If you’re a college freshman, there's a good chance you've heard about the “turkey dump.” The crudely-named phenomenon allegedly occurs over Thanksgiving break, when college students go back home and end things with their high school sweethearts. With high school relationships on the brain this time of year, J-14 is attempting to answer the eternal question: do high school relationships last? The short answer is yes...and no. Some relationships do, some relationships don’t, and there’s no crystal ball that will tell you which camp you fall into. Sorry, folks.
Every person's situation is different, but we’ve rounded up a variety of real-life stories, addressing nearly every possible outcome, from brutal breakups to marriages lasting over 40 years. So, can high school relationships last? Read on to gain some perspective. Here, we address all the questions you've been dying to ask!
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1. Let's start with the romance. Do high school relationships last in marriage...ever? These ones did!
Midori, 59: “We started to get to know each other church. He was 14, I was 13. We all hung out together as a big group. Gary was very different than the other guys I spent time with. We started dating when I was 16 and he was 17. We had a lot of ups and downs. As time passed, he let me be me with all my faults. I learned in time not to try and change him. What makes it work for us now — almost 37 years of marriage, almost 43 years since we started dating — is I always try to make him happy, always think of him first, and in turn, he does the same for me.”
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Tommy, 65: "Little did I know that going out with my friend's younger sister would change my life forever. I was 18 years old and in college, having just graduated from high school earlier that year. [My friend] Edmond's sister, Bonnie, was 16 years old and was a junior and cheerleader at [another school]. That first date was magical. I had dated a number of girls growing up, but she was just different. With Bonnie, we both felt so comfortable with each other that our conversations just flowed, date after date, to this day. I do understand the old adage that while growing up you need to date various people to know what is out there. However, in our situation, we felt our relationship was meant to be. With all the curves that life throws into a relationship, when you find that special someone where everything just seems to work out well together, you seize the moment and run with it. We were fortunate to have found our lifelong partner when we were young. We dated five years before we got married in June of 1975. We have now been married 42 years and have raised two caring and responsible adult children.”
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2. On the flip side: do high school relationships last forever, in most cases? Well, we're no statisticians, but these ones didn't...
Nathan, 29: "I was a year older in school than [my high school girlfriend]. I went to college at the University of Iowa, in [our hometown], so we still dated. Then, when she got accepted in the University of Iowa and was going to go to the same school as me, I was really excited about it. She wasn’t as excited about it. We broke up the summer before she went to school. I remember the breakup was rough at the time because she broke up with me, but [after that], she was distracted with college and I was distracted with college."
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Emily, 24: “I had two boyfriends in high school, but both were pretty much just boyfriends in name, more like the kind of boyfriend you’d have in kindergarten. My friends were all getting boyfriends, and I wanted to keep up, but I managed to not have my first kiss until I was 21. I haven’t spoken to either one of them since high school – the first has no social media (bullet dodged there), but my parents still post Happy Birthday messages on the second’s Facebook every year.”
Jason, 25: “In high school, I was so desperate for affection and the pool of gays was dismally small. When he started calling me his boyfriend after our first date, I didn’t question it. A boy liked me and that was all that mattered! I didn’t even stop to consider if I was attracted to him physically or attracted to his personality. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I wasn’t attracted to him either. I didn’t know how to break up with him, so I just ignored him until he broke up with me."
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3. Real talk: can high school relationships last through college? Yes! But that doesn't always mean they'll last beyond university...
Emy, 24: "I dated my high school boyfriend for almost eight years, but we aren't together anymore. We dated from 2007 until the very beginning of 2015. We were somewhat long distance after high school, and moved in together for a year before I graduated from college. I moved to Los Angeles from Boston for my last semester, and he was supposed to come out after that semester with all of our belongings and our cat. I think the time apart kind of made us realize that we weren't right for each other, because he postponed the move, then I postponed the move, and after we saw each other over Christmas we realized it wasn't what we wanted anymore.”
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4. Well, can ever you get back together with your high school ex after a breakup? It's definitely possible — for the right person.
Alex, 25: “I'd like to think high school relationships last, at least if you really want them to. I started dating my current boyfriend when I was a freshman in high school. He was a junior, so it was major. We were definitely a really solid couple until he went to Uconn and that's when I pulled the whole, 'It's not you, it's me' card just after his freshman year. I wanted to enjoy my last year of high school with my friends and not have to worry about seeing him on the weekends or planning senior year activities around his schedule. I wanted him to have a college experience, too. I knew that if we didn't take this break, we'd eventually end up resenting each other because we would have never known anything else. After high school...we still talked every day and hung out with each other when we could during the holidays, but we weren't in a relationship anymore. It was when I moved to Boston after college that we started hanging out more than just four times a year. We ended up getting back together and are currently in the strongest phase of our relationship I think we've ever been in. So, yes, if anyone asks, I'll say my high school relationship did last. It just had a little bit of a break in between so we could figure ourselves out. We grew up yet also grew back together.”
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5. If things don't end up in a romantic reunion, can you still be friends with your high school sweetheart after your breakup? It depends.
Anna, 25: “My high school relationship did end in my senior year of high school. He wanted to sit around playing video games and I was always more active in sports/outdoorsy. We would have a fun time together by being random and silly and it was super fun. I knew I didn't like him enough to make it work forever, so we broke up and unfortunately lost our great friendship.”
Nick, 33: “[One of my high school relationships] ended right before Valentine's Day after about five months. Man, talk about savage, right? My little 16-year-old heart was broken and, to make matters worse, I busted my ankle playing basketball, so was on crutches while it was snowing. I remember a handwritten letter from my ex outside of math class to talk about why it ended, but, really, it kept going for a few more months and now her and I are great family friends. In my two serious high school relationships (written with a grain of salt), I got broken up with once and broke up the other one myself. In both cases, I'm still good friends with both gals, so, apparently, it wasn't too much of a heartache for anyone involved.”
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6. How often do high school relationships last? It's hard to say. And plot twist: maybe you'll end up dating someone later on, even if you never dated in high school.
Jen, 25: “When it comes to high school romances, I'm one of those cynics who believes they aren't meant to last. You're constantly changing during those high school years and while you might end up in a comfortable relationship for years on end, who you are at 16 years old isn't who are at 18, or further down the line at 25 years old. But then again, how I view teenage love isn't how it is for everyone. Take my parents, for example. They've been together since they were 16 [or] 17 years old and dated for four years before they got married. Now, they're about to approach their 40-year wedding anniversary. They've literally been together for 44 years, that's a ridiculously long time. So they're proof that, hey, high school love can last a lifetime. Guess you can find the right person at an early age and go through the ups and downs of life and growing up together. You would think I wouldn't be such a skeptic…”
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Amber, 27: “I have a few sets of friends who married their high school sweethearts and I am currently dating someone from my high school (though we weren't friends back then). My high school boyfriends and I split over a number of reasons — college, taking different approaches to our futures, distance, etc.”
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7. So, are high school relationships worth it? Even if they don't end up in marriage, they're still meaningful.
Renee, 59: “Do high school relationships last? Some do, as there are many married couples who were high school sweethearts. Mine didn’t. Brett and I dated all through high school. He was my only boyfriend all four years — attending his sporting events, playing in the band together, going to all the dances and, our senior year, being ‘crowned’ Prom King and Queen. I thought we were in it for life, but once off to college, the two-hour separation was too far to keep dating, and I broke up with him. Although our five-year relationship did not last, he still has a special place in my teenage heart. Forty years passed, a 35-year marriage in place, and two grown children later, even though he never reciprocates, I send him Christmas cards just to remind him of that!”