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The Good & Bad of High School Sweethearts
Based Upon Life Experience, not Theory...
In a world with relationships becoming more complex, attention spans shrinking, and options transcending physical proximity thanks to social media, “high school sweethearts” stand out as a unique phenomenon.
The entire notion of finding love during adolescence and embarking on a lifelong journey together sounds like a fairy tale. However, like any coin, there are two sides to the story. In this piece, I'll share some pros and cons of being high school sweethearts with my wife, shedding light on our extraordinary experience.
My wife and I have been together since we were 16 years old, which is both good, & bad; everyone loves to talk about growing together and the longevity element to this unique relationship status. I’ve noticed that few ever share the “growing up” part, which isn’t always the American Dream people think it is.
Some unique elements of finding a long-term lover early in life:
Most men have wives who’ve only known them as Men; mine saw me when I was still a boy.
Most wives have had
Most married couples meet when they know what they want from life, Jackie and I had to figure it out, live in front of each other, and when we made mistakes, we had to watch the other admit that and then circle around only to go back out into the world to try again.
The inside jokes can go back to a time before either of you had a driver’s license.
The “well of memories” is much deeper, and when things get hard, you can go further back than most in the reasons why you continue to stick together.
This tweet has garnered some attention which was the inspiration for this post. I wanted to take the discussion further than the limitations that come with a tweet.
Read the original tweet by clicking the image below
Yes, there is a world of pros to this; we married young and had kids young, so we are enjoying the reality few have at this age; we literally get more time with our children, and we are going to experience the “next phase” of having grown children while still young enough to enjoy it with youthful vitality and open minds.
When our youngest child turns 21, we will only be 46.
It’s important that we recognize the issues here and not-so-great elements.
Jackie and I have fucked up plenty along the way, as so many teens and adults do, but instead of sweeping it under the rug, we kept pushing forward with each other by our side. Our track record is not perfect, and that is partially attributed to the fact that we have had a far longer timeline to screw things up than most people. You always hear, “Teens and those in their early 20s do stupid things”, well we were together when we were dumb teens and in our 20s and now 30s...
I don’t care what Mia Khalifa has to say about people who want out of their marriage because they aren’t satisfied or have fallen out of love, etc.
You do you…
But her point is not wrong, in a way, as a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family stated that individuals who settle down with their high school partners may experience a higher degree of curiosity about alternative romantic paths and "what ifs?" It is essential to evaluate personal desires carefully and needs to ensure long-term fulfillment. That is also a testament to my oft-repeated point that you must continue to evolve, and be unpredictable as a lover, lest you become boring, which leads to a desire for “different”.
When you choose to work with the person you’ve committed to, then you need to lean in, learn, and grow with that person. You find a way to love the best of them when you’ve seen their worst and to love who they’re becoming as they are working to be a better version of what they are.
Jackie and I are still standing because we spoke to each other when we weren’t satisfied, fought for healing when we’d burned one another, and grew up together and made sure we kept a spot open for our love in the person we became.
A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that individuals who marry later in life tend to be more satisfied with their marriages. This suggests that marrying at a younger age may hinder personal growth and restrict the opportunity for self-discovery. All of these studies, which speak against the notion of it being a solid course of action to marry young, rely upon the stagnation of growth, development, and cultivation of bonds between individuals.
More time together for good can also be more time together for things to go bad; thus, it is never the quantity of the years you have so much as it is the quality of the years you have together.
I’ve been with my girl for 20 years and married for 15 of them, and the quality continues to rise as the quantity continues to grow.
At 36, we’ve officially been together for more than half our lives; the fact that we still are blown away by that and do not take it for granted is why it keeps working.
- Zachary Small
PS: I would not change anything about the way my life has played out. I’ve not wanted to go back and travel the world, sleep with more girls, or have more “me time”. I’ve had to think about more than just myself since I was 16; I have no idea what it’s like for single adults in their 30s to take care of only themselves. My life, wife, children, and journey are all greater than anything I’d thought they’d ever be.
I love the ride I’m on and wouldn’t trade it for anything.