Against the odds

Students discuss being married while still in college

Freshman telecommunications major Emma Cheesman married Jonathan Thornburg on Dec. 28, 2011.

Once Thornburg left for basic training in April of 2011, they wrote to each other every day and discussed getting married in their letters. During a phone call, Thornburg asked Cheesman what her ring size was, but she would not tell him. At the time, she believed she was not ready to get married because she was too young.

"I thought longer about the reasons why I wasn't ready for it and really, the only reason that was stopping me was because I was afraid of what people would think of me, being so young and not having dated him very long," Cheesman said. "That just wasn't a good enough reason because it was my life and I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him."

Although Cheesman is young, she has to deal with the adult responsibilities of being married, all the while dealing with her husband's military duties. She said she sometimes feels out of place compared to other students her age.

"While they're wondering what they're going to do on the weekends, I'm making a financial plan for us in the summer and looking for apartments," she said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married in 1960. Today, that number has dropped to 51 percent.

The Population Reference Bureau has concluded that "the data suggest that more young couples are delaying marriage or foregoing matrimony altogether," likely because of the economy and the resulting decline in the housing market.

The U.S. Census Bureau, on the other hand, reported in September of 2010 that the decrease in marriages has been accompanied by an increase in the number of couples living together. This rise has also been linked to the economy.

Robbie and Liz Vaught married June 19, 2010. They met in high school at a camp for fifth graders making their transition into sixth grade.

One of the pros of being married while in college is having someone to live with that you are comfortable with, Liz Vaught said.

"If you're married, you can talk to the person about something that's getting on your nerves about how you keep the house or who does dishes, that kind of thing," she said.

The Vaughts said getting married before graduation has its perks. Robbie Vaught graduated from Ball State in December, but Liz Vaught is a senior studying special education.

"My husband just found a job and it was stressful for him to be applying for jobs, going to school and worrying about graduating and I can only imagine adding planning a wedding on top of that," Liz Vaught said.

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that married couples represented 48 percent of American households, according to the New York Times. This is the first time the percentage has been less than half of all American households.

Liz Vaught said her parents got married at a young age as well, and they have been married for over 25 years.

"I know quite a few people who got married very young and it lasted fine," Robbie Vaught said. "I know people that got married later in life and they're miserable, and it didn't last more than two years. It's kind of what you make of everything, is how I see it."

Cheesman said she was told that couples who get married and dated in high school last longer than those who meet their spouses later in life.

According to the Pew Research Center, divorce rates have leveled off in the past two decades, "so divorce plays less of a role than it used to." The New York Times reported that the trend for college-educated people is to marry later and stay married.

"I don't want to be a part of any statistic anyway," Cheesman said. "My life is not like anyone else's. It's different. I just think that, to each their own. I just did what I thought was right for me, and I'm happy with my life."

Liz Vaught said she is seeing more and more people in their 20s who are married, but when she meets new people, especially someone older, they are surprised to find out she is married.

"I think that marriage or having children or anything like that, age is definitely not going to be the determining factor of quality or happiness," she said. "I think it's totally between the two people. So I think it's a great thing if more people are happy and happily married young."


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