How We Keep Our Marriage Strong: Lessons From High School Sweethearts

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I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I met my future husband. Five years later, Sean and I were walking down the aisle. As of today, we’ve been married for eight years.

Statistically, only 2% of high school relationships last, but we have years of hard-fought experience on how and why we stay in our relationship. Over the course of our partnership, we had to take several steps to stay committed, communicate, and band together. We quickly discovered that the world was going to throw obstacles at us, like financial hardships, difficult jobs, and family drama. So we learned that rather than fighting each other about those issues, we would fight the issues as a team. As we like to say, “It’s us against the world!” Here’s how we’ve made our relationship work.

We became best friends before dating

I met Sean when I was 17, but because of my family’s rule, we couldn’t date until I turned 18. While both frustrated by the restriction, we eventually grew to be grateful for what it ultimately forced us to do – become best friends. We spent time together in groups since we had a solid community of mutual friends. We would hang out at lunch, go out with others to the mall or the beach, and talk on the phone often. It set the tone for our entire relationship and taught us that our partnership was more than feelings – it was a deeper friendship than either of us had ever experienced.

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We listened to God instead of the naysayers

When we officially started dating, it became clear that my family and my friend circle had doubts about Sean. He was tough, outspoken, and nothing like the rest of my family. Their doubts started weaving their way into my head, and I even broke up with Sean for a time because I didn’t know what to do. 

While we were apart, I prayed a lot. It often felt like I couldn’t discern between the voices of my family and the feelings in my heart. That’s when I remembered a piece of wisdom my mom taught me ­– follow the peace. When faced with a difficult life choice, I can almost always feel a sense of peace (or lack thereof) as soon as I make a decision. It’s deep in my soul, a weight lifted off my chest. So when I ultimately made the choice to stay with Sean, I felt an overwhelming peace of God settle over me.

We supported each other

When we first started dating, Sean and I talked a lot about what we wanted in life. We were just about to start college and dreaming about our careers, our goals, and what we wanted out of our relationship. And we were about to attend colleges 50 miles away from each other.

We survived the distance by championing each other. We rotated who would drive to visit the other. We supported each other’s personal goals. We allowed one another the freedom to explore new careers. We held each other up when we failed, celebrated when we succeeded, and joined hands to endure all of it. Our relationship would have cracked if we hadn’t relied on our faith and supported each other through all the obstacles we encountered. It has endured and continues to endure.

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We have clear communication

Communication is the cornerstone of our relationship. Early on, we both agreed that we wanted to date with the intention of marriage and save sex for our wedding night. Because we communicated that to each other from the start, it held us both accountable to what we said.

Being honest and forthcoming in our communication sometimes leads to arguments, but it also helps us to get things out in the open. Our past missteps have shown us how quickly resentment, doubt, and fear can take over. So, Sean and I agreed that we would never go to sleep before an argument is over. We work it out before our heads hit the pillow.

We didn’t do it alone

Sean and I know we can learn from the real-life stories and experiences of those around us. We did not get through the last 12 years by ourselves. We’ve looked up to a handful of couples who have experienced many of their own challenges in their relationships and asked them a million questions. It’s their Godly wisdom that has helped us on our journey.

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