It is easy to see a young or newly married couple and be excited, jealous or judgmental based on how the relationship appears from outside.
But it is what is happening behind the scenes that really counts and the path, according to engaged and married students at Eastern, is not always certain.
“It requires time, energy and effort,” said Paul Lee, who graduated from Eastern with a bachelor’s degree in 2011 and is now starting his master’s in creative writing at Riverpoint. His wife, Megan, is studying massage therapy at the Inland Massage Institute. “[We] got married after finishing my undergrad. . . . There are different considerations [now],” he said.
Lee explained that “[Before], if there was a deadline to meet. . . . I’d think, ‘I can knock this out over a night’ and not sleep,” he said. “But [now] that might make me grumpy, which could affect my wife. She’s [attending] school too. When you are in a committed relationship. . . . you’re responsible for that person [too].”
Younger students, who tend to be less established, have additional anxiety. Chief among their concerns are educational and financial security. With the addition of another person into their lives, school—and the paycheck that comes afterwards—takes on a much graver significance.
“If you’re single . . . it’s fine to fail a class or change your major,” said Diane Goldman, a dental hygiene major who got married in early September. “But now, I need to get my degree the cheapest route I possibly can because I have another person connected to me. We have to start working to support each other.
“We have to be really smart about what we choose to [spend on],” she said. She explained that the dental hygiene program has many extra costs. “[We’re] definitely living on a budget and saving for school. That’s very important.”
Lee, who made staying out of debt “a big goal,” said that his educational pathway still gave him pause more than once. “Creative writing is not going to make me a millionaire,” he said. “I struggled with that. I did think, ‘maybe I should go back and get a [degree] in engineering’ or something. . . . more financially stable. I did think I was choosing unwise[ly].”
Ashley Olson, a junior communication disorders major who got engaged in June, agreed. “College is something you have to do [now], it’s not just a ‘want,’” she said.
Olson’s fiancé, Andrew Mastronardi, also attends Eastern.
Pursuing their relationship has been “more maturing for both [of us],” she said. “Our relationship [began]. . . . after each of us had started school already. School was [initially] something for each of us to have a lifestyle [separately].”
“[Now], it’s a way to have stable jobs. . . . thinking of [your spouse] in the picture too,” Olson said.“It’s more challenging. It’s not just about me anymore.”
That is not always a bad thing.
“[At Eastern], I wasn’t distracted with parties or looking for a date, so I could concentrate on school more,” said Caden Mayfield, who has been married for several years and graduated with a visual communication degree in June. “[And] it was great having such a good roommate.”
Mayfield is a “returning student,” who came to Eastern to finish a degree he started elsewhere. Because of this, he and his wife, Kellee, had more time to work off student loans and gain financial and social stability outside of school.
“[In my case] it’s a pretty good financial situation. . . . more financial aid, and you save when you share everything,” he said. “It was great.”
The Mayfields recently departed for two years of Peace Corps service in Ukraine.
Despite the challenges, Goldman said the rush of responsibility can be empowering. “You’re more focused, determined,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”
The logistics of life are “a lot easier than if I was living by myself,” she said. “It’s basically like I have a teammate. We can distribute stress and [chores] among each other. It really helps with the ‘real -life’ stuff.”
Because of their schedules this year, Goldman and her husband, Jeremy, will not have much time together. “That’s very challenging,” she said. “We [previously] spent pretty much every minute together.”
Olson agreed. She and Mastronardi also have conflicting schedules. “It’s kind of frustrating, right now,” she said. “[We’ve] just got to get through the next year.” They will wed June 2013.
Goldman, who lived with her husband for several years before the marriage, stressed that balancing a serious relationship with school is often difficult.
“To be successful is a lot of work. All these things. . . . [are] not just given to you on a silver platter,” she said. “It’s messy. There are family problems, many issues. It doesn’t] just fall together, but if you want it bad enough, it’s possible,” Goldman said. “We’re grateful for what we can do [for] each other.”