From a High School Relationship to a College Relationship

My girlfriend and I have been together since junior high school. I still distinctly remember the day when we met, and to this day I do not regret it. I am now a freshly 21 years old male college student, and I sit here behind my computer writing what is roughly a structured reflection on our long term relationship that we have been in for the past seven years. As such, this article will be one pertaining the the particular niche of long term relationships that involves a couple continuing from a young and often immature age in high school, and as they progressively mature and get older and work through their college life.

Is there a difference between high school relationships and college relationships?

Most people would agree that there is a difference between high school relationships and college relationships. I would agree with this sentiment on the whole, however the importance of this difference is often highly dramatized. The primary focus of your attention should be turned to two ideas associated with these types of relationships:

1. The expectations from teachers, parents, friends, employers, and so forth tends to be dramatically different when one enters college, as opposed to someone who is in high school. This is very easy to notice when you consider simple tasks like the required reading needed by an individual who is in college as opposed to high school. For myself, when I was in high school, I often found myself skipping readings altogether or briefly skimming the material. Now that I am in college, I have to read hundreds of pages of textbooks in every class, every few days, or else I will not be capable of passing the course at all. This is what I would call the "simple" difference between high school relationships and college relationships.

2. The physiological changes individuals go through when they are children/adolescents and when they become an adult are astounding. Consider a relatively recent and well documented study by Deborah Yurgelun-Todd.

In a recent study mapping differences between the brains of adults and teens, Todd put teenage and adult volunteers through a MRI and monitored how their brains responded to a series of pictures. The volunteers were asked to discern the emotion a series of faces like this one. The results were surprising. All the adults identified the emotion as fear, but many of the teenagers saw something different, such as shock or anger. When she examined their brain scans, Todd found that the teenagers were using a different part of their brain when reading the images. -PBS

The differences lie in how adolescents and adults use their brains. If we are so different at reading each others emotions (which one would view as a relatively simple task), then it is not hard to fathom how different we must be on other levels? Consider the difference in experience between adolescent teens and adults. Adults tend to have more sexual experience, more experience with the world and people in it, and have likely not been confined to one or two general ways of thinking as promoted by their home life or their high school careers. There is no doubt that there are differences between these people. However, that is not to say that relationships are not possible to maintain from high school to college. It is important to remember that a teenage couple turning into adults will experience these changes at relatively the same pace.

Is it really possible to mature together?

The simple answer to this question is: "Yes." I consider my long term relationship with my girlfriend to be a case study on the possibility of maturation with another person. But what do I really mean by "maturing together?" I mean the ability to adapt to new situations together. Maturity also involves an ability to recognize your responsibilities in life at any given time. For example, a teenager who becomes an adult and has no interest in working or making money has not become "mature" in a financial sense. The opposite of maturity is dependency, either on their significant other, their friends, or their parents.

I am able to reflect on growing up through high school, community college, and now undergraduate college with my girlfriend; and examining the changes that have occurred. I remember when she got her first job working at a local fast food restaurant at age 16, and she still continues to work that job as she works on her degrees in college. She also does additional part-time work with graphic design. This shows initiative, which is the first step of maturing. In the context of our relationship, she inspired me to want to get a job and work as soon as I was able. I am about a year younger then her, so when she got her first job I honestly felt like a little kid at age 15. I was unable to legally work most places. However, once I turned 16 I began filling out job applications myself in hopes of finding work. It took me over a year to get a job. Chalk that up to the bad economy and not having much experience. With that said, I still found ways to make money and help pay for little things like food and my own skateboards at the time. I started mowing lawns and learned how to landscape all by myself, and did a pretty good job at that. This held me over until I was hired at Wal-Mart, where I worked for 2 years at around full-time hours while attending college.

The point of this reflection is to show a simple movement from being immature teenagers in high school, to slowly maturing and adapting adults now in college. While we still will go through changes in our lives, we are certain they are changes that we can overcome with relative ease.   

Can two people really "go together" for a long period of time during their sexual prime?

The real question here is: is it possible to be in a monogamous relationship during your college years? College students are generally perceived as partying hard, drinking a lot, being irresponsible, and having a lot of sex. While this may be true for many people, it is more of a stereotype of college students as a whole as opposed to an actual statement of fact regarding all college students. The simple answer to this question is, without a doubt, "yes." While it may be difficult to repress hormones and a desire for sex (among other things), it is very possible to maintain a long term relationship throughout the college years that is both healthy and monogamous.

With that said, do not take my sentiment on this issue to be one suggesting that everyone needs to be monogamous, or simply in one relationship for the rest of their life. That is simple an expectation that everyone cannot live up too. With that said, it is possible to go through life in one healthy relationship and be satisfied both intellectually and physically. My girlfriend and I are, yet again, an example of this. We both have never had any other romantic relationships, nor do we particularly see the need at this point. After experiencing so much of life together already, it seems unnecessary to move on to someone else. The key to a happy sex and romance life is being friends as well as lovers. In college, many students find themselves stumbling down to the local bars and picking up one-night stands and people interested in short-term relationships. While this isn't inherently "wrong" (as I see it), these relationships end as quickly as they begin and ultimately serve little purpose outside of providing an individual with pleasure. I personally would not find a relationship like this deeply satisfying. Though, of course, sex is a great experience; whether it is "bad sex" or "good sex." The point is: I would preference having sex with one person that is consistently good, as opposed to having sex with many people that only lasts for a night or two.

Should individuals in a committed relationship be more like lovers or more like friends?

Anyone who is looking to invest their time into a long term relationship, especially one that requires you to go through many stages of maturation from high school to college, should definitely put out the energy to be the best of friends as well as lovers. The word "lover" signifies a romantic relationship, which has the tendency to ebb-and-flow dependent on mood and time. The focus, even at a young age, should be on companiate relationships which are primarily based on being friends, and more importantly, continually being there for one another on all applicable levels. My girlfriend and I have gone through a lot of life together. We have stood bedside as family members died, experienced the divorce of her parents, moved from being religious children to atheistic adults, she was there for me during my stints in the hospital do to kidney problems this past summer, and so forth. These are major hardships in life that are not easy to get through alone, much less as a couple. However, they are so much easier to get through when you have a vested interest in one another. I will conclude this with song lyrics from two bands that signify this notion of "love" very well as I see it:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life - Mumford & Sons, Awake My Soul

You're a part time lover and a full time friend - Ellen Page and Michael Cera, Anyone Else But You

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