High school relationships build positive experiences

High school relationships build positive experiences

Graphic by Ashley Clark

Lilly Ludwig, asst. opinions editor

I’ve been dating my boyfriend, Alex, for almost three years. There’s no getting around it; that’s a pretty long time to do anything. However, we’ve managed to grow up together while maintaining a real friendship, so what started as some pretty awkward, freshman year dates has turned into a deep and genuine interest for the well-being of one another.

Despite our years of commitment, I still find that most people in my life tend to take our relationship as more of a pastime than a fundamental part of our lives. People generally assume that because we are young, the feelings must not be genuine. While high school relationships aren’t for everyone, they are for some, and they should be respected like any other relationship.

Young relationships have a reputation for inevitable failure, but I think this is only true because most high schoolers are still trying to figure out who they are and how to be okay with who they are. It can be emotionally taxing to face all the stress of high school while also committing to another person. Alex and I were able to navigate through high school while using each other as support and growing together, but most of my peers have found that it’s easier to do high school while single.

And that’s okay. High school is a great time to learn about other people, and for some, that can be done by “playing the field”.

That doesn’t mean, though, that those who choose to be in a committed relationship are missing out either. Long-term relationships can be extremely valuable learning experiences.

Being committed to someone teaches you what’s okay to do in a relationship and what’s not, and how to treat people that you care about. It teaches you to be selfless. It teaches you patience, forgiveness and the meaning of honesty. It teaches you what vulnerability feels like and the value of someone else’s trust.

These are all things I would have struggled to learn had I decided that being in a relationship wasn’t for me. They are values I have spent the last three years of high school learning, and I am better because of that.

But I already have school and extracurriculars and a future to worry about! A boyfriend isn’t necessary when I already have so much on my plate! Right?

Not so much. The reality is that we can’t choose to fall in and out of love with people the way we choose which classes to take and which clubs to join. Caring about someone isn’t a choice. It just happens.

And, honestly, what’s so bad about nurturing feelings for someone else if you’re in a place where you’re emotionally ready to do so? The purpose of life is not to get the most A’s or join the most clubs. What will ultimately fulfill our lives is the love we have given and received because loving someone is a source of joy. 

Alex has been there for almost all of my happy memories of high school. He’s been my best friend for three years. I still get butterflies in my tummy, and that’s something that’s made me happy.

I think the biggest reason people discourage the “long term relationship” is the fear that we romantics are losing our identities in another person. But this concept disregards the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship, and a sense of identity and independence is necessary for any healthy relationship.

The other fear, of course, is that heartbreak is almost guaranteed. In all relationships, someone is bound to mess up or say something they’ll regret. If they don’t, then someone else is going to go to college out of state, or have different ideas about the future.

Heartbreak is scary, but with it brings lessons we will all need to learn eventually. Heartbreak teaches you how to forgive, how to bounce back, how to compromise, how to solve problems with someone that you care about and also how to let go.

People tend to judge high school relationships as if there’s some rule that says all people must be a certain age before they are emotionally mature enough to handle a relationship, but there isn’t, nor should there be.

All people mature and grow at different rates. All people desire different types of relationships. Even young people.

The most hurtful part of high school relationships, however, is that ultimately we are still in high school. So people do things like start rumors, make assumptions and ask personal questions. People gossip.

There have been days where I’ve shown up to school and heard things about my relationship that just aren’t true, and I know that other couples go through this horror too.

I think sometimes students forget that relationships are extremely personal, regardless of age. As much as you like to think you know about your peers, relationships are complex, and there is always much more beneath the surface than what you see in the hallways.

I know that for me, my relationship has been an incredibly positive aspect of my high school career. It has been a source of constant support and unlimited acceptance. So to all my romantics out there, don’t let anyone discourage you from listening to your heart. Relationships can be scary, but I can tell you from a lot of experience, they are definitely worth it.