This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people that have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. In honor of Valentine’s Day, this is the story of my BFF, Darcie, who married her high school sweetheart. Awwwww!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Darcie, and I live in St. Paul. I’m thirty, work for a smallish-do-goodery-for-profit company as the sole member of the marketing team. I have hobbies, but it’s most important to know that I love: my friends and family, delicious beer, sunshiny days, sarcasm, domestic chores, black clothes and Photoshopping animals into photos of myself where I make the “HELL YES!” face and give thumbs up. I have known my husband, Chad, for over 16 years, we’ve been together for 14, married four and a half.
How did you meet your now-husband?
When I was 14, our concert band attended a contest at a nearby school. At some point during the day there was a bomb threat (!) so we left the school to seek shelter in the church basement next door, and that is when I saw Chad for the first time.He was VERY cute, with his waist length hair, old man glasses and saggy jeans. Those young hormones struck me and the thought, “He will be mine!” went through my brain, like that scene in Wayne’s World. That same day, a friend and I met his younger brother, she started dating said brother. Over the next two years, I crushed on other boys and heard stories about Chad second hand.
We had our first date about two weeks before my 17th birthday, which was lunch and a long talk while sitting on the dock at a park. Relatively uneventful and not particularly romantical, at the end of it I was expecting a “thanks” and a handshake. He gave me a hug and asked if we could see each other the next weekend.
When you met him, did you have any idea that you would marry him?
After our first date, I really didn’t think we’d end up as anything more than a few dates. I didn’t think he liked me as much as I liked him and I thought his acceptance of our initial date was just a courtesy to me. Turns out he liked my combat boots, etc. etc. But I had started a residential high school program 2 hours away from where he was and we would only see each other on weekends.
This was before e-mail and cell phones, so things progressed pretty slowly and we were together for five or six months before it occurred to me that I’d really like to date him forever, if that were possible.
On some level, you essentially ‘grew up’ along side your husband. What have been the challenges that accompany that? The benefits?
I know rationally that I’ve matured since 16 and that so has he, but the honesty and loyalty we started with never got lost and I think that is a major factor in why we are happy today. Our major challenges are the ones that every couple has, I think. That is to say, the big decisions about family, how to spend money, and where we want to live or what we want to be when we grow up. We are very luckily in agreement on nearly all of those things now, but we’ve had the big discussions about them over the years. That’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
To me, the greatest benefit of having this partner for so many years is just that: we have so many years behind us, we have each other’s families and we are each other’s family. We are very fortunate to have chosen each other and helped each other through respective hard times: career changes, existential crises, general malaise, college, real estate purchases and so many other really, really awesome things. I cannot believe I’ve spent almost half my life and get to share these great memories with someone so close to me, who means so much and who wants me to succeed when I feel like it’s impossible.
When did you two move in together? When did you get engaged/married?
When I graduated from high school, I moved in next door to him. We had matching studios in buildings next to each other on the same street. Eventually we decided to attend the same school out of state, lived separately on campus at a new school where we only knew each other. I did not like the school and missed my family and decided to pursue my education as a priority, I moved to a school 1,000 miles away for a year. We didn’t ever decide to break up during this time and talked every day. During my two semesters away we decided that yes, we really liked each other, we didn’t like anybody else. We were officially engaged.
Five years into our relationship, I moved back the 1,000 miles away from our friends and family, we lived together full time for the first time. I was 21. The time we were apart was a good time for us to evaluate our relationship, and we decided together to go for it.
It was good to be engaged, and ‘serious’ about each other, but as it turned out living together made us perfectly happy and getting married wasn’t a priority. We had different ideas about our wedding and it was never worth arguing about, so we never did. A few years after we bought our first house, he said to me, “Should we get married?” and I said, “Sure, when?” Three months after that, we had a tiny civil ceremony a dinner party with forty of our closest family members and friends.
Nine years and some months after our first date we were officially married… we acquired legal rights to each other’s life insurances, but I kept my last name and nothing much else has changed.
I would say that every part of our life together has naturally progressed and we’ve never really forced anything on each other. We have succeeded by way of compromise, trial and error, forgiveness, honesty, hugs and respect. Also, sometimes humor because there was no other option.
Did your friends/family ever encourage you to date other people? Did anyone ever express concern that you were “getting too serious, too soon?”
I don’t remember anyone ever directly or specifically telling me to or suggesting that I date other people, and I don’t think anyone ever said we were too serious, too soon. This surely happened, and it was probably from my parents. They were not big fans of their teenage daughter having sleep overs at their house (weird). His mom asked us to sleep in separate beds at their house until I was in my 20’s, because of her religious beliefs and we (usually) always tried to oblige and be respectful.
Do you think you missed anything by not dating heaps of people?
My instinct is that I didn’t miss out on much of consequence. I think I missed out on heartbreak, and losing relationships with the family members of people I could have dated and then broken up with. From friends who dated a lot or are still dating, I seem to hear a lot of stories about how things just don’t work and how this and that is annoying or how they really like or love someone, but something fundamental is missing. I might never have the “OMGOMGOMG FIRST KISS” insanity again, but I’ve got something I think a lot of people don’t have. It makes me really thankful and probably also makes me seem really annoying because I have no frame of reference for dating as an adult.
How do you maintain chemistry after being with someone for 14 years?
Is it lame that I keep siting “Luck” as a thing? Being a couple who loves each other isn’t easy and doesn’t come on purely by luck, but the fact that we are both stubborn to keep pushing day in and day out seems lucky.
In large part, I think our chemistry is natural. And I’ve never had the tumultuous, terrible, all encompassing, “I love you so much I want to puke” feeling with Chad that I had experienced with other people in very short-lived teenage crushes or loves. Being together is generally calming, easy-going and feels like stable ground.
Our *ahem* personal life, is just something we’re committed to, and has it’s ups and downs.. The physical chemistry in our relationship is just like any other aspect of a good relationship, it won’t always be easy or instant, but working on it together yields a greater benefit all around. And that having a very long term partner feels more amazing than any first kiss I could imagine.
The vast, vast majority of relationships that begin at 16 do not end in marriage – despite what we may think when we’re 16. What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in a long-term relationship with someone they started dating while they were young?
I believe you can’t help who you love and that sometimes it might work out despite the odds. Sometimes societal pressures might get the best of you when you are young and in love. But if you have a healthy, respectful, honest love with someone and then you should give it all you have.
Then maybe in 15 years you’ll be where my husband and I are now. People might not understand it and they might tell you that you would benefit from trying on other relationships, or they might treat you like you are naive. I would be the person inclined to remind you that some of the best things are born of what seems impossibly difficult and stupid by modern standards and then I would say something about homemade apple pie or renaissance painting and that would conclude the story.
Did any of you marry your high school sweetheart? Did you have a high school sweetheart? My high school sweetheart was a golden boy who looked a bit like Christian Bale!