sticking with my high school boyfriend: the best decision I’ve ever made

Who’s glad his parents stayed together after high school? This guy!

High school sweethearts heading to college often receive one piece of advice from well-meaning people in their lives: Break up.

The distance will test the limits of your relationship, they say. College is a time to make a clean break and meet all new people, they say. You’ll both change so much you won’t have anything in common anymore, they say. You don’t need this kind of stress at this point in your life, they say.

Here’s my advice: Don’t keep your high school relationship just for the sake of keeping your high school relationship. But don’t break up just because seemingly everyone is telling you to break up. If you’re truly meant to be together, your relationship will last.

I know it’s possible because my high school boyfriend and I stayed together. And this was before Skype.

He and I didn’t go to the same high school, but during our senior year we worked part-time at the same office supply store. We had our first date after working the early hours of Black Friday. We said “I love you” in March. When our college acceptance letters came he was destined for a college in Michigan. I was headed to Washington, D.C.

My academic year started before his. The day before I left for college, we spent every waking minute together. He came to my house for a picnic breakfast of homemade pancakes with way too many blueberries. We strolled the streets of a nearby beach town. We sat on a sidewalk bench and made a bucket list. The next day, as my dad drove to my new campus in a packed SUV, I bawled like an infant denied her milk.

After I got to school, my boyfriend and I chatted throughout the day on AOL Instant Messenger. We tried videoconferencing with webcams, but gave up after half of our conversations included the phrases “What?” and “Can you hear me now?” After that, we made a rule that all important talks take place over the phone.

He sent me flowers. I mailed him cookies. During our freshman year he asked me to marry him. Two months later I said yes – after I graduated. During our sophomore year, he transferred to a college in Philadelphia and switched majors, into a program that combined a bachelor’s degree with a master’s. We could now visit every other weekend instead of just during our breaks from class. I found summer internships at newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania, since his academic calendar didn’t include summer breaks.

I graduated before he finished his master’s degree, so I focused my job search on cities within commuting distance of Philadelphia. Eight months after I earned my diploma, we were married.

(People often ask me how I ended up in Pennsylvania. There you go.)

Being hours apart during college was agonizing at times. But it allowed us to achieve personal and educational goals that we couldn’t have pursued as easily on the same campus. We built friendships with amazing people who we still keep in touch with today.

And our time in different cities has made us stronger. We had to trust each other implicitly. We had to respect each other’s independence. And we were forced to talk about difficult subjects. I believe our marriage is stronger because of our long-distance experience.

Three months ago we welcomed our first child, a beautiful baby boy. I’m sure he’s glad the two of us stayed together after high school.

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