Happily Ever After?

Sweet, passionate, and exciting are all adjectives that you may describe first love, which is often during teenage years.  First love is consuming; the thrill of a first date or kiss can leave you easily lost in thoughts about your future with your significant other.  I admit that I have imagined marriage with my current, serious boyfriend.

 Although it is perfectly normal to have these thoughts, such ideas can lead to hasty and detrimental decisions.  Teens and young adults sometimes justify having sex in the heat of the moment because they see a future, such as marriage, with their partner.  Initially, it may seem as if this reasoning is legitimate.  Having only one sexual partner in a lifetime is certainly far from sexual promiscuity.  Additionally, if both partners have never had sexual contact, the risk of STIs is fairly minimal.

 However, you will probably meet your lifelong partner at an older age, regardless of how blissful your first love may feel.  A 2006 Harris Interactive Poll found that only 14 percent of participants met their spouse during school, which included both high school and college.[1]   I can personally attest that these statistics should come as no surprise. 

 I met my high school sweetheart, whom I’ll call Lucas, when I was sixteen.  In no time, Lucas became my first love.  Lucas and I would spend hours talking about everything from our love of classic rock music to politics.  Unassuming and quirky, Lucas seemed to be the perfect match for me.  Everyone in our school was convinced that Lucas and I would marry, especially after we both ended up going to the same college.  However, college drastically changed our relationship.  Lucas never drank alcohol or partied with his friends in high school.  Once Lucas came to college, he became consumed with the party lifestyle.  By our second year of college, Lucas was partying at least once a week or more with his friends.  Often, he reached dangerous levels of intoxication. 

 Lucas’ new lifestyle was certainly a catalyst for our eventual breakup.  We were clearly going down very different paths.  Since I did not identify with the party scene, I struggled to relate to Lucas.  After three years of dating, Lucas and I finally ended our relationship.  The breakup was painful.  Only through my friends and family’s support, as well as a tub of chocolate ice cream, was I able to make it through the weeks soon after the breakup.

 My relationship with Lucas serves as a more extreme example of the ways in which young relationships change over time.  In my opinion, the defining moment of one’s character comes when he/she moves away from his/her parents’ house.  How will someone react to the freedom of living on his or her own?  How will someone face major life choices that come with the onset of adulthood?  As a 20-year-old college student, I am constantly amazed at how much I have changed since I first started college.  Living on my own has taught me a great deal of responsibility.  Time management and good financial habits are just a few of the skills that I have learned, which have undoubtedly led to me having a greater sense of maturity.

 In fact, your brain is still developing as a teenager.  The prefrontal cortex of the brain does not fully develop until your mid twenties!  It is responsible for major thought processes, which includes control of intense emotions as well as your ability to realize the consequences of your actions.  Basically, this further demonstrates that you are still growing up and changing as a young adult!

 Enjoy your first love in a healthy way.  I have great memories of prom dates and homecoming dates from my teenage years.  Even if you happen to end up marrying your high school sweetheart, don’t let the excitement of a first love rush you into having sex.  As explored in this post, a variety of factors can pull even the strongest young couples apart.  Sex is such an emotionally intimate act where two become one.  In addition to the risk of unplanned pregnancies and STIs, if you eventually end things with your partner, after previously having sex, you will only have more emotional stress and confusion from the breakup.

[1] Sean Gavin, “Couples Meeting, Marrying Later in Life, Research Says,” Washington Square News. 25 February 2008.