I've been seeing this post on Twitter lately that's got me thinking. It's since been deleted, but this is what it read:
"It's college app season and I'd like to remind all my senior girls to NOT make any school decisions revolving around your boyfriend. To be honest y'all will probably break up a few months in, so just save yourself the hurt and regret of sacrificing your education for a boy who doesn't shower enough."
It's an important thing to remember, and I definitely agree...with the first part. High school seniors, please don't make decisions about your future for anyone but yourself!
But at the same time, a major pet peeve of mine is telling people in a relationship, no matter their age, that their happiness won't last.
It may be realistic, but that doesn't mean it needs to be said. It happens. But that doesn't mean it will.
In fact, my relationship started in high school. My boyfriend and I were both 15 when we started dating as sophomores. We were overwhelmed, gifted, and busy, not only with surviving adolescence but with the passions we found within our extracurriculars. I did orchestra and speech and debate. He was also involved in speech and debate, but his commitment to JROTC dominated a significant portion of his time.
We'd been friends since he moved to my school district in seventh grade. In the three years before we started dating, our friend groups at adjacent lunch tables hung out. In one-on-one conversations, we supported each other through crushes gone awry and exchanged puns. When we started dating, we worried about that friendship changing.
I'll be honest with you, it wasn't always easy.
15 is complicated, regardless of what's happening in your social life. I had severe anxiety and an undiagnosed eating disorder, both of which impacted me to the point where I could, at times, barely function. I was so afraid of conflict that I would instinctively cry whenever I could tell someone was angry. He had depression and an extreme temper. The combination of my resistance to conflict and the temper he was still learning to control was one of our biggest issues. It made every minor fight escalate to an unnecessary extreme.
But here's the really special part (in my biased opinion) about our relationship:
We stuck it out.
We were both so damn stubborn and we cared about each other so much that we never gave up on each other. No matter what, we always talked it out. It might have taken a few hours or a few days, but once his anger subsided and I stopped crying, we could have an honest, productive conversation.
Over time, those conversations became even more groundbreaking. He learned better tactics to deal with feelings of anger and how to avoid directing those feelings at people. I learned it was possible to be angry without it being a disaster or the end of a relationship. He encouraged me to stand up for myself, showing me it was okay to defend myself and call someone out when they'd hurt me. Slowly, I gained the confidence to actually do just that.
As we approached our graduation in June 2016, I was nervous. At that point, we had gotten to a stable place in our relationship. I was still enjoying my high school experience. I didn't want anything to change. I was especially afraid knowing James had enlisted in the military and would be leaving for training over the summer. I knew I would miss him, and I was afraid that our relationship wouldn't survive the distance or the change. What if he came back from boot camp and hated me?
Society is so focused on what could go wrong with a high school relationship that it never occurred to me how much could go right.
I thought graduating and being apart would destroy us, but it was after leaving high school that we really started to grow.
I wrote him every day while he was in training. I texted his mom all the time to freak out and commiserate. I moved into college and wrote to him about my new friends, my new job, and how college was actually sort of okay. I checked the mailbox in my dorm lobby so often, people probably thought there was something wrong with me. Whenever there was a letter in there, I often cried on the elevator ride upstairs.
I traveled with his family to his graduation from boot camp, and riding home with him awkwardly sleeping on me in the backseat was all the reassurance I needed that training didn't talk him out of caring for me.
Later that year, I traveled across the country to watch him graduate from his final set of training, then he came home for good as a military reservist. At the end of my freshman year, he came home, met my friends, and we announced our engagement.
During the year that followed, he became close with all of my college friends. He's supported me through three jobs, insane semester work-loads, the beginning of eating disorder treatment, and my transition to life with anxiety medication. I've helped to keep him sane during two part-time jobs he hated and cheered for him when he got the full-time job he loves. I went to the Marine Corps Ball with him, and he sat in the front row when I gave my TedTalk. And, whenever possible, we both go back to chaperone Speech & Debate trips: him as an alumnus and older sibling, and myself as an alumnus and assistant coach.
On January 20th, 2019, my fiancé and I celebrate our fifth anniversary. We have been engaged since December 29th, 2016, and there's no wedding date, but we're planning to move in together soon. We're putting together a really awesome apartment near my school, potentially with some of our close friends as roommates.
I am so grateful every day that the two of us were determined, stubborn, and caring enough to fight for this relationship. We have come so far.
Of course, not everyone will be so lucky, which is why that Tweet's advice is so important. Let yourself grow as an individual in the environment that best suits you and your future. James and I both made decisions based on our own goals and dreams, but we were also able to stay together. And that's why all of this advice is important too.
Above all, talk things out.
Be kind to each other. Support each other on your individual journeys to success. Don't lose sight of why you love this person in the first place. Enjoy growing together, and appreciate the benefits of the conflicts you've worked through.
Not every relationship will survive, and not every relationship should. But when you know, you know. So don't let the statistics and the expectations surrounding high school relationships get you down. It's possible to start and maintain a meaningful relationship at a younger age. It may not happen often, but don't be discouraged. Because it still could happen to you.