After dating a girl before his mission and getting back together with her following his return, Steve Prince thought he found the girl he would marry. Now Prince is graduating from BYU, and he’ll be leaving without a princess.
Prince is one of many BYU students preparing to leave BYU without a spouse. While many students come to the Y with expectations of marriage, these desires don’t always materialize. The average national marriage age has risen over the last few years, and marriage ages in the Church have risen as well.
While there are not specific statistics available, Michael Goodman, a BYU religion professor, said he believes the number of unmarried students leaving BYU is increasing with time. Goodman previously served as a bishop in a BYU singles ward and currently teaches an LDS Marriage & Family class at BYU. In his time serving those two roles, Goodman has fielded many complaints and concerns about the subjects of marriage and dating. From women, the concerns Goodman heard about leaving BYU unmarried began with a concern about their dating lives.
“The concern for several girls was that there was very little dating happening,” Goodman said. “Because very little dating is happening, you obviously don’t marry someone unless you’re dating them.”
These complaints are often aimed directly at the young men. Goodman shared the concern about a lack of proactive behavior from men toward dating.
“I would say there are a whole lot of brethren who need to become anxiously engaged in trying to get engaged,” he punned.
While these sorts of concerns are common, men are not without their own objections. As a religion professor, Goodman has heard many complaints from male students about women putting other priorities above marriage. Goodman acknowledged the increasing presence of girls placing other goals such as education, careers and missions above marriage. He said some girls are interested in dating, but not interested in getting serious until they fulfill other aspirations. While this sort of mindset is a concern, he said he has heard of many women who are instructed to avoid marriage when they first come to BYU.
“We have many sisters whose parents are counseling them to avoid getting married until later,” Goodman said.
While many people are postponing marriage for other pursuits, Goodman said there are many benefits to choosing marriage during college years rather than postponing them to later points in life.
“The vast majority of married students report that being married has made being a student easier, that they are happier and that they are growing both as an individual and as a couple,” he said.
While Goodman highlighted the benefits of marriage while in school, he said students who leave BYU unmarried are not necessarily out of luck, but rather in for a different challenge.
Ben Schilaty has graduated from BYU twice, and each time he left without a spouse. Schilaty considered himself to be a frequent dater, but things never really panned out for him while at BYU.
“I am not single for a lack of trying,” Schilaty said.
Schilaty, like many students, came to BYU in part because of the unique social life and dating opportunities provided in Provo. While some students are bitter about leaving BYU without a companion, Schilaty remains hopeful. He said his social circle and possibilities have not changed much despite leaving thousands of people at BYU.
“Honestly, my Mormon community here isn’t much smaller than it would have been elsewhere,” Schilaty said. “The only difference is there isn’t a big ambiguous pool of people that I could possibly meet tomorrow. At BYU there is always someone else around the corner.”
While he has had mixed experiences in singles wards outside of BYU, he said his current singles ward is ideal for where he is at in his life. While at BYU, sometimes great people believe they are overlooked. Schilaty said he feels appreciated in his current ward.
“Coming to my singles ward here I’m more of a hot commodity,” he said.
Not all dating situations are equal for students who leave BYU unmarried. Jen Lee graduated from BYU two years ago and was forced to move back to Calgary, Alberta, after her work visa expired. While at BYU, Lee said she dated frequently but never felt the need to force marriage into her life.
“You just kind of come in thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll probably be married by the time I graduate,'” Lee said. “I didn’t make it a goal or anything, but it was kind of like, ‘When I graduate, I’ll probably be married and then I’ll move somewhere with my husband.'”
After leaving Utah for Canada, Lee immediately saw a decrease in her dating life. Since returning from Canada a year ago, Lee has only been asked out on three dates. While Lee is ready to settle down and get married, she has found ways to live life to the fullest through traveling. Lee also plans to enrich her life through pursuing further education.
Rebecca Sackett came to BYU without much thought about marriage. She said she was accustomed to the social opportunities presented at BYU after growing up in Utah Valley. Sackett now lives in Cypress, Calif., and teaches at a high school in the area. After leaving the valley single, she said she now understands what she’s missing, adding that BYU students are generally comprised of intelligent, proactive students and not everyone outside of BYU is that way.
“Dating now just seems even harder because I have a narrower pool,” Sackett said.
Sackett said current students should understand there are more solid opportunities for dating at BYU than some people comprehend.
“Just realize that it’s crazy when you’re at BYU,” she said. “There are thousands of people you could go on a date with and be fine.”