High School sweethearts: OHS staff share their secrets to finding true love as students

This story was originally published in the fourth edition of The Lion’s Tale (February 7, 2020).

Walking the hallways hand in hand. Locking eyes dreamily over milk cartons and cafeteria pizza. High school relationships hold their own special magic for students, but what happens when you bring these relationships into the real world?

High school sweethearts have been held up as a pinnacle of relationship goals for decades. With many picturesque marriages lasting for decades as couples grow old together, it’s easy to see why high school sweethearts’ everlasting love has become the desire of countless relationships.

While some view these “sweethearts” as naive or superficial, many happy couples, including teachers at Oviedo High School, have built lasting relationships from a young age. Teenagers are undoubtedly awkward and can be immature when it comes to the concept of love, but high school sweethearts can, and do, last. But what makes them successful?

Every couple has a different secret. However, the general consensus is that success stems from accepting all the imperfections and growth that will occur within a relationship.

Geometry teacher Erica Segrest said that patience is key. Segrest, who met her husband in second grade and graduated with him from Oviedo High School in 2002, explained the importance of understanding your partner’s faults and how they’ll inevitably change over time.

“You have to know that nobody’s perfect,” Segrest explained. “If you can understand the flaws in this person: that’s what makes your relationship strong.”

Segrest added that being open to all your partner’s imperfections and the mistakes they’ll make is key. She cautioned that a relationship that feels perfect and free of complication hasn’t quite “hit its stride.”

“There’s never perfection,” Segrest said, “but you have to be willing to work through the imperfections.”

Hannah Strobl, the school’s speech pathologist, couldn’t agree more that growth and change experienced as a couple is the key to success. She met her husband as a student at OHS.

“I think it’s important to kind of change and grow together instead of keeping someone in a box,” Strobl explained. “Be okay with the person changing, as long as their core values and everything stay the same as what you fell in love with.”

To Strobl, staying true to your convictions and morals while you and your partner change is crucial to finding yourself and what love means to you.

“Find someone who supports you how you are but also embraces your changing,” Strobl said.

On paper, being accepting of your partner’s growth or your personal growth seems easy, but can be difficult in application. Paulette Stadelmann, an intensive reading teacher for ninth and eleventh grade, explained that in order to maintain a relationship through changing wants and needs, constant communication is a necessity.

Stadelmann met her husband going into her junior year and discovered that understanding what your significant other is experiencing as they change is absolutely crucial.

“Relationships are so important,” Stadelmann said. “Maintaining those relationships and making sure that they stay healthy definitely makes them last longer.”

However, relationships have their growing pains and don’t always receive the maintenance they deserve. One of the most popular misconceptions about high school sweethearts is that they don’t last simply because they’re naive. In reality, those that don’t succeed simply fall victim to “differing paths,” as Stadelmann puts it.

“I feel like a lot of people go through different paces of growth, especially when they’re in college,” Stadelmann said. “You’re really finding out who you are and what kinds of things you want in life, so a lot of times people want different things and they realize that maybe their path just doesn’t match well with the other person’s path.”

Ultimately, she said, high schoolers will have to figure out a simple truth.

“It might just not be the right time or the right match for them,” she said.

For Segrest, a major roadblock for many “high school forevers” is that they make premature decisions before recognizing that their path is changing or that there’s a whole other world of people out there.

“You just don’t know who’s out there or what’s there,” Segrest said. “It’s one thing if you’re together through college before you get married because you’ve opened up your population of people you’ve met. But if you get married right after high school…you’re not fully developed in your frontal cortex and you’re not always making the best decisions.”

Although making a relationship last through the rollercoaster of emotions and complications of high school can appear daunting, there’s something to be said about dating seriously during such a developmental period of a person’s life. For Segrest, learning from a friend’s heartache or bad experience is just as beneficial as being in a relationship yourself.

“You absolutely find love in high school,” Segrest said. “but it may not be your forever love. You can form true connections in high school, but you have to be careful saying, ‘This is the person I’m going to spend forever with,’ because it may not be.”

“The second that it starts becoming more stress and more heartache than happy, be done,” Segrest suggested. “Don’t waste the time, don’t waste your tears and emotions on something that may not last.”

So, what makes a relationship meant to be? Why do high school sweethearts seem to find love so early on in life? The answer could simply be that they were lucky enough to find their significant other at the right time and place. According to Stadelmann and Segrest, you’ll know if you’ve found the right person.

“Always remember that if it’s actual ‘true’ love, it will always be there,” Stadelmann said. Segrest agreed.

“If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” she said.