HOW TO: Stay in love past graduation

HOW TO: Stay in love past graduation

Cute couple kissingGraduating high school brings much excitement … and much stress.  You have colleges to choose from, student loans and the haunting question of to break up or not to break up?  Sometimes that diploma can look a whole lot like a death certificate for a relationship with your high school sweetie.  But whether you’re concerned about surviving a long-distance relationship or wondering how sharing the new atmosphere will change you, ME got the scoop on how to make the transition a whole lot smoother.  We put together a panel of high school sweethearts (now married) and got them to share their expert advice on making your love last past graduation!
Think ‘Me before we’ 
Chances are you’ve been told to make sacrifices for love. After all, Bella gave up human life for Edward, Rose gave up a life of wealth for Jack, and Juliet…well, you know.  But the truth is at this point in your life, you should be a little selfish!  As tempting as it may be, don’t settle for a school just because it’s mere miles away from your Boo.  If your dream school or awesome career takes you far away from home (and your special someone), you should pursue it if possible.  If you’re in a supportive relationship, your partner will understand.  Similarly, even if it hurts, try not to be too large of an influence on your partner’s college and career plan.
“Once you start developing a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship…this is your other half and you kind of lose, I think, your identity,” says Micah Elliot, who’s been married to her high school boyfriend, Bruce, for more than 20 years. Micah is a strong believer in independence, pursuing your own dreams before you share dreams with another person. “You have to do things as an individual, I believe, before you can do things together, because you need to figure out what you want out of your life before you can go ahead and say… ‘Would you like to share this particular life with me?’” says Micah, adding that you have know yourself first.
Kristen Harris, who’s been married to her high school boyfriend, Thomas, for two years, has similar advice.  “Be yourself first, make yourself a priority, don’t make your relationship [a priority].”

Take breaks 
“I think we should take a break,” are seven words no one wants to hear.  However, sometimes taking a few breaks can make for a better relationship in the long run.  If you’ve been with someone for the last few years, there are  a whole lot of fish in the sea that you’ve never come in contact with!
Monica Riddle and her husband, Darren, who have been married 21 years and have dated since sophomore year of high school, firmly believe that it is necessary to date other people to affirm that you have found the person you want to be with forever.  They both went on dates in college, but never dated one other person regularly.  Micah and Bruce went the same route, emphasizing the importance of needing to “experience different people.”

While Kristen attended Cal State Fullerton and Thomas worked, the two decided to take breaks from their relationship.  Unlike the other couples interviewed, Kristen and Thomas chose not to date others, using the break more as time to work on themselves.
So what’s best for you and your beau?  That’s a serious talk every couple should have before heading out to college or the work force.  If you’re both comfortable with the idea of dating other people, go for it, and if you’re comfy with exclusivity, don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Be a Wing-woman 
If you and the bf choose to be with each other exclusively, make sure you keep yourself in check.  Sure, get the whole college experience: Study hard and party hard, but when you’re partying it up, don’t put yourself in a sitch where cheating is even an option.
Keep good company. If your best gal pals have boyfriends back home, you’ll be less likely to act like a single girl, and you won’t constantly be jealous of people who do live the single life.  “It’s all in who you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with single people, I’m sure it would be very hard,” says Kristen, adding with a grin, “I was a good wingman for a lot of my friends.”
Accept change
Take a moment to think about what you were like four years ago … totally different right?  Different clothes, different music interest, different views on the world and lifea lot can happen in a matter of a few years, and college is when that gradual process of “growing up” goes for a speedy finish.  So when you’re changing from a fabulous girl to a fabulous woman, make sure you account for the fact that your significant other is going through all the same changes.

“Even though you think ‘I’m gonna be this person for the rest of my life,’ when you’re in high school, you’re not, and neither is the person that you’re with, so in order to make it work you have to respect the changes that they’re making, respect your own changes, and not try to be somebody that you’re not,” says Kristen.  Never pretend to be “old” you, just because that’s who your partner fell in love with. If you’re meant to be, he’ll be just as crazy about ‘new’ you.

Hold the wedding bells for a sec 

You’re certain he’s the one, and seriously considering swapping your grad gown for a wedding gown this summer, or maybe the summer after that. All ME’s couples agree bad idea. “I have a couple of friends who married their high school sweethearts and now they’re getting divorced. It’s sad to see at such a young age… Before you hit thirty, to already have a divorce. They thought they could change the person [their partner was becoming],” Kristen said. “Enjoy your youth!” Micah said. And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?  As cliché as it is, it’s true: You’re only young once.  As magical as marrying your high school sweetheart can be, it’s also a lot of work.  It takes patience, communication and a ton of luck.

So soldier on or rock the single life, either way the “real world” can be just as full of romance as the halls of your high school.

-Karina Stow

Photo Credit: Ronnie Gavelin