High School Sweethearts: Do These Relationships Really Work?

Ava Chen, Editor-In-Chief

For many high school students, imagining their final semester of senior year makes them think about dancing during prom or throwing their caps at graduation. Very few students would think about walking down the aisle or saying “I do” immediately after graduation, but for a very small subset of students, marrying their high school sweetheart is in their plan. However, according to some researchers, being a high school sweetheart may not be as sweet as it seems.

This concept of high school sweethearts, students marrying their high school partners, is not new, but may be less common than it has been in the past. Despite high school sweethearts being a relatively popular book and movie trope, very few people actually marry their high school partner, and even fewer get married right after high school these days. 

According to a 2019 report by the US Census Bureau, 0.9% of males aged 15-19 are married, and 1.1% of females aged 15-19 are married. While this data does not specifically state what percentage of these marriages are between high school sweethearts, the general decline in the percentage of people marrying in their teen years indicates that fewer people are deciding to marry while still in high school. Based on US Census Bureau data, over the last few decades, people are opting to get married at older ages. This makes a lot of sense because one of the most prominent factors that breaks up relationships, especially high school relationships, is immaturity. 

“I feel like most high school relationships won’t work because, in high school, people are more immature and relationships can be more shallow,” said Joey Mattson, ‘22, whose parents are high school sweethearts. “I think someone should wait until they are financially stable and then get married, which is likely after college. I think it’s possible for a high school relationship to work long term if both people are mature and willing to put in the work. It would be hard I’m sure. Still, I think high school relationships can be good. I do think it’s nice to have a relationship to learn how relationships work. But, if you are in a relationship, I don’t think you should limit your post-high school choices just because you are in a relationship.”

Even if high schoolers are mature and willing to put in the work as Mattson said, the bitter reality for high schoolers seeking to marry their high school sweetheart right after high school is that they experience higher divorce rates compared to their peers that marry at older ages. Alarmingly, only 19% of people that marry their high school sweetheart attend college, and, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Relations, those with a limited education are more likely to get divorced.

Still, that does not mean that all high school relationships end in heartbreak. Megan Rank, MHS VANTAGE and business teacher, married her high school sweetheart. 

When reflecting on her experiences, she said, “It’s interesting for me to reflect because, in the moment, when I was in the relationship, I felt very mature and like it was the right thing. I got married at 22, which to me didn’t feel too young, simply because I had known my soon-to-be husband since I was sixteen, but when I look at current high school relationships, they seem very young to me. When I get wedding invites from people who are 25 or younger, it seems like they are getting married very fast even though that was me at the time, so being in it versus looking at it I have two very different perspectives.”

Unlike high school sweethearts that marry right after high school, Rank went to Washington University in St. Louis, MO and her now-husband went to Augustana in SD. 

She explained, “We had a long-distance relationship for four years, and I’ve had students come and ask me whether I recommend it and what are my suggestions, and my suggestions are don’t do it because it was really hard. But, what it established for my relationship was an incredible level of trust. I couldn’t keep tabs on him so to speak. I had to simply talk to him, so we built a very strong foundation of communication, which I think is a huge issue in a lot of relationships, and I also had to build a huge level of trust…I think those are the two pieces that really strengthened our relationship and made it a nice, solid foundation for what it is today.”

Overall, based on the data and Rank’s personal experiences, it is clear that marrying one’s high school partner may not be as sweet as it seems. However, with enough communication and dedication, a high school relationship might just last a lifetime.