It’s spring and you don’t have a ring. Do you need to panic? According to Dr. Ivy George, Professor of Sociology Department, no. This got me thinking, maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to get my MRS Degree while studying for my BA.
The other night I caught myself watching “Say Yes to the Dress” and wondering whether I would like a ballgown or mermaid silhouette. But before I put myself in $5,000 of imaginary debt, I thought I might try to nip this in the bud and turn to one of the women on campus who is most outspoken about gender and relationships, Ivy George. So, I sat down with her and asked her about marriage and dating culture. Her input was grounding and humbling.
George’s first piece of advice, there is no use in rushing it. George expressed a great concern about students not wrestling with the seriousness of marriage, after all it is a lifelong commitment.
“You never know as much as you don’t know,” George said. “Not that you will know as much as you need to, but at least you should have a somewhat reasonable regard for the limitations for your youth.”
This felt especially pertinent as I have more and more conversations with classmates about engagement and how much pressure some feel to partner up before they graduate. But George cautioned against making a decision on impulse. Instead, she recommended a course of self-examination.
George also pushed that though marriage is incredibly valuable, “marriage is only one part of the totality of your life and that’s why women need work and wages.”
This was the crux of many discussions I’ve had with friends over the last few years. The temptation or dread of pursuing a relationship ahead of a livelihood.
If you ever need to be reassured in the value of economic independence, I would strongly advise that you consider how financial dependence is beneficial to the relationship and discuss that with your partner.
When pressed on dating she said that what is most important in dating is “mutual reciprocity simultaneous with independence.” This is a seemingly abstract but important idea.
There must be a sense of equality and freedom, which comes with trust. Trust coincidentally being the most important thing for a healthy marriage, George defines, saying: “respect, respecting the other. Respecting the other in the frame of change. People change. Just because you got married doesn’t mean you are going to stop changing, right? Thank God.”
We need to be able to recognize that our partners are people too and they are constantly changing, that should be something to encourage one another not something to dread i.e. “he’s not the man I married.”
But beyond Valentine’s day and the campus’ obsession with romantic love I was struck by George’s perception of the value of non-romantic relationships, the way you are connected to the earth, and the way that you are connected with your friends and family.
She brought up a Zulu word to describe her perspective on collective relationship, “ubuntu.” It means “I am because you are.”
This notion of finding yourself in relationship necessitates a deep web of community that expands beyond marriage, you need to be able to find yourself in your relationships with all people. It is an idea that necessitates a kind of humility and unity between all people. Not just those with whom you want to grow old with.
In healthy marriages George maintains that each partner should actually be freed and that you should be changing for the better. But she also encourages students that you should never feel limited to just pursuing a marriage.
We have been blessed with a wide array of relationships and connections each one a gift from God, you need good friends to go out with, mentors to help you on your way, an earth healthy enough to explore, and a family that is deeply connected to you.
So, if you have a special someone today, that is wonderful. Cherish and watch over that relationship. But if you find yourself alone today, know that relationships are varied, and that you are who you are thanks to all of the love in your life.
Spend some time investing in a friend, going on a walk, or having an honest conversation with your partner today, explore the beauty and depth of community and see if we can be a bit more intentional about seeking the fullness and beauty that God has put into relationship.