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Taylor’s Table Talk: High school-to-college sweethearts not doomed

The first day of college brought excitement for a new era. Out of high school and starting anew, I delighted in the new opportunities and friendships I would make. Yet, my first day came with a new apprehension: would I fall into the doomed high school sweetheart trope? 

Approximately only 2% of high school relationships end in marriage, and 70% of all relationships end in the first year. The changes, new responsibilities, new experiences and distance associated with college can break high school sweethearts. The odds may not seem favorable, but from my experience, there is hope.

My partner and I have been in a relationship since I was a sophomore in high school, and he was a junior. As a college sophomore with a still-thriving relationship, I can say high school sweethearts may not be doomed from day one. There are even some benefits to staying together through college.

For high school sweethearts, the relationship can be one of the constants helping these students through the pressure and changes of college and young adulthood. As freshmen, there are challenges and frustrations related to starting college, such as dorm arrangements and scheduling courses, that partners can relate to and experience together. Unlike traditional college relationships, high school sweethearts go into college with someone in their corner from day one.

Partners can find new ways to connect and grow their relationships as college students compared to high school students. Suddenly facing new stressors on relationships, high school sweethearts find ways to fit in quality time around competing schedules, learn how to study together and survive finals week together. As a high school-to-college sweetheart, working through those struggles with a partner can be rewarding and strengthen the relationship. 

Growing together as college students is hand-in-hand with growing into adulthood. Effective communication is foundational to healthy high school-to-college relationships. As students develop adult communication skills, identity and adult-related responsibilities, these can reflect positively on the relationship.

There are also some health benefits of being a high school sweetheart. This type of relationship can avoid the sexual risks of the college hook-up culture. Unfortunately, the hook-up culture of college can open up more opportunities for emotional and psychological injury and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program offers support and services to student survivors. 

It is important to note long-term partners and high school sweethearts are not exempt from these risks. A 2015 study published in the Preventative Medicine Journal states, “Monogamy directives may not be the best way to curb STIs.” 

As a high school sweetheart, I attribute three key factors to the success of this relationship type in college. First, the “I love you and I like you” mentality: the relationship succeeds when the friendship thrives. Friendship is at the core of successful high school-to-college relationships, alongside partnership.

Second, the relationship succeeds with a clear, honest line of communication. That is necessary for both long-distance and close relationships. Checking in throughout the day, sharing details of the day-to-day and being mindful can help maintain friendship, trust and intimacy.

Finally, the relationship succeeds when partners share similar goals, interests or identities. Those can range from shared education plans, ideas of the relationship’s trajectory, similar academic goals, career goals, shared moral codes, activities or religious beliefs. The point is to foster a connection between partners. Commonalities provide opportunities for partners to connect deeply and promote a thriving friendship.

The first day of college brings both excitement and apprehension for high school sweethearts. Some, like me, ask, “Will I fall into the doomed high school sweetheart trope?” Yet, there is an opportunity for a perspective shift. The first day is also day one of a potentially long, healthy high school-to-college relationship.

Taylor Orcutt is a sophomore studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Taylor know by tweeting her @TaylorOrcutt

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