Collegiate engagement: GW students buck marriage trend

It didn’t take long for senior Gina Sebok to decide she was ready to get married. In fact, it only took her three dates.

Now finishing up her last year at GW, Sebok does it as a married woman, following the customs of an observant Orthodox Jewish wife. Sebok met her husband, Raphael Kohn, at a Jewish synagogue in Hungary.

“My family wasn’t really for it in the beginning, but they’re fine with it now,” she said.

Sebok, who was married in August, had a traditional wedding ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But the 21-year-old, is not in the norm.

According to U.S. census data released last week, an increasing number of young adults are delaying marriage. In the year 2006, only 23.5 percent of men and 31.5 percent of women ages 20 to 29 were married according to an analysis of the data conducted by USA Today.

The 2006 percentage points show a significant drop in young adult marriages compared to the year 2000 when 31.5 percent of men in their 20s and 39.5 percent of women in the same age bracket were married.

For engaged couple Chasya Hoagland and Derrick Hiebert-Flamm, age is not a factor in their marriage jitters. The two GW seniors have been dating since first semester their freshman year in the fall of 2004 and are planning to wed in August 2009.

“I believe that people get divorced so much these days because they are getting married so late in life,” Hiebert-Flamm said. “By the time they get married, they’ve created an independent life of their own and don’t know how to share

that with someone else.”

Getting married under the age of 20 is only one factor in marital instability, GW psychology professor Christina Gee said. It has not been proven that marrying young will make or break a marriage.

“For example, one consistent finding in the research is that those who cohabit before they marry are more likely to separate and divorce than those who do not cohabit (before marriage),” Gee said.

Hoagland and Hiebert-Flamm have lived on campus for all four years of college, making it impossible for them to live together, and for the past three years at least one has lived on the Mount Vernon Campus.

“I’ve spent more hours on that shuttle.than I care to remember,” Hiebert-Flamm said.

Gee also said that women who marry before the age of 20 are at a higher risk for divorce, “but there is not a significant difference in divorce rates between those who marry between 20 and 24 and those who are at least 25 years old when they marry.”

Recent graduate Lorelei Kirchner, 21, had her wedding ceremony three weeks ago in Virginia.

“I come from a family with Southern values, so we weren’t allowed to live together until we were engaged,” Kirchner said. Brian Cheung proposed to Kirchner while she was studying abroad in Germany as an undergraduate.

“My family loves that we’re married this young; they love Brian,” she said. “If I didn’t have the family support, it would be hard, but my parents were married right out of college so they were fine with it.”

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