The Psychology Behind High School Relationships

Jen Gouchoe, Web Features Editor

First love tends to hit high schoolers with a newfound intensity that they often aren’t prepared to handle. One anonymous junior girl experienced what she thought was first love as a freshman when she started dating a sophomore boy. What was initially fun and flirty quickly developed into something more serious. The relationship was her number one priority, and she slowly let friendships and schoolwork slip out of reach as a result.

The best thing about that relationship was that it was the fun and simple kind of ‘young love,’” the anonymous junior girl said. “And he was older than me, so it made me feel mature and desirable.”

But like many high school relationships, their relationship ended after five months.

“Although we told each other we loved each other, no, I don’t consider it my first real love because I don’t think I really knew what love was,” the anonymous junior girl said. “When it ended, it was painful for a little while after, and I was definitely sad, but I think I more missed having a boyfriend […] than I did actually missing the boy.”

According to The Huffington Post, only 2 percent of marriages are comprised of relationships that started in high school. While many people experience first love in their teenage years, it rarely expands beyond the high school bubble.

“People change and aren’t always going to be the person you loved at the time,” Josephine Freeman ’16, who was in a high school relationship for two years, said.

Although some believe that their first love will hold a place in their heart forever, others feel differently. When asked if there would always be some part of her that still loves her first love, Freeman said, “Absolutely not.”

“I think a lot of the time when you hear people say that, they’re remembering a feeling of what it was like to be young, and young and in love is […] very romanticized in many people’s minds,” Elaine Daignault, outreach counselor and Teen Awareness Group adviser, said.

Nancy Kalish Ph.D, professor of psychology at California State University and expert on lost love and rekindled romance, conducted a study of 1,600 people who had never rekindled a romance with their first loves. However, while 56 percent of those participants said they would not want to go back to their first loves, 25 percent said they would.

“Even the adults who had no current interest in their first loves, including those who had only bitter memories, revealed that these early romances influenced their life-long attitudes about love, and even about themselves,” Kalish noted in her study. “First love, young love, is indeed real love.”

While studies have shown that these first relationships help many people grow, others are skeptical as to whether or not high schoolers are capable of truly falling in love.

“I just think that high schoolers aren’t mature enough yet and haven’t met enough people (people they would consider dating) to determine whether they love them or not yet,” Sophie Carozza ’18 said.

Carozza was in a relationship for nine months during her freshman year, and though she considers her ex-boyfriend to be her first love, she questions whether or not it was actual love.

“I really liked him and I think it was close to love, but it wasn’t actually love,” Carozza said.

The anonymous junior girl had similar feelings as Carozza.

“[My relationship] definitely made me realize that love can be confused with infatuation at our age,” she said.

Though many people are critical of high school love, everyone defines love differently. However, Daignault emphasized that young love, especially in high school, is like no other.

I think people remember their first loves from their teenage years because it was […] such a deep, intense, new, exciting feeling,” Daignault said. “I think that everybody looks back at high school and wants to remember the positive and the fun parts, and we all go through tough parts, but it’s easier and more comforting to remember a time when things were loose and fancy free.”