Yale doesn’t typically strike one as a “ring by spring” school. That is, most Yalies don’t prowl Blue State looking for “the one” — someone who also takes their lattes with soy milk. And they don’t dedicate every Wednesday night to finding their “true match” at the center of the Woads dance floor. In any case, they aren’t striving to be engaged by the spring of their senior year. Mention marriage to the typical Yalie, or so the conventional wisdom goes, and you’ll hear their knee-jerk response of, “Not until I’m 30!” A lot of Yale College undergraduates follow the same script: Go to college, get your first job, get your second job, get another degree, and then maybe get married.
But this isn’t always the case. Some students do find themselves in possession of a ring by the aforementioned senior spring; others, even sooner. In a place where work, ambition and Woads seem at odds with long-term relationships, some lovebirds are making their nests together.
The relative frequency of engagements that occur during the school year itself, as well as their accompanying marriages, may shock some Yalies. Diane Jiang ’19 said she doesn’t know many people in long-term relationships and that it’s not a priority for most of her friends. The hedonism of everyone’s favorite buzz phrase, “hookup culture,” and the often-irresistible allure of ambition can outshine the romantic candlelight of a long-term relationship.
“Currently right now … in the undergraduate area, there’s a lot of … the hookup culture going on, so relationships seem to be really temporary and it’s more of … an emphasis on physicality rather than relying on deeper, more meaningful relationships,” Jiang said. “In the long run it might be possible for people to revert back to more traditional forms of relationships.” She also didn’t consider marriage a much-talked-about topic on campus.
Stephanie Addenbrooke ’17 and Andrew Bean ’17 are a counterpoint to this quickly moving relationship culture. They got engaged during the winter of 2016. This August, three months after their graduation, they married in a New Haven ceremony. Roughly 75 percent of their wedding guests were Yalies.
Addenbrooke, a political science major and a former editor in chief of the News, and Bean, an applied math major, were first-year counselors for Jonathan Edwards and Davenport, respectively. They said the first-year students in their FroCo groups were the most shocked by the engagement news. Addenbrooke said the younger students can’t imagine themselves making the leap of marriage. By contrast, Addenbrooke characterized the reaction among the couple’s fellow graduating seniors as “respectful of the decision” and “happy.” For those who knew them, it wasn’t a huge surprise, since they’d dated since their junior year in college.
But Addenbrooke and Bean said they weren’t the first couple they’d seen get married by the end of senior year. “It wasn’t weird for people to be getting married … in some of the communities we’re in,” Addenbrooke said. She and Bean were heavily involved in the Christian Union and, during their years with the group, saw several other couples from the group get engaged and married before they did. Addenbrooke noted, however, that not all married couples were religious; for example, two nonreligious people from her graduating class in Jonathan Edwards were engaged around the same time as she and Bean.
Addenbrooke came to a conclusion similar to Jiang’s regarding marriage’s lack of appeal on campus, saying, “I don’t think that people think that marriage is as good of a thing anymore, something to reach for … it’s better to kind of establish yourself and [marry] later. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like we think that everyone should get married. Not everyone is ready.”
But what is it that makes one couple more ready for marriage than another? Bean cited the ability and the willingness to sacrifice. “From our vows, the traditional Christian vows, one of the lines is, ‘All that I am I give to you,’” he said. “That’s not something that I think most Yale students would be super happy saying. You have a tendency to focus on your individual accomplishments, so the idea of giving yourself to someone else is not something that fits super well into that context.”
Hunter Mason ’20 married his wife, Catharine, this summer after they got engaged during his first year on campus. They met while he was on a two-year mission trip for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and started dating last October after he returned to the United States and began studying at Yale. He’s seen marriage change his undergraduate experience by adding “a measure of stress, planning and discipline that might not be needed otherwise.” At the same time, Mason said, he “would much rather pass through that test in development with someone I love and someone I’m committed to so that years down the road, when we have bigger challenges and bigger stresses, we’ve already come through so much together.”
With regard to other students, he said he doesn’t find the Yale environment hostile to committed relationships at all. He said he feels that Yale students on the whole consider long-term relationships to be “something exciting, something to be celebrated,” but that they’re not “priority number one in that people are focused on their studies.” This, he said, is “not necessarily good or bad,” but he thinks “it is rare that undergraduates are married because we tend to think more about the opportunities we have. What are we going to study, major in? Where are we going to travel while we’re here? What programs are we going to participate in? And adding marriage onto that would be a really, really big commitment.” While the siren song of individual opportunities appeals to many, he said, it’s absolutely possible to balance both personal and professional success.
It goes without saying, though, that despite the aforementioned perks of collegiate marriage, most of the Yale student body is not married. Mason knows of only one other couple of wedded undergraduates, also members of the LDS church.
Tony Grant, an Eli Whitney student, agreed that marriage is not suited for the young. He acknowledged, however, that this is somewhat incongruous with his own life experience, since he married at the age of 20. But his path took him on a different route. He met his wife, Megan, when they were in ninth grade. They started dating in eleventh grade and married while Tony served as an Arabic translator and intelligence analyst in the Air Force. He explained, “I had already known I wanted to marry her, I wasn’t going to do any better than her. We got engaged [in] March 2011 [and] we got married nine months after that.”
They live in East Rock now and he enjoys the routine of going home to his wife and dog, even if it means he doesn’t engage with the Yale community as much as he’d like. “No matter where I am at Yale at any given point of the day, I always have one foot out the door. It definitely sucks up my time, but not in a bad way,” Grant said.
When he thinks about Yale undergraduates being married, though, he noted that it sounds “super early.” When he proposed to his wife, he felt “kind of established … I knew exactly what my future was gonna look like.” Undergraduates, however, do not benefit from similar circumstances. He said, “If you’re planning on getting engaged to a college sweetheart, that doesn’t give you much time to be … an independent adult. Because when you’re in college, most things are kind of taken care of for you. If you’re a traditional student, you don’t really worry about how you’re going to pay your rent. You don’t have to worry about utilities and … what your schedule’s going to look like and how that other person’s getting built into it.”
That being said, he sees Yale’s environment as hostile ground for fledgling relationships. With everyone on extremely busy and extremely different schedules, “there’s literally nothing connecting you to whoever you’re dating other than this agreement that you guys will make time to see each other,” he said. “So I don’t see what stops anyone from saying you’re inconvenient to fit into my life right now, so I’m gonna just do me until someone comes along that is more convenient.” He pointed to the “meat market” that is Woads, which fosters one-night (“Or maybe like a week, if you’re ambitious,” Grant observed) hookups in lieu of those difficult-to-schedule relationships. He even conjectured that he and his wife Megan wouldn’t have lasted had they met at Yale, since they’d have been pulled in too many different directions.
If Yale does indeed have an anti-relationship culture, it could produce Yalies who graduate with first-rate academic credentials but poor relationship skills, Grant said. If you choose to prioritize a relationship, he said, “You would [have] those life skills of being in a long-term relationship at a much better time before you get into the real world, the dating pool. It’s so much more risky to be bad at being in a relationship in your late 20s.” Through being in a relationship at a young age, he said, he got a head start in learning how to fight with his best friend and still be reciprocally loving and committed.
These dilemmas are some of the things that Addenbrooke and Bean worked through while their relationship developed here at Yale. One of their most memorable dates occurred during their junior year. One morning, Addenbrooke completed her News duties at 6 a.m. The coda she chose for this all-nighter was not an immediate nap. Instead, she met Bean for their already-scheduled breakfast date at 8 a.m., a mere two hours later. Because of their schedules, Bean said it was hard to see Addenbrooke past 6 p.m. and that if they hadn’t made such a conscious effort, they may not have lasted.
Problem sets and readings and all-night commitments are inevitable. It is completely logical, and common practice, to balance this work with relaxation and low-commitment fun. But in a few cases, some Yalies choose to schedule romance into their GCals, too.
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