Most people look back fondly on their high school sweethearts; I look across the table at mine at dinner every night. My husband and I met when I was a junior in high school, and we’ve been together for the last 17 years.
When I tell people that now, as an adult, the response is pretty positive. But earlier on in our relationship, we endured a lot of judginess. We hadn’t played the field enough; we were limiting our options; we were holding each other back. I know the people around us had visions of us having a baby too soon, getting stuck in our hometown, missing out on life experiences, and eventually splitting up. And that’s fair; that’s the way it goes for a lot of people.
But our relationship wasn’t typical. We weren’t codependent, and we didn’t miss out on our college experiences. We did the long-distance thing the entire time we were in college, and although we remained faithful to each other, we were also able to have our own experiences, our own friends, and our own lives. He went out to bars in the city with friends from work; I went out dancing with my roommates and spent weekends at the beach. But we always knew we would end up together, and once I was done with school, I moved to San Francisco to be with him. Within a year we were engaged, and within three, we were married. Sounds fast, but at that point we had been dating for NINE years.
Now, 18 years into our relationship and eight years into our marriage, I can pretty safely say that marrying the first person I ever seriously dated was the best decision I’ve ever made. Here’s why.
- No Tinder, no Match.com, no blind dates. Not just “anymore,” but . . . ever. Sure, I had a couple other boyfriends when I was, um, 15. But my adult life has been free of awkward first dates, one-night stands, and heartrending breakups, and I’m grateful for that.
- We had a long, long time to discuss what we wanted out of life before we got married. I basically married the person I played MASH with, so he’s been well aware from the start of how many kids I wanted and whether I planned to live in a mansion or apartment.
- We were there for each other’s awkward teenage phases, and we lived to tell the tale. I don’t have to be embarrassed for him to stumble across my junior prom photos with my ’90s hair because . . . he was my date, rockin’ the ’90s right along with me.
- Holidays are a nonissue. We don’t have to bounce around from one person’s hometown to the other; when we talk about going “home” for Christmas, we’re both talking about the same place.
- We’ve gotten to experience some of life’s most important milestones together. We were together through high school graduations, college acceptance letters, voting for president for the first time, and buying our first legal drinks.
- We’re into a lot of the same stuff. High school, and the people you spend it with, shapes your taste in crucial things like music, movies, and junk food. Sure, our tastes have evolved and changed, but we’re still happy to settle in with a John Cusack movie and an In-N-Out burger (animal style, natch) any day.
- We learned each other’s childhood dreams and then got to watch them come true. Watching my husband put himself through school to do what he loves was even more meaningful knowing all the burgers he had to flip and dishes he had to wash to get there.
- We share a family. We’ve known each other’s families since we were teenagers, so there is no “his” and “mine.” My grandparents call him their favorite grandson; I love his brother like my own.
- We got a lot of time together before we had to start being adults. For the first near decade of our relationship, we had no car payments, no demanding careers, no real obligations. That resulted in a lot of fun and a solid foundation for our relationship before adult worries set in.
- We learned who each other really was before we learned to put our guards up. At 16, you haven’t had time to develop relationship hang-ups or put up walls; what you see is what you get.
- We keep each other honest. Just try being someone you’re not around the person who’s known you since before you were a legal adult.
- We had a solid support system through the hardest moments of our early adulthood. Your late teens and early 20s are rough, man. You leave home and have to decide what to do with the rest of your life; you form and break friendships like nobody’s business; you have to learn to navigate the real world. Having a steady partner through all that change is priceless.