Whenever someone finds out that my husband and I are high school sweethearts, they gasp and usually that’s immediately followed by “awww” or some sort of praise. High school sweethearts have become this fairytale, a modern day Cinderella story. It’s not unusual for my single friends or family members to comment on how lucky I am to have found love so early in life, because I have been spared heartbreak, awkward dates, and fishing though a small pool hoping to snag “the one”. Dating is rough these days, so I’ve been told, and therefore finding love early in life is thought to be the perfect beginning to lead to a happy ending. But you know what? Although television, movies, and books depict high school sweethearts as this perfect scenario, it comes with a lot of setbacks, heartbreak, and growing pains that we rarely hear about.
Finding love early in life is complicated. Unfortunately it’s not a linear process of falling deeper and deeper in love and building a bond that’s indestructible just because you’ve found each other before the world has made you rough around the edges, suspicious, or left you broken. In fact, finding love earlier in life takes more work, mostly because you haven’t had the time to work on yourself yet. Therefore, you’ll both likely make a lot of mistakes, change your minds, and fall in and out of love over the years. Because you’re falling in love at the same time that you’re discovering who you really are. I know, it sounds odd to say that finding love early in life can cause heartbreak and devastation, but in a lot of ways it’s like being a child while simultaneously being an adult. In some ways it’s impossible.
Some of the issues with finding love early is constantly having to prove the validity of your relationship. We were young, and therefore were written off as foolish or naive. And with most of the people our age dating multiple people or starting new relationships often, we were like an old married couple just a few years in. In some ways, it was isolating. Over the years we became a team, depending on each other because who else could we relate to? Who else could understand that we were seriously committed to each other during a time in our lives when commitment was viewed as a joke or something that would only hold us back.
As the years passed, and we remained together, we thought the hardest part was behind us. We survived high school and college and now that we were “real adults” we thought we had made it. But we had no idea that there were still years of growing pains ahead and plenty of time for us to change individually. That’s the thing about spending your childhood with someone and growing in to an adult with them by your side, in some ways you’ll grow together but in some ways you’ll also grow apart.
I know, it doesn’t sound romantic and it’s probably not what you were expecting to hear but my husband and I have been together since we were 17 and have known each other since we were 12 or 13. That means, we’ve have been there for each other and with each other through multiple major changes in college, jobs, and careers. We’ve been together through the many games of musical chairs as we attempted to configure the perfect people to keep in our circle. We’ve lost friends and family members both through death and by outgrowing them over the years, and it’s naive to think all of those changes would not change us individually and therefore as a couple.
By the time we were in our late twenties, we had been through so much it was like the equivalent of years and years of marriage or having lived multiple lives or so it felt. We have seen each other go through so many phases, seen each other at our worst, hurt each other, and helped each other. And now, at thirty, married and with a toddler, there’s only a small part of us that even resembles the people we were when we met. And that’s the thing about young love, you evolve over the years, drastically. Although I have been spared having to navigate though the hardships of dating in a world of social media and the internet, finding love early in life is far from a fairytale. It took a lot of faith, sacrifice, hard work, communication, forgiveness, and soul searching to get where we are. We’re still rediscovering each other now that we have unraveled the real us underneath it all. We are still learning to navigate around the new people that have emerged recently. Although the years we’ve spent together have given us familiarity and a sense of comfort, we cannot be blinded by that and think that we’re done working on our relationship. We were kids when we fell in love, and as sweet as that may be, those two kids grew up and still experienced setbacks, heartbreak, and pain. And like every other couple out there, change is inevitable no matter how soon we found each other and we have to find ways to stay connected and we still have to put work in our relationship.