Common Stresses of Being an Engaged/Married CNU Student

To: Kelsey Ripa, Lifestyle Editor for CNU Captain’s Log

From: Wes Watkins, Student at Christopher Newport University

102 Suite Life Circle, Newport News, VA 23602

Subject: The Stresses of Being an Engaged/Married CNU Student

Date: September 29 2015


The purpose of this phenomenological study is to analyze and document the stresses and conflicts of being an engaged/married college student. The data for the study will primarily be retrieved from the demographic of married or engaged students at Christopher Newport University.


There are only a handful of students at Christopher Newport University that have decided to take the plunge into marital engagement during their academic years, but research regarding the emotional and mental conflicts involved with being a spouse and a full-time student is not readily documented. While the project may not be as simple as measuring the level of happiness in married/engaged students, the main objective is to uncover the variety of stresses that impose married couples rather than unwed couples at CNU. Whether there are any differences in stresses between married/engaged couples and unwed couples is the baseline of the study, and in order to achieve the data surveys will be employed as well as extensive interviews with married/engaged couples as well as unwed couples. The overall seriousness involved in the commitment of marriage and the variety of emotional tensions that come with engagement is a topic generally unexplored by studies, and since engaged/married students are a minority on campus, the topic remains relatively unnoticed by the majority of the student/faculty body. The data obtained from the phenomenological study will bring to light the variety of stresses married/engaged college students face on a daily basis.


In the fall I examined the similarities and insights into the particular stresses of engaged/married students at CNU. The marital status of college students should theoretically have an impact on their academic success and extracurricular activities, and the variety of stresses and inconveniences involved in engagements was documented through surveys. A phenomenological approach was implemented for data collection in order to analyze the stresses of engagement/marriage strictly as a common phenomenon experienced by fellow college students. The experience of the phenomenon, in this case marriage/engagement, was analyzed for its unique stresses on each individual, and the findings suggest a commonality in stresses between them. After horizonalizing the data, each answer from the surveys were diluted into themes, and those themes were used to convey the overall stresses and commonalities of the phenomenon of marriage/engagement with CNU college students.

Key words: marriage, engagement, CNU, students, stress


The majority of students that attend Christopher Newport University are unmarried, so the demographic for the study already stems from a small pool within the campus community. With a focus on the phenomenon of engagement/marriage on students and not faculty, evidence from surveys suggests that there are a variety of stresses and complications that interfere with student academic life. An analysis of married/engaged CNU student answers reveals a host of commonalities and differences in experiences between other married/engaged CNU students.


A phenomenological approach was used for research on the topic of the stresses related to being an engaged/married CNU student. Specifically, a transcendental/psychological type of analysis was implemented in order to study the impact of marriage/engagement as a phenomenon that college students experience. The questions for the recipients of the surveys focused on their experiences and stresses, and the method contradicts the rather objective mode of interpretation with the hermeneutic approach to the research. Since the phenomenon of marriage/engagement can be analyzed as a common experience between CNU students, the phenomenological method of research proved more effective than other modes of objective analysis.


The primary method of data collection was from surveys that contained questions pertaining to the stresses of being an engaged/married full-time student at CNU. There were no multiple-choice questions, and the questions were intentionally open to subjective interpretation from the survey recipients. The survey questions allowed for more subjective responses in order to adequately analyze the phenomenon of marriage/engagement and its stresses on engaged/married CNU students. The married/engaged students were emailed the survey questions through CNU Connect and a total of eight responded.


After the data was collected, the responses to the survey questions were horizonalized into significant statements and commonalities, and the answers broken down into a textual description of their experience with marriage/engagement.


  • Textual Description: Most of the survey recipients claimed to struggle the most with time; particularly the differing schedules between their significant others. The variety of stresses included impending wedding plans, academic demands, and the conflicting times with various extracurricular activities. Many admitted that the ability to cope with the stress of being engaged/married relied on open communication with their partners and spending time with one another.


  • Essence: Marriage/engagement for full-time CNU students creates a host of complications with their college experience. On top of an already demanding academic schedule, engaged students mainly have to compromise their time with their significant other in order to uphold satisfactory academic performances and remain involved with on campus activities. The main stress the phenomenon of marriage/engagement adds onto a CNU student’s schedule is time, especially in relation to time spent with their partners and the overall schedule conflicts with their relationships.


While some students revealed that they were engaged to military and non-student partners, the status of the partner held no differing impact on the stresses of being engaged/married. In fact, throughout most of the survey answers, each respondent voiced a variation of the stress with time and schedule conflicts that prevented couples from enjoying each other’s company. The majority of respondents lived separately from their significant others, but the separation did not seem to increase stress but only created inconveniences in their engagement/marriage. The phenomenon of marriage/engagement on CNU full-time students consist of conflicting schedules, struggles with communication, and an overall stress with impending engagement responsibilities while also performing well academically.


  • Data Visualization: The data collection was transferred into Voyant Tools in order to analyze word frequency in the survey answers. After excluding several superfluous words and pronouns, a word cloud selected the most frequent words within the data:


The most frequent word revealed to be “time” (20), followed by keywords “together” (16), “engaged” (11), and “wedding” (7).

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.28.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.28.19 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.28.27 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.28.33 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.28.41 PM

Each table reflects the relative frequencies of the word in each numbered section (1-10) of the document with data collection, which reveals the varying usage of the word in each response to the same questions.

The keywords suggest that the importance of “time” plays a significant stress in the phenomenon of marriage/engagement with CNU students. Although the word “time” in its context could be applicable to other topics within the data, it still relays the notion that the theme of scheduling and other obligations related to time serve as a primary stress for students. Other words such as “together” and “wedding” suggest a relation with time in its frequency and usage, particularly the combination of “time together” or impending wedding dates.

While the data visualizations offer textual evidence of frequent word usage to highlight keywords to suggest an overall commonality in the phenomenon between CNU engaged/married students, the phenomenological study reveals evidence of various stresses and conflicts students endure while being full-time college students.

 Reference Page



Survey Questions

  • Do you live together or separately?


  • Do you share similar classes?


  • How much time do you regularly spend outside of class with each other?


  • What do you find to be the most inconvenient aspect of your engagement/marriage? What do you find the most convenient?


  • What’s the most stressful aspect of being a full-time student while also being engaged/married? Be specific


  • How do you usually overcome that stress?


  • Would you recommend other college students to get engaged/married? Why or why not?

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