For those of you that don’t know, Branden and I are high school sweethearts. We met when we were 14 and 15 and started dating (the second time around) when we were 16 and 17. More about how met in this post. We were each other’s first and last loves. Upon telling this to other people, the usual response is “Aww that’s so cute!” or “You’re so lucky!” We are certainly blessed and grateful that we met each other so young and were able to share many precious memories together like prom, graduations, college, etc. And while there are many fairytale-like elements to marrying your high school sweetheart, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. As you make the transition from young love to forever love, your relationship is “tested” at every turn.
Branden and I definitely faced those struggles during that transition in our relationship. I’m thankful that we made it to the other side successfully, but always wondered if those struggles meant that we weren’t as good of a fit as I thought we were. Back in March, I carpooled with my friend, Dani, to the Creative at Heart Conference in Roanoke. We had a lot of time to talk about anything and everything during that drive and one topic that came up was that we were both married to our high school sweethearts! And we both instantly touched on how everyone thinks that marrying your first love is such a fairytale, but it is actually quite a challenge at times! I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that these struggles weren’t something that just Branden and I had faced, but rather something that every couple in this situation would face! Seeing how many other married couples out there met early in life (including a lot of my brides!) makes me realize that we are not alone in these struggles! So in a continued effort to improve or help other marriages by sharing experiences from my own, here are my thoughts on a few of the unique challenges that are faced when trying to make young love last!
Allowing room for growth. One of the obvious challenges with choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone that you met and fell in love with at a young age is that you are more than likely going to grow into a different person as you mature and enter into adult life. I think it’s safe to say that most people will figure out “who they are” during those college and early twenties years. That growth period is essential in developing a sense of individuality and how you want to live your life. So when you meet and fall in love with someone at a young age, chances are that they are not going to be that same person several years later. At some point in your relationship, you will have to decide if you still want to be with that person they are changing into or if you want to step aside and go on separate paths. If you choose to stay, you will have to be willing to allow that person to grow and change on their own. This was something that I know I personally struggled with in our relationship. My instincts wanted me to put a tight leash on Branden so that he never stopped being the person I first fell in love with. I feared that he would change into a person that would no longer fit into my life. But I quickly realized that stunting his growth would only cause more problems as he would develop resentment towards me and wouldn’t grow into the person he truly is. Branden and I are both SO different from the people we were when we first met. But by allowing each other to grow and mature individually we were able to become the best versions of ourselves, which in return has made us into better partners for each other!
Changing values and plans. This goes along with previous point in terms of the changes that will be happening throughout the early stages of your relationship. When you first meet, you probably both had an idea of what you wanted your future to look like. Maybe you wanted to settle down as soon as possible and start a family. Or perhaps you wanted to travel the world and go adventures for a few years before settling down. Same goes for your moral and religious values and beliefs. These are all things that are likely to change as you grow and mature. So when you first meet each other, you probably have aligning values and life plans that make you a great fit for each other. But if those values and plans change, you have to decide how to proceed. Is there a mutually agreeable compromise between those your differing views? Or are you willing to sacrifice your plans for the sake of the relationship? Or is it time to just go your separate ways? It’s important that you are both 100% on board with how you choose to proceed and communicate effectively and honestly along the way. Otherwise this issue will turn into a ticking time bomb in your marriage.
Living with mistakes made. When you are in your teens, you are by no means an expert on relationships. Your relationships during that time will be full of mistakes due to your inexperience and lack of maturity. For most people, you will make mistakes, learn from them and go into your next relationship wiser and with a clean slate. But when you end up with the person that you made all those mistakes with, they tend to stick with you. Branden and I were just kids when we first met and started dating. Neither of us had been in a serious relationship before so we had no idea what we were doing! So a lot of mistakes were made and feelings were hurt. Looking back now, we know that we were just naive and we didn’t mean to hurt each other. Those memories still linger, but we are much stronger and wiser because of it!
The “What Ifs”. When you meet your spouse as an adult, they are most likely not the first person you’ve dated. Leading up to that point you have probably dated at least of handful of people helping you to determine what you are and aren’t looking for in a partner. You’ve had a chance to “shop around” and “sow your oats” before settling down with your perfect match. So when you skip that period by marrying your first love, that “what if” monster has a tendency to rear it’s head. When you hit a rough patch in your marriage, it’s hard not wonder if you would have found a better partner if you had the chance to “shop around”. These thoughts lead you down a rabbit hole that can be very difficult to climb out of. During those times when it feels like your spouse is not the perfect partner for you, try shifting your focus on becoming the perfect partner for them. I promise that it will do wonders for you both and your marriage!
Now I know all these points sound like a huge Debbie Downer! I’m certainly not trying to say that marrying your first love is awful or a bad idea! I simply want to be open and honest about the struggles you are faced with and hopefully help others in this situation to not feel alone and know that it’s ok to have these same struggles! I love having the opportunity to spend the rest of my life with the only man I’ve ever loved! I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love that we have shared so many of our adolescent memories together. I love that we are like a real life Monica and Chandler since we have the same circle of friends from high school. I love that all our family members live within a few miles of each other since we grew up in the same town. I love that Branden is like an older brother to my siblings since he has been a part of the family since they were young. I love that we don’t have to worry about jealous exes since we don’t have any! Though our relationship has been tested and challenged, I wouldn’t have it any other way because of where it has brought us to today! Our marriage may be imperfect and full of mistakes, but we are choosing to learn from them and grow into better partners for each other every day! Ok, end sappy post. :)