At the “ripe old age” of 31, I have known my husband for more of my life than I haven’t. We met when I was in the 4th grade. He was friends with my younger brother, and I thought he was incredibly obnoxious. We grew up going to the same school and the same church and had friends in the same circles, but we most definitely were not friends.
During my senior year of high school though, something changed.
“That annoying kid” I grew up with was starting to do some growing up of his own and slowly but surely we became friends, and by the end of that year we were officially an item. At the ages of 16 and 17 we were just babies, but we were pretty smitten with each other. I have no doubt our parents didn’t think this would last — perhaps they even hoped it wouldn’t last — but it did. We stuck together through all of the ups and downs and growing pains of high school and college.
My husband and I have been happily married for eight years now and have three children of our own. Although they are still quite young (ages 4, 2, and 1 month old) I can’t help but think toward the future. I wonder what they’ll be like as adults. I wonder what things they will excel at — math, science, writing, art?
And yes, sometimes I even wonder who they might marry one day.
Having a child who is only a blink away from going to school, my mama heart can’t help but leap ahead to the future — junior high, high school, college — and wonder with simultaneous fear and hope if they will follow in the footsteps of their father and myself and marry their high school sweetheart as well.
There are obviously a number of reasons a parent would be fearful about their child marrying a high school sweetheart — the thoughts of potential disaster abound. For starters, high schoolers don’t yet have fully developed brains (it’s science). Their frontal lobes (i.e. the part of the brain that is crucial to good decision-making) are not yet fully connected, but they don’t quite realize that yet. As a result, teenagers often feel that they are more grown up and capable of good decision-making than they actually are — I fully remember this feeling.
This is not to say that teens can’t make good decisions, it just means that their good and not-so-good decision-making ratio can be a bit hit-or-miss at times. As a parent, I’m sure this can be a bit (OK, a lot) disconcerting at times — especially when you see your teen making potentially life-altering decisions.
I’ve also seen plenty of friends and acquaintances, who married their young love, divorce before they reached their late 20s. People change and circumstances change and those years of late teens and early 20s are spent doing a lot of soul searching and coming into one’s own; figuring out who they really are and what they really need and want out of life. If those years are spent tied to a relationship, there is the potential of growing apart over time.
But — and this is a big but — sometimes people choose to grow together instead.
My husband and I are very different people than we were as teenagers (thank goodness!). But instead of growing apart, we put in the effort and grew together. There have certainly been challenges along the way (and a brief break-up toward the end of college), but there have been many more positives that came from marrying him. Most of our important stories and life experiences include each other, which is so special. He knows me better than anyone on the planet, and often better than I even know myself. We had a number of years to get to know each other and become best friends before we ever started planning for marriage, which means we sorted out a lot of the issues that people encounter in the early years. We learned how to fight fairly and how to communicate. We learned what makes the other person tick and what makes them feel most loved. We also had time to talk about all of those “hot button issues” that pop up in marriage ahead of time to be sure that we were on the same page where finances, family, and the like were concerned.
Aside from all of these positive aspects, there is one thing in particular that makes me most hopeful as a parent, and that is the fact that we were able to get to know one another’s families really, really well. When you start dating as young teenagers, having your parents involved in your relationship just comes with the territory. You still have curfews and need parental permission for things and your parents are able to be more involved. You hang out at each other’s houses and your parents have a chance to get to know the person that their child is dating — and are also able to get to know the family of the person you’re dating. This is honestly one of the best things about my relationship with my husband: our families.
His family knows and loves me well and my family knows and loves him. This is something that definitely doesn’t happen in the same way when you find a relationship in your adult years. Of course, at some point you’ll introduce the person you’re dating to your family, but they likely won’t get to know them as well in the midst of busy schedules, careers, and potential long distances. If your child meets their future partner while living across the country or the globe from you, it’s quite possible that you’ll only meet them once or twice before they decide to get married, which I can’t begin to imagine.
So, do I hope my children end up marrying a high school sweetheart? I’m not sure. It’s honestly a bit terrifying to think about. It’s nice to look at the positives, though, and see that sometimes something that seems to have all the potential for ending in disaster could actually end up being something really amazing. Obviously I can’t control the future or who my children will choose to love, but I’m excited to see how it all pans out. You know, further in the future. Much, much further.