struggling.

"I think that getting married at such a young age can also have its advantages," he said. "You are beginning your history together early in life and building memories that will last forever."

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