How Many People Marry Their High School Sweetheart?
A government report revealed that only 25% of people today are marrying a high school sweetheart compared to 40 years ago. Today, couples are putting off marrying at all until about age 30.3 for men and 28.4 for women. The most common “marrying age” for first marriages was 18-22 in the 1940s, 80 years ago. That age has been rising, slowly but surely, up to that “first marriage age” we see today.
The report also suggests that getting yourself educated or trained and able to support yourself is causing more and more late teen, early adults to wisely put off getting married. In fact, of people who get married in high school, 22% don’t make it to college. That puts them at a big disadvantage as far as future earning power and marital success is concerned. An additional risk factor to long-term marriage when you marry your high school sweetheart is unexpected pregnancy and parenthood.
Rekindling a High School Romance after you’re already married
Another scenario with high school sweethearts is that more and more of them are reconnecting with each other after they are already married to someone else. If a serious high school romance was ended, and they didn’t marry each other but married someone else, the old sweethearts are inclined to reconnect. In fact, people are more likely to have an emotional or physical affair with a previous high school sweetheart even if they are still married. So, divorces are more and more being caused by a rekindling of an old high school love affair.
The internet makes it easy to stay in touch with high school and college friends. A website called Classmates.com provides contact info about your high school classmates. Class reunions are also opportunities to get back in touch with an old girlfriend or boyfriend.
Those high school sweetheart relationships usually move from friendship to actual affairs that cause divorce much more quickly than normal relationships. Previous high school sweethearts can connect online innocently enough, and the next thing you know, they are arranging to meet at a hotel. Even after the devastation they cause to their first marriages, often these rekindled high school sweetheart relationships can end up as long-lasting marriages, too.
My first marriage was to a high school sweetheart I married in college. He was 23. I was 21. We dated off and on in high school and the first two years of college, then decided to get married when I was a junior in college and he was a senior. I still think we were a good match. We have amazing kids. Around age 50, my then-husband decided he wanted something different. Our high school sweetheart marriage ended. The divorce was unexpected and devastating at the time. It led me to do the work I’m doing now which has been amazing!
We had a huge high school. According to a recent conversation with my best friend from those years, we could think of about five or six couples who actually were high school sweethearts who married during, or shortly after, high school. Several of those couples are still happily married today. Of course, there were some (like me and my ex-husband) who married and then divorced.
High School Sweetheart Marriage Trends
According to historical data, In the early Western World – before Imperial Rome, girls were considered sufficiently mature for marriage and sex when they started menstruating. Males were considered men, when they started growing pubic hair. Sigh. Thank God, (literally), those days are over at least for people in most civilized societies. However, there are still ethnic or religious groups who marry off their daughters at a young age or have arranged marriages where the children have little say at all who they will marry.
First marriage ages in the colonies – for females:
- 19.8 years pre-1700
- 21.2 years early 18th Century
- 22.7 years late 18th Century
- 22-24 years from the end of the 19th century ‘til the 1940s
High School Sweetheart Marriage / Divorce Rates
Marrying your high school sweetheart can be a double-edged sword. Meeting in high school means you usually come from similar backgrounds with similar marriage expectations. It also means you limited your access to a wider variety of people during those dating years.
Today, the trend toward marriages while the couple is still in high school or soon after high school are diminishing. That’s a good thing. An unexpected pregnancy can put a real stress on a young couple just starting out their life together. Another surprising statistic is that only 22 percent of partners who marry in high school or shortly thereafter both even finish college.
According to statistics from Brandon Graille if high school sweetheart couples put off marrying until 25, instead of marrying at 20, that increases the chances of staying together for 10 years to 78%. That’s pretty impressive.
Why Don’t High School Sweethearts Work Out?
In high school, most of us just want to fit in. Having a “real” girlfriend or boyfriend is a badge of maturity, or “coolness” or whatever they call it today. Being in a relationship in high school makes us feel more confident and worthy in those years of vulnerability. If we have a high school sweetheart, we “fit in” with at least one person, and for many, that’s enough.
Here’s the catch: In high school, we’re just beginning to discover who we are and what we believe about life and the world. We are narrowing our areas of interest and things we’re good at. All of us want to be “good” at being loved…especially if we aren’t getting that support and affirmation from home. That’s the appeal of having a high school sweetheart in the first place.
The divorce rate for high school sweethearts is 54% within the first 10 years of marriage. The divorce rate for average American couples in the year of the study was 32%. High school sweethearts who make it past 10 years usually stay together longer than average couples.
Lack Of Experience
When we are in high school, we are usually with classmates that are pretty much in our socio-economic group. Of course, there are always those on the fringes…either wealthier than most of the others or at the lower end of the economic spectrum. In general, we’re all pretty similar, culturally.
Even though middle school and high school kids today know much much more about life and what’s out there than I did in the 1960s and 70s, they still have lots of experience gaps. I grew up in the middle class and had strong family, religious and social support systems in place. But still, there was much life that I had not experienced outside of that bubble. Today, teenagers seem more sophisticated and aware of the world even though they may still have limited life experiences.
My ex-spouse had pretty much the same background and life experience. So that gave us many things in common to start a relationship. We both knew how strong, solid relationships worked. Our primary families were intact. We thought ours would be, too.
In our work with primarily midlife and late life divorce, many of the men and women going through divorce are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and up. That is the only divorce demographic that is still on the rise. During marriage, people change. Culture changes. Menopause and midlife crises show up. All can put a strain on a marriage.
Since young adults are waiting longer to get married and have children, they have more time to experience life and are more sure of who they are before they get married. A marriage counselor said that often if the husband was the main breadwinner and the wife took care of the things on the home front, the guy thinks, “I’m tired of all of this responsibility. I’ve worked hard. I’ve provided for this family. The kids are on their own, it’s my turn to have some fun!”
In the same way, some wives say, “I’ve put my career and interests on hold for the good of the family. Our kids are successfully on their way, so I want to explore my own life, and do things I haven’t been able to do for 20 years. Either of them may be thinking, “I’m tired of our routine! I want adventure of my own! I’m tired of the ‘same old, same old!’”
The truth is, midlife is a perfect time for a couple to spice things up and look for new excitement together! Too many spouses think finding a new partner is the key to new freedom and fun. That leads to having an affair or looking for new experiences outside of their marriage. It doesn’t have to be that way.
People at that point in their marriage may also start thinking about their “first love” in high school. That can lead to an affair, divorce and the destruction of your current family. If your spouse re-connected with an old flame, and wants a divorce or has already divorced you, we can help.