Put a ring on it

At first, it was barely noticeable. An engagement announcement here, a wedding album there. But soon, couples getting hitched became a consistent feature of my Facebook newsfeed.

The scary part? I’m starting to follow suit.

Sure, I’ve got my not-so-secret Pinterest board of wedding dresses and colour schemes — who doesn’t? — and I’ve always spoken openly about marriage with my partners.

But the actual commitment still feels distant, which is why it floors me to see my peers engaging in matrimony left, right and centre.

Beyond the obvious joy I’ve experienced when my close friends get engaged and married, I sometimes can’t help but think, “My God, another one?” or “Look at them! They’re babies! They’re the same age as me!”

Following with: “When will it be my turn?!”

I knew that for the next decade I would be attending more and more weddings. It was time to chat with some Queen’s students to get an insight into the engaged and married life.

Tom Proulx and Jaclyn Pearson, both 21, started dating when they were in grade 10, and are now engaged to be married in July 2016.

After dating for six years, the couple said their families and friends, though incredibly supportive and excited, were hardly surprised by their engagement.

“We’ve always been really open about what we’ve wanted in our lives and where we want our relationship going,” said Proulx, LifeSci ’15.

Proulx said they’ll be getting married at the same age his parents did decades before.

Despite how long they’ve been together, many people questioned Pearson’s parents about their daughter’s decision, given her age.

While it’s common to view young marriage as irresponsible and immature, this wasn’t always the case.

Between 1972 and 2008, the average age of marriage for Canadian women increased from 22.5 to 29.1, and for men from 24.9 to 31.1.

Young adults today are generally much more likely to defer transitions — such as graduation, careers, marriage and parenthood — which is why young marriages are seen increasingly as abnormal.

But sometimes it doesn’t make sense to prolong the next step, Proulx said.

“I’ve known her since I was fifteen,” he said. “I’ve made, arguably, some of the most important decisions of my life with her as my partner.”

If you’ve found that person, then why should you bother waiting?”

He said if couples are able to get through stressful and uncertain times and still want to spend every day with each other, then they’re already on their way to getting married.

Becoming engaged hasn’t changed much about their relationship, added Pearson, ConEd ’16. They just watch more TLC.

“So many people look at it as this life-altering decision,” she said. “But no matter what situation you’re in, you have to work hard with your relationship and be open and honest about what you want out of it.

“So long as you can do that, you’re ready to plan for the future.”

Overall, the couple said knowing where they’re going has enhanced the different facets of their life.

“I think it makes you a more motivated and passionate person in general,” Pearson said, “because you’re working hard, not just towards a career, but towards your life [together].

“For some people that may not work,” she added, “but for us, all the decisions we’re making, we’re making together.” While Proulx and Pearson will be married after dating for seven years, Jesse Harris and his wife wasted no time.

Harris, currently a master’s of chemical engineering student, met his wife in Sept. 2008 when they were both 20. They decided to get married about four months later.

“We had been dating for a short period of time, but we had actually gone through a decent amount,” he said. “We both realized that we were really good at supporting one another.”

Harris said they both realized early on that their values and life goals were compatible.

While their parents accepted their decision, it was a different story with friends.

“I had a lot of gay friends at the time,” Harris said. “They seem[ed] to just not be interested in hanging with me now that I was engaged to a female, which was kind of frustrating.” He added that his wife experienced the same thing with her male friends.

“It was sort of surprising that there were so many people that just didn’t seem to be as interested in hanging out with us,” he said.

Despite this, Harris said he’s found married life “cool” and “awesome.”

“I enjoy being married — that’s why I keep doing it.”

But that isn’t to say being married is easy by any means, he said, adding that they’re much better at marriage now than when they started.

Like Proulx, Harris said he doesn’t understand why people avoid the commitment.

“I don’t understand a lot of the time why people date for as long as they do,” he said. “I think it’s a lot easier to say either … this is somebody that I want to be with, or not.”

I had to agree with them there. The couples around me seem to prolong marriage or breaking up — often attributing their hesitation to high divorce rates.

With four divorced half siblings, I definitely believe a fear of divorce is warranted, but at the same time, it can’t paralyze you.

There’s a point in relationships where you and your partner need to sit down and figure out if you’re in it for the long run.

At 21, I’m only seeing marriages at their beginnings for the most part. It’s going to take years before I can see whether a friend’s marriage has had long-term success or not.

That’s why I decided to speak with someone who’s seen couples at their worst. Kim Lawrence, a clinical counsellor in Kingston, said in her experience, everyone undergoes difficulties in marriage.

“At any age if we misunderstand what marriage is, it’s a recipe for challenges,” Lawrence said.

“The most important is how we deal with these changes and transitions.”

She said difficulties often arise in relationships during periods of transition.

And let’s face it — young adulthood is just one extended, topsy-turvy transition, which provides young couples with far more opportunities for difficulties.

That being said, Lawrence said common complaints she receives aren’t exclusive to an age group.

She said a lack of communication (or differing communication styles); a lack of intimacy and feeling of connectedness; and conflict resolution are the three main and interrelated challenges couples bring to her.

Somehow, this didn’t surprise me.

“Communication” is the sort of thing you always read about as being critical to a relationship — and frankly, it is.

“We often have this fairytale notion of relationships and true love,” Lawrence said. “[That] if it’s true love then it should be easy and our partner should know us and we shouldn’t have to tell them what to do.”

But let’s face it: relationships are complicated, and unless you’re dating a mindreader, you have to speak up.

Lawrence said it’s critical to be assertive and communicate to your partner how you’re feeling and what your needs are, instead of being passive and assuming our partner should just know.

I’m still not sure when it’ll happen for me. I might be married in seven months or I could end up being a bridesmaid 27 times before I even meet the right person.

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