6 Things Not to Say to Childhood Sweethearts

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Paul and I recently celebrated our 16th dating anniversary last week. Yes, 16th. And when I tell people we’ve been together since we’re 13 years old (awkward evidence on the left), reactions range from “Aw, that’s so sweet!” to the mildly and wildly offensive replies after the jump.

Disclaimer: I won’t hold it against you (for long, anyway) if you say (or have said) any of these things to me. Truth is, everyone does. But for your more sensitive paired-off friends who’ve been monogamous since they were teens, I’d avoid saying the following.

“So is he the only guy you’ve ever slept with?”
I’m always tempted to respond, “No, I was having lots of sex as a 12-year-old.” It wouldn’t be that crazy for someone who grew up in Staten Island, but it would be that crazy for two honors students who met in band class. (Though, yes, wacky things happen between teenagers in band camp.)

“Have you ever broken up?”
While it’s a reasonable question, had we gone on hiatus (for the record, we dated straight through those 16 years), perhaps I wouldn’t want to talk about the time I spent apart from my now-husband.

“Didn’t you ever want to date anyone else?”
Obviously not enough to warrant breaking up with Paul!

“I could never do that.”
This remark wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t usually accompanied with a shake of the head or a roll of the eyes, so it seems to imply that I’m missing some gene that, on normal people, encourages healthy exploration of more than just one sexual partner. I always say, “It’s not for everybody” because it’s not easy to be a hormonal high schooler in a committed relationship. It’s even more challenging in college when you can oust your roommate by putting a sock (or scrunchie) on the dorm-room door handle for private time while your boyfriend is far away on his own campus. But somehow, we managed. There are lots of things I could never do, like run a marathon or give birth to a baby without pain meds, but I tend not to speak condescendingly to the strong people who do these things.

“So you went to the same college?”
This irks me because you don’t have to attend the same university to stay together. In a few cases, the asker seems to think one of us gave up on our dreams of going to an awesome school so our fragile relationship could survive. Reality check: I chose where I’d be going to school first: Brandeis University outside of Boston because I was wait-listed at my top-choice school, Cornell. Paul was going to go to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA…until they inexplicably relinquished his grant money to the point that he was receiving more financial aid from Boston College, which, as you may have guessed, is in the Boston area. We got lucky that we went to schools in the same metro area, but we would’ve tried to make our relationship work even if we were farther apart. And it still was quite the effort to go from seeing each other every day to once a week tops.

“Do you wish you dated more people?”
My mom actually gets asked if she wishes I dated more people, and I love her response to this: “So she could have her heart broken more times? No thanks.” Maybe her answer would be different if she didn’t think Paul and I were great together.

Okay, admit it: Have you ever said any of the above to someone who’s been with her spouse since high school or earlier? Are any of the above not so offensive? What other questions/remarks would you add to this list?

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  • Tori Campbell

    I’ve had some of these things said to me, and while I am not yet married, the comments still bug me. 

  • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

    You’re so right, Tori–you don’t need to be married for these remarks to irk you!

  • Cassandra Zink

    It sounds like everyone else is just jealous that you found The One so early in life. I think it’s awesome, and I really love how cute you look in that picture. You’ve got some great genes working for you!!

  • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

    Aw, thank you so much, Cassandra :) Perhaps some of those people were jealous, but I swear, some were so truly appalled by the idea of only being with one man, I can’t imagine there was an ounce of envy there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikki.roberti Nikki Roberti

    This was awesome. I get this a lot even with my college sweetheart even though we both had at least one other boyfriend/girlfriend in the past. I guess some people can’t get it in their heads that you don’t have to be a serial dater to find true love.

  • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

    Yes, exactly, Nikki! My friend who also has been with her hubby since college said the same thing! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1406679267 Jamie Lee Wilson

    My aunt and uncle have been together since they were in 6th grade, and they have been married for about 30 years now, and together almost 40. I can see why people might ask some of these questions because it is so rare that people meet that young and end up together. But all I can say is I wish I was so lucky to have met “the one” when I was in high school. I think it’s really and truly amazing and the world would probably be a much better place if there were more people who had a similar experience.

  • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

    I love hearing about other couples who’ve stayed the course! Thank you so much for sharing your aunt and uncle’s story, Jamie–and for your kind words.

  • Isabelle Fallon

    I was reared never to pass “personal remarks” unless I was paying a compliment. Making personal enquiries about someone’s relationship falls right into that category! These comments are rude as quite frankly, the answers are none of the asker’s business – like when people ask a young married couple why they have no children yet, or a couple why they aren’t engaged. The mind boggles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/meredithb Meredith Bodgas

    Totally agree, Isabelle. In some cases, people were just genuinely curious and probably didn’t realize their questions were kind of off-putting. I bet they know now :)

  • Anonymous

    YES, Bridget! I knew a girl who got engaged to someone in her 30s…and she didn’t know how to PRONOUNCE HIS LAST NAME. Yet nobody was grilling her on their relationship! I’m glad you got to experience long-term love like you did. People who get married quickly after meeting just don’t have the depth and breadth of knowledge about each other that childhood sweethearts have (and that can serve them well in marriage).

  • http://twitter.com/ManWifeDog Charli Penn

    Hilarious and so true. I think I’m guilty of 1 or two for sure!!!

  • Jennifer Chemerika

    Love this! I’ve been with my fiance since grade 11. We’re getting married in July & it’s amazing how clueless people are as to what exactly they’re asking! 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think these questions could sound offensive at all coming from you, Charli!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Jennifer! Aw, so glad you’re marrying your high school sweetheart too. Yeah, some people just don’t get it.

  • Tressa Wallace

    Your article makes me happy, in that sad, I wish people weren’t like this everywhere, sort of way.  My husband and I had dated on and off for 12 years and unfortunately we did spend some time apart, but that’s no one else’s business especially at our wedding.  His family kept coming up to us and asking about the times we weren’t together.  What’s happened to at least showing a little bit of class??  Congratulations to you and your husband and your awesome dating track record!

  • http://www.facebook.com/meredithb Meredith Bodgas

    Thanks so much, Tressa! So awkward that his family brought up the time you were apart at your wedding! Isn’t that the time to celebrate your future together and not the past when you were separated? Unbelievable. Congrats to you and your hubby!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766865696 Karen Campbell

    And those who DID marry their childhood sweethearts should refrain from saying they’re superior to those of us who didn’t.  My first boyfriend, nice as he was, had several traits that would’ve driven me crazy in the long run.  The right man for me lived in another state and therefore, I wasn’t destined to meet him until later in life when we were both more mobile.

  • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

    Wow, yes, no marriage is superior to another just because of when and how the couple met. But many people seem to look down on those who met early on in life–your situation, Karen, seems to be more the norm (at least in my corner of the country!), which is why childhood sweethearts are often regarded with confusion and distaste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jade-Diamant/888860598 Jade Diamant

    These points should be made into a public memo! I find it sad that people can be floored to find out I haven’t had other sex partners, as if I should be bummed out that I met my husband at age 17 instead of being able to experiment with a handful of other guys first. What a commentary on today’s society. The reason our relationship even works in the first place is because we know neither has been sexually intimate with someone else! The naysayers should look to childhood sweethearts as an example of something rare and to be respected, and not as a curious oddity.

    • naz_aree

      They probably cannot face the reality, that the choices they made in the past might be dead wrong. They let something beautiful and real go to waste because the so-called ‘norm’ of not being with your first girl/boy for the long run. I pity these people because they chose to believe such a facade(due to insecurities, immaturity, easy way out) and let it rule.their relationship. It is your love, your journey, your adventure together with the one you love. Who the hell are these people to look down on us and say our adventure together as some sort of anomaly. In fact, when I think about it, I’m proud that it is an anomaly, it shows our strength and resolve. AGAIN, it is our journey, our adventure, our love. We dictate it. Not the media, not our ‘friends’, not the pastor, not the ‘relationship experts’ (who themselves are still searching for love in their late 30′s), not even the ridiculously concocted society ‘norm’.

  • Alix Honore

    I don’t think i’ve ever heard a story quite like you guys. Is it bad that I would also be tempted to ask if you guys ever broke up. Btw I miss you @ glamour!

    • http://twitter.com/mereditor Meredith Bodgas

      Yes, we’re definitely not the norm, and of all these questions, the break-up one came up the most because people are curious. It’s not bad to be tempted to ask! Aw, thanks for saying you miss me at Glamour! I miss you all too!

  • Jessi Haish

    I absolutely loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      Aw, thanks, Jessi!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jennifer-Jeanne/1146430482 Jennifer Jeanne

    Your blog is great!  Recently I was seeing all my friends who had married their high school sweet hearts and I did not always know what to say. Thanks!

    • mereditor

      Thanks so much, Jennifer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613358279 Sarah McPhail Doherty

    I’m friends with a couple that have been sweethearts since the second grade. <3 Of course, at 7 and 8 years old, it's all about giggling and holding hands. They survived puberty, high school, and college together. Now, they've been happily married for over five years and have a darling little girl. He said that the first time he saw her, he knew she would be his wife. And what's awesome… They still hold hands and giggle. :)

  • http://twitter.com/TwoAmericas Two Americas

    Meritol, this was an awesome blog, a great slice of life.  I’m writing a short story about childhood sweethearts, and this is a fantastic posting.  Thanks!

    • mereditor

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting.

  • http://twitter.com/the_other_mimi mimi

     I’ve gotten many similar rude questions from people who find out how long I’ve been in a long distance relationship–”So you only (have sex/see him) once a month? I could never do that.”

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  • Ftloosenfanzfree

    I am a big fan of first love, and am currently talking about marriage with the only guy I’ve ever been with.

    We didn’t meet until my freshman year of college (and started dating the next year), but I never dated anyone before that. He dated one other girl in high school, but they never even kissed.

    I think your story is wonderful, sweet and inspiring!

    Obviously it’s true that most “first loves” don’t work out, but that just makes the ones that do that much more special! I don’t know why so many people think you have to experience heartbreak repeatedly to know what makes you happy. I can tell that I’m quite happy already, thanks.

    Also, that picture up top is so cute, and your dress was awesome.

    • mereditor

      Awww, thank you so much! And that’s so great that YOU’RE likely marrying your first love too! I agree that personally experiencing failed relationships aren’t necessary for having a successful one. Ha, I still have that dress and have been known to break it out for a good laugh when friends come over.

  • cepear

    I think this is a beautiful love story! No one forgets their childhood sweethearts! If I had the opportunity to have spent the rest of my life with mine I would have! But for one reason or another we couldn’t be together… 10 years later we are back in contact and he is still the same guy I loved then just a stronger, wiser more mature version…

    • mereditor

      aw, thank you! That’s so nice to hear that you’re back in contact with your first love.

  • Jess Denise Gregory

    So I totally understand what you’re saying and it makes me SO happy that us ‘first love’-ers have an ally who makes good points, is charismatic, and is intellectual. What’s really not fun is the comments I get in the midst of my relationship, since I’m not getting married yet, from people about how “this is just a phase”–random adult, and “ah how’s that guy you like? Be sure he’s not the only boy you’ll be after”–Family Member, and “love can’t start this young” teacher. From my peers I’ve gotten a lot of “I could never do that”. It’s just..annoying x3. Just step back and have some faith, you know?

    • mereditor

      I’m so sorry you’re encountering those statements already. No one knows how you two feel about each other except you two. And no one knows what the future holds. But to trivialize what you feel and your expectations for the future is insulting. And if you feel comfortable, I think you can say to these people, “I know. We have something pretty special. I don’t expect everyone to understand.” Wishing you two a lifetime of happiness–and an end to the judgy comments!

  • Aimee Hobbs

    My son is in 7th grade and just had his 3 year anniversary with his sweetheart. They are such a neat couple and get each other on a crazy level that a lot of older married couples don’t. Despite the fact that they have been a “couple” for so long they don’t hold hands, they have never kissed, and still dance at arms length. They have the same values and beliefs, and through them our families have developed a friendship and trust that continues to grow. I am constantly in fear that one it the other will get tired and break the others heart, or that if they do end up together that one of them will regret not dating more. Thank you for your post. It gives me hope and assurance that it is possible to find the “one” at an early age, and make for an amazing love story. :0)

    • mereditor

      That’s wonderful, Aimee! It is scary to take a chance on love at such a young age, but like you said, it CAN work out. Your son is lucky to have such a supportive mom in his life. That can only benefit their relationship. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!