Cristina Haines is set to graduate, but for her, the journey’s end isn’t nearly as important as the unconventional decision she made while in college. It is a story she loves to tell.
“In February of 2006, when I was a junior in high school, I met a University of Florida boy at a college-age church retreat who would eventually become my husband,” Haines began her story with a palpable passion.
Haines still remembers their first date back in 2008. She was a sophomore at USF and Greg Haines had graduated with a degree in computer science and got a job as a programmer down in Venice on Florida’s Gulf coast.
At the time, Greg Haines was looking for a church with young people and remembered her and the college group at Bay Area Church of Christ in Brandon.
“We went to dinner and watched ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ We were both ecstatic that the other loved science-fiction, and we seemed to have everything in common,” she remembered. “We soon became best friends. Within three months, we were both sure that we were right for each other,” she said.
The Haineses are part of the 7 percent of American college students, according to the 2003 United States Census, who decide to jump the broom before crossing the stage.
At USF, the percentage of married students are unknown as the “University of South Florida declined to survey students on their marital status,” according to Evan Rosenthal, assistant university registrar.
Though we understand there is no single parable for life in college, it appears that love is a four letter word around here, and marriage–a double four letter word.
“After I got married, I was surprised at how many people asked me why I decided to get married in college as if it were a bad thing that was going to seriously alter my future,” Cristina Haines added.
She admits to slacking off in school during her first semester of marriage because some big issues arose, but Haines and her husband worked out their problems constructively. She was able to bounce back and make better grades her second semester.
“Oddly, even though marriage provided a distraction for me during that one bad semester, I ended up doing better in school in subsequent semesters than I did when we were dating” she added.
The marriage changed her. “Somehow I felt more mature and focused on school than a lot of my peers because I was living off campus and spending a lot of time commuting,” she said.
Haines doesn’t feel like she missed out on anything her peers experienced because of her marriage. She still dreams of one day becoming a counselor, and having children when the time is right.
“They might be on a different time table; for example, my attending graduate school may depend on my husband’s job situation because we will have to make the move together. But I would rather explore life with my best friend at my side than do it alone. And who says you can’t do it together?” Cristina Haines questioned.
The thing is, there was a time when women had to choose between having a marriage and an education. Women who were educated had less luck in the love department, but those days are over according to a study done by Betsey Stevenson and Adam Isen of the University of Pennsylvania.
In the 1950s, less than three-quarters of college-educated white women had been married by the age of 40, compared to a whopping 90 percent of those who only graduated high school. Now the difference between the two is a mere 2 percent, with college grads at 86 percent and high school grads at 88 percent.
Put a Ring on It?
According to the Census Bureau, the married couple has dropped to just 48 percent of the population in 2010–a stark difference from the 78 percent of the population who were married in 1950.
With the U.S becoming increasingly single why are educated women marrying more than ever before?
Dr. Arthur Bochner, professor of the Communication and Love course at USF, believes this may be because people are much less trusting of each other now and there is also very little trust in love due to the trivialization of marriage in the media.
“They think everybody is a cheat. They feel they can’t really trust love. They feel as if they’ll be betrayed,” he said.
For Cristina and Greg Haines it was different.
“We were both intelligent introverts who valued going against the crowd,” she said. So in August of 2010, after only a year and nine months of dating, they got married.
“The fact that he had a stable and well-paying job was appealing to me because I came from nothing. I was virtually homeless my senior year of high school and was living in the dorms completely on scholarship, so I was scared I wouldn’t have a place to live after college. It simply made practical sense for me to get married,” Cristina Haines explained.
“Most of all, though,” she added, “since we were both very ready for marriage, it stopped making sense to wait, because we wanted to be together.” Though they discussed waiting till after her graduation, their shared love for God, Cuban food and Star Trek had already fused them.
According to Dr. Bochner, the context of marriage is changing and becoming increasingly de-institutionalized. “The forms are more flexible. Things that used to be associated with marriage are not associated with marriage anymore,” he says.
Bochner believes that marriage now has a very high degree of symbolic value. “To be married and to have a successful marriage is seen as an achievement,” he concludes. Thus a reason for more educated women to want to add a successful marriage as part of their list of accomplishments.
There is even better news for the educated women of our time. According to Stevenson, “modern college-educated women are more likely than any other group of women to be married at age 40, are less likely to divorce and are more likely to describe their type of marriage as ‘happy.’”
The Haineses couldn’t agree more.