Married young: Tying the knot despite the odds
Imagine taking a leap of faith; a leap that will take you, at 20 years old, through sacrifice and great transition.
At a young age, couples like Kathleen and Daniel Dantas have experienced this leap in its rawest form ' through marriage.
A recent Pew Research Center study revealed that only 26 percent of millennials are married, which means today's young married couples are no longer the majority.
While Kathleen and Daniel were prepared to unite in holy matrimony after a lengthy long-distance relationship, Kathleen's parents weren't all on board.
'They were more worried about how we were going to sustain ourselves,' Kathleen said. '[Neither of] my parents completed high school. Getting me through college seemed like a really big priority, we made it very clear to them, this is just as important to us as it is important to you. Now that we're in school and living on our own, they're very proud.'
Because Kathleen and Daniel's Brazilian backgrounds taught them independence at a very young age, they are just as motivated in their studies and jobs as most Lee students. While they do feel their marriage has helped them balance more responsibilities, they have also had to make significant changes.
'Both of us came from families [and] from parents that give [us] everything we need. We had a good life. And when we got married, we had to sacrifice a lot of stuff we used to do,' Daniel said.
The Dantases are not the only couple willing to take a leap of faith. Sophomores Nick and Caden Eckert were wed this past summer.
After navigating their freshman year at Lee, the Eckerts said they felt emotionally and mentally ready to pursue marriage. At the age of 20, they established a covenant with each other and with God. For Caden, marriage meant much more than the 'ring by spring' mantra.
'[College is] a time in your life when you have so much fun, [so] you like to [share] it with someone you love, and to have someone to go through the hard stuff with,' Caden said. 'We're in college, we're in the same major, we're in a lot of classes together, we struggle with the same things, the same temptations, the same friend issues. We never really have to go through things alone.'
As a young married couple, the Eckerts said they are no different than anyone else when it comes to the routine of everyday life.
'We cook. We clean. We work and make money and figure things out. We're fine. We do very well and we take care of ourselves. I think the only time I called my mom was to ask if we could cook chicken and vegetables in the same pan,' Caden said.
During their time of engagement, the Eckerts participated in pre-marital counseling at Lee, a process which Pastor Jimmy Harper highly recommends for young couples.
'I don't think it's ever wise to rush into anything,' Harper said. 'Students should have time to develop a relationship before they get romantically involved and before they say, 'I do.' If you do decide to get married at an early age, you need to be prepared in many different ways.'
For couples like the Dantases and the Eckerts, marriage was a time that has challenged and stretched them. While they have had to give up some of the normalcies they once enjoyed, they've gained more than they could ever imagine.
'Transitions aren't comfortable but they're necessary for growth,' Kathleen said. 'People make marriage [out] to be this fairy tale. In the beginning, I cried a lot. But you get used to it, and it makes you so vulnerable. I hated talking about feelings and I had to learn to talk about feelings [with] Daniel. There are days I still struggle with asking him for things. Sometimes I'm not comfortable, but I'm happy. And there's this saying, 'If you give a man respect, then he'll contribute love.' '