There is nothing quite like the unique love shared between high school sweethearts. All those first moments, those treasured experiences, the shared journey of transitioning from childhood into adulthood. There’s a reason why television producers and novelists can’t get enough of writing about teenage romance. There’s nothing quite like it.
And the love often feels so passionate and intense- but can it stand the test of time?
Do high school relationships last once the couples enter the real world? Can two young kids withstand the complications of college and the working world and the prospects of navigating an adult life together? Can the romance stay alive, even when life gets challenging?
And despite breakups, are high school relationships worth it? Is it worth the potential heartache and distraction from other priorities? Let’s dive in.
How Long Do High School Relationships Usually Last?
Do high school relationships last forever? If not, what percent of high school relationships last, and how do young couples cope as priorities change?
Are you curious about how many high school relationships last? Maybe you’re reflecting on your own relationship and wondering if you two will defy the odds.
Many people have their first relationship during high school. The adolescent years are marked by wild hormones and newfound independence. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American loses their virginity at age 17- which falls right around someone’s junior or senior year. While not all teenagers have sex with their significant others, many people experiment sexually with their romantic partners.
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Pew Research reports that 35% of teenagers have some experience with dating and romance. At a given time, 18% are currently in some kind of relationship. 14% of those individuals indicate that the relationship is “serious.”
However, once we move beyond the high school years, the statistics tell a different story. Timing plays a significant role when it comes to securing a happy commitment.
According to Brandon Gaille Marketing, married high school sweethearts only have a 54% chance of their marriage lasting ten years (compared to 32% of the average American couple). But if they wait until at least 25 to get married, their long-term success rate jumps to 78%.
Daniel Dashnaw, a marriage and family therapist, indicates that an earlier marriage can affect other life choices. For instance, only 19% of married high school sweethearts attend college. Furthermore, less than 2% earn a college degree.
While college isn’t a measure of success or happiness, it can affect one’s earning potential and class position.
Subsequently, a college education is positively associated with longer-lasting marriages. Therefore, early marriages may place young people at a pivotal disadvantage during a vulnerable time in their development.
Can High School Love Last Forever?
Sure! Chances are, you know a happily married couple, and they’ve been together since their teenage years. Love, in many ways, is limitless, and a high school romance may be the initial start of a lifelong connection.
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Of course, your high school girlfriend/boyfriend may not be permanent. Life can be complicated, and people undoubtedly change as they grow older.
So, how long do teenage relationships usually last? And what makes them fail or succeed? Let’s get to it.
10 Reasons Why High School Relationships Fail
It’s important to understand the main barriers that may impact high school sweethearts. Even if you want your relationship to work, recognizing issues that could arise can help you two prepare for potential obstacles in advance. Here are some common reasons why young relationships don’t work out.
#1 You Care More About Being in a Relationship Than the Relationship
This is a common scenario for many high school students. They love the idea of love more than they love their actual partner!
Peer pressure can exacerbate this effect. For example, if all your friends are in relationships, it would make sense that you want to be in one, too. Or, if you assume that you “need” to be in a relationship to feel good about yourself, you may justify staying with someone just to avoid being alone.
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Sometimes, people aren’t fully aware of their intentions when they enter a relationship. That isn’t necessarily wrong. However, as the relationship evolves, you might find yourself wondering why you’re actually with your partner in the first place!
In all seriousness, you have to genuinely want to be with your partner if you want a satisfying relationship. This means accepting the good with the bad and embracing that hard moments can happen. It also means staying committed to growth, learning, and connection with one another. If you (or your partner) aren’t willing to do those things, the relationship will likely fail.
#2 You Don’t Have the Same Core Values
Do opposites attract? For high schoolers, it may seem to be the case. We’ve all heard of the classic extroverted athlete falling in love with the quiet art student. Maybe you feel like you and your partner have nothing in common. And yet, you two are thriving despite your key differences.
But what does this mean for long-term happiness? According to social psychology research, the notion of opposites attracting may actually be a myth. We tend to be in happier friendships or relationships with people who think similarly to us. We also want to spend our time with people who share common values.
Of course, this information doesn’t mean that you and your high school sweetheart are doomed. But some couples don’t quite realize the impact of their differences until they’re faced with them directly.
For instance, many couples find that they need to share the same values as they move forward together. As an example, you might not care right now that your boyfriend is an atheist. However, this could become problematic if you later intend to raise your children by going to church together every Sunday.
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Likewise, you may have no issue with your girlfriend partying every weekend. But a few years down the road, this habit could become annoying if you hope to settle down.
#3 Your Brain Isn’t Fully Developed
Even if you feel mature or wise beyond your years, modern neuroscience tells a different story. Research shows that the brain doesn’t fully develop until around age 25.
Teens typically process information with their amygdala. This part of the brain is associated with emotion, memory, and fight-or-flight reactions. This pattern may explain why teenagers often present as emotionally-driven, sensitive, and, at times, moody.
In contrast, adults usually think with their brain’s prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is associated with logic, reasoning, and rationalization. This explains why adults may have higher impulse control, delayed gratification, and insight into long-term consequences than their younger counterparts.
Therefore, even if you think you’re making the best decisions right now, you may later change your mind. As you mature, you might find yourself wanting different things. The person you fell in love with may no longer meet your needs.
#4 You Move Away From Each Other
What happens for most students after graduation? According to recent research by the Education Data Initiative, if you’re like nearly 70% of students, one or both of you will enter college in the fall.
College presents numerous opportunities for educational, social, and interpersonal growth. Many people truly start exploring their identities during those formative years. They focus on subjects that interest them and pursue passions and friendships that feel meaningful and authentic.
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So with that in mind, how long do teenage relationships usually last? Many times, the relationship ends within the first six months to a year after starting college. The end may occur gradually, as partners find themselves drifting apart from one another.
This rings especially true if you suddenly enter a long-distance relationship. You’re no longer eating lunch together or laughing in fourth period every day. Now, you have to schedule time for dates, Facetime chats, or visits back home.
This extra effort can put a strain on even the healthiest relationships. After some time, you both may realize it’s not worth it.
#5 You Don’t Really Know What You Want
High school is a time for curiosity and experimentation. You’re discovering your values and priorities, and you may be individuating from your parents for the first time in your life.
Even though you’re establishing your independence, you still have a lengthy process ahead of you. It’s hard to know what you want in another person (or even from yourself) until you’re truly “in the real world” dealing with life’s everyday struggles.
For example, you may love watching your boyfriend play football and listening to music together. But what happens if he gets injured, becomes severely depressed, and no longer wants to do those enjoyable things together? Or, you might love your girlfriend’s rebellious, non-conformist attitude. But what do you do when she refuses to get a job or contribute to paying bills?
High school relationships tend to be built on whimsical, enjoyable love. This foundation isn’t a bad thing- it’s what makes the relationships so valuable and cherished!
Of course, this is not to say that you will likely experience struggles. After all, the teenage years are far from easy. However, there tends to be more of a safety net with family and outside support. After graduation, you may start discovering more of what you do want, and you might be surprised by how your motives change.
#6 You Aren’t in a Healthy Relationship
Instead of asking yourself how many high school relationships last, it might be better to explore the question, what makes a high school relationship last?
Unfortunately, many high school students are in toxic relationships with their partners. They just might not know it. That’s because some of the essential relationship skills that cultivate love and connection require a sense of maturity and lived experience.
For example, a healthy relationship entails:
- A mutual sense of respect.
- Compassion and empathy for one another.
- Patience and tolerance for differences.
- Active listening.
- Compromise during disagreements.
- Open and collaborative communication.
- Appropriate conflict resolution skills.
Relationships can be great when they’re easy. But what happens when life gets inevitably challenging? If you don’t have those healthy skills in place (and many young couples don’t), you might feel overwhelmed when tension occurs.
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You may resort to unhealthy tactics like passive aggression, criticism, or blaming to get your way. Some people may stray from the relationship entirely and cheat on their partners if they feel their needs are not being met.
#7 You (Or Your Partner) Wants to Be Single
It’s a normal desire, especially if you’ve been in a committed relationship for a long time. You may graduate and realize that you want to spend some time alone. Or, you might discover that you want to see what casual dating feels like.
Sometimes, spending time alone helps people learn more about themselves. If you’ve never had this opportunity, you may feel like you don’t have much of an identity. In some cases, the relationship might seem suffocating.
The desire to be single isn’t a bad thing. But this urge makes it hard to care about the relationship, and it can undoubtedly be the trigger that dooms young relationships.
#8 Your Family Doesn’t Like Them
Your family may not have the final word when it comes to your happiness, but they likely have some word! As a teenager, you’re likely affected by how they think and behave. Therefore, it can feel frustrating when they don’t like your partner.
In some situations (like in a toxic family dynamic), nobody will ever be good enough. They’ll find issues with anyone you bring home.
But in other situations, your family may have valid concerns. For instance, they might be worried about how your partner’s influence could affect your goals or self-esteem. Or they may have legitimate concerns about serious issues like drug use, pregnancy, or academic struggles.
Regardless of the situation, it’s essential to pay attention to their concerns. Is anything legitimate? Are they worried about something you’re trying to suppress or deny? Should you be listening to what they have to say?
#9 You Experience an Unwanted or Unplanned Pregnancy
Although teenage pregnancies are declining, research from Do Something shows that approximately 30% of American girls get pregnant by age 20. Parenthood is one of the leading causes of dropping out of high school. Moreover, 80% of teenage fathers do not marry the mother of their child.
Teen parents face enormous struggles. Even under optimal circumstances, raising a child is challenging. It changes one’s entire life. When pregnancy happens to teenagers, the task of parenting often feels insurmountable.
As a result, even happy young couples may find themselves arguing more and more. They may disagree on how to raise the baby, and these conflicts can encompass everything from finances to discipline to how each person spends their free time.
If you are sexually active with one another, it’s important to be safe. Pregnancy can change the entire trajectory of your life- you need to discuss (and likely mitigate) this risk before moving forward with one another.
#10 You Have Significant Age Differences
Age may be just a number, but it’s far more than that when it comes to minors and dating. For instance, in the United States, every state has specific laws for when someone can consent to sexual activity. This can certainly cause complications in teenage relationships when one partner is significantly older than the other.
Many countries have legalized “Romeo and Juliet” laws in recent years. These laws permit certain minors to consent to sex with their partners within a given number of years. However, each country has its own rules, and the statutes can change.
Of course, the legal nature of being in a relationship isn’t the only barrier associated with large age gaps. While three years may not seem important in an adult relationship, the emotional differences between a fourteen-year-old and, say, a seventeen-year-old often feel drastic.
If one partner graduates high school and “moves on” from their teenage years, they may feel like the relationship is holding them back. At the same time, the high school partner might want to simply “enjoy” their youth without being in such a serious relationship with an older person.
8 Ways to Make a High School Relationship Last (Forever)
Once you start diving into high school relationships statistics, you may feel discouraged. You might even be asking yourself, are relationships in high school good? If so many fail, should I be focusing on other things instead?
#1 Anticipate the Effort
There’s a good chance that your relationship will feel far more challenging after graduation. Entering college, working full-time, becoming an adult- these are all significant life transitions that affect your entire well-being. Unfortunately, they can also be taxing on your relationships.
And so, if you want to make the relationship last, you need to anticipate that you will both need to put forth an effort. Things will likely get harder. Life will feel more complicated.
You two need to be on the same page with prioritizing your relationship. If one of you is wishy-washy about the dynamic, it probably won’t last.
#2 Establish Clear Ground Rules
What are the boundaries you want to have in your relationship? You may not have considered this question when you first met, but it’s essential to ask yourself if you want the love to last.
Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to their relationships. For example, some couples expect clear and ruthless honesty- at all times. Others may be more forgiving with the occasional white lie.
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Other couples might prefer strict monogamy. Physical and emotional affection is black-and-white, and there’s no excuse for infidelity, friends-with-benefits, or anything in-between. Other couples might entertain the idea of opening the relationship.
Ultimately, you two will have to decide on the rules that work best for your relationship. However, regardless of what you choose, ongoing communication is crucial. You both need to be on the same page, and you both need to understand the consequences of what could happen if one of you breaches the other’s trust.
Finally, rules may change over time. That’s okay, but you need to maintain collaborative discussions before making executive decisions.
#3 Maintain Regular Dates
As much as possible, it’s important to maintain a sense of romance within your relationship. It can be easy to fall into a predictable rut, especially if you’ve known each other for a long time.
As you know, relationships require work. Even “dating” (the fun part!) can feel like work! But the more both parties involved are willing to “work” on what makes things exciting and passionate, the better the relationship will be.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to spend all your time together. But you should have a standing date night to keep things fresh.
#4 Establish Your Independence
No matter how connected you feel, it’s essential that you also prioritize your autonomy. As you grow up, you need to cultivate your passions and interests. You can’t rely on anyone to fulfill those needs for you.
So, spend time apart. Make a genuine effort to establish close friendships (and not just with mutual friends). Consider living on your own before rushing in to move in together.
Forming your own identity- separate from anyone else- is imperative for your self-esteem. But it also makes your relationship more fulfilling! It’s much better to spend time together when you have interesting things to contribute to the relationship!
#5 Practice Healthy Conflict Resolution
No matter how much you love each other, some arguing is unavoidable. All relationships hit rough patches. You both need to prepare yourselves for managing tension appropriately.
In some cases, that means learning how to “fight fairly.” When you fight fairly, you respect each other unconditionally. You don’t resort to name-calling, criticizing, or other harmful jabs. Instead, you walk away or take a moment to regroup if you feel yourself becoming escalated.
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Healthy conflict resolution also means owning your behaviors and apologizing when needed. Don’t let your pride or ego get in the way. It’s important to recognize your wrongdoings and make conscious efforts to fix them.
#6 Focus on Shared Goals
What do you two want to achieve in the next year? What about in the next five or ten years?
Having mutual goals keeps you two close and connected. When you’re in high school, it’s typical to focus on the daily routine of homework, after-school clubs, and spending time with friends. But after graduation, the priorities naturally shift.
Working together towards shared goals keeps you two working together as a team. And the more you feel like you’re on each other’s side, the more inspired you’ll feel to prioritize the relationship.
#7 Consider Couples Therapy
Even the happiest couples can benefit from professional support. Therapy encourages couples to reflect inwards and work together to maintain the relationship’s integrity. In addition, you will learn healthy communication skills and proactive ways to solve problems.
If you two are planning on getting married, premarital counseling may be beneficial. According to Elisa Willits-Spolin, LMFT, couples work helps people understand the individual values that may block healthy relationships. Learning these barriers ahead of time can prevent excess suffering after you have tied the knot.
Melanie Slep, LMFT, LPC, NPCC states that couples who attend premarital counseling have a 30% lower divorce rater than couples who don’t attend. Likewise, she reports that premarital work can help explore sensitive topics like finances, sex and intimacy, extended family, children and parenting, and spirituality.
#8 Remember Why You’re Together
When the relationship becomes hard, it’s always important to know how to ground yourself. Why are you with your partner? Why are you dedicated to making your relationship last? What is it about them that makes you feel so happy or special?
Reflecting on these questions can help you keep things in perspective. It’s easy to lose sight of our relationships, especially when we become habituated to our partners. But you need to prioritize gratitude. Appreciating your partner reminds you why you’re together. Having those positive thoughts can anchor you when you start doubting things.
Take time to make your partner feel special regularly. Leave them love notes around the house. Text them a sappy, flirty message just to tell them you’re thinking about them. Surprise them by cooking their favorite dinner.
In other words, keep treating your partner like you’re still falling in love. Don’t allow yourself to get too complacent!
Are high school relationships worth it? Only you can answer that! But even if your relationship doesn’t last, you can learn so much from dating. You will take those experiences with you as you continue evolving as a person. Ideally, even bad relationships can teach and prepare you for finding good relationships later in life!
And despite the high school relationships statistics, all relationships are inherently unique. If you’re in a happy situation, there’s no reason it can’t last! So keep staying the course, stay open to one another, and enjoy the special love you two share!
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