The Expiration Mindset of High School Relationships


Darin Buenaluz, Staff Writer

Relationships are one of the biggest factors of success in the modern world. Having strong connections with family, friends and coworkers are all important in preserving one’s well-being and accessing opportunities to grow throughout life. Furthermore, romantic relationships are often the most influential and memorable experiences one will have. These relationships allow the two individuals to truly get to know everything about one another, and potentially tie the figurative knot through marriage.

Dating is a unique experience that is meant to be enjoyable for both individuals through intimate and passionate connection. However, the holding of hands and visiting events come with inevitable discussion about more serious topics, including possibly preparing to spend the rest of your life with that person and understanding the consequences of sacrificing time, effort and habits to nurture a healthy and loving relationship. Unfortunately, in high school, where many enter a romantic relationship for the first time, such conversations are often absent or intentionally disregarded. One significant issue of high school romantic relationships is the expectation that the relationship will eventually end, thus restricting the ceiling for growth and any chances of staying together after graduation. This expectation and preparation to end the relationship is what I call the “expiration mindset.” For as much love that is shared between two high school partners, there is the clinging expectation that the relationship is just part of living in the moment and compatibility between partners will eventually fade.

This expiration mindset begins to take effect before any sort of dating even begins. When one person decides they are finally going to make the move and ask the other person to date them, there is always the feeling of uncertainty over whether or not an acceptance or rejection will occur. The motivation that fuels action towards starting a relationship is quickly dashed by a creeping lack of confidence. Fear begins to build that if you are rejected, others who know that you plan on trying to date someone will look down on you. Both of these symptoms can be connected to imposter syndrome, and is the first step of flawed high school dating.

If a relationship is entered into, the expiration mindset starts its timer for when the relationship will end. As part of a relationship, you are expected, if not obligated, to devote hours upon hours of your time and effort to making sure both you and your partner are happy. Your mind begins to plant seeds of doubt, and questions such as “Can I really keep this up for months and years?” begin to rise. 

Helping others through life is not something negative; it’s a cornerstone of what it means to be a friend and overall good person to others, and should be recognized as such. However, the fleeting bliss that kicks off a relationship is followed by an intimidating aura known as reality, and stays with you for a long time. The better grip on reality one has, the more influential the expiration mindset is in affecting decisions regarding their relationship.

Sadly, many high school students who are in a relationship choose to beat around the bush about the more contemplative aspects of dating. Why think about serious topics like preparing for the future, getting to know each other’s family better, or potentially getting married and becoming parents? For many high school couples, it’s understandably more attractive to go to places for dates, talk about more lighthearted topics like friend groups or basic personal interests, constantly professing one’s love for the other, and choosing to have a general sense of ignorance about what being in a relationship means in the adult world. While these activities are beneficial to maintaining the relationship, they’re also an individual’s way of temporarily distancing themselves from the expiration mindset that constantly gives reminders of the eventual breakup.

A study by the University of California at Irvine (UCI) found that “teens often lack the social and emotional maturity to control impulses. Researchers found that certain cognitive abilities reach adult levels by the age of 16, while emotional maturity isn’t attained till after 22.” 

Without a doubt, teens are aware that relationships in the adult world encompass responsibilities like balancing time between work and their partner, financial decisions like buying a house or paying taxes, or making the decision to propose marriage. But all of these responsibilities are not done on impulse, and instead require a lot of time to think about and effectively plan and execute. This directly contrasts with the teenage mind, and accompanies the expiration mindset in depleting confidence and trust that partners hold about themselves and the other person to maintain a strong relationship in the face of real world stress and issues. 

Furthermore, determining compatibility is a meticulous process in itself. Understanding everything about your partner and whether you can exist in such an intimate environment like dating requires time, mental and physical perseverance, and a lot of good questions to ask that allow you and the other person to figuratively feel each other out. This trial-and-error process is constantly repeating, which can drain both individuals. 

All of these factors contribute to the saddening statistic of less than 2% of marriages being those who met in high school, more commonly called “high school sweethearts.” It also doesn’t help that questions such as “How long do you think they’ll last?” and “Those two don’t belong together” also frequently circulate. Pressure from yourself, those around you, and real world responsibility create the perfect storm that brings countless high school relationships down.

On the other hand, the 2% who do end up marrying the high school love of their life often live very happy lives. All the years spent dating truly opens the door for connection and serves as a constant fuel and reminder of the love that brings two people together. But this doesn’t mean that getting from high school dating to adult marriage is easy.

“At the end of the day, it’s hard. People want or expect it to be easy. By hard, I mean really hard. There are dark times. There were weeks where we didn’t talk or we were not connecting. But since we’re both stubborn and goal-oriented people, we don’t quit. It would be easy to quit. You need to work through the adversity,” said Joshua Edminson, who met his wife Gina when she was 16 and he was 17. 

Ultimately, high school dating isn’t a bad idea. It’s simply an idea with many key flaws which produces a relationship that doesn’t live up to expectations. As such, it’s our responsibility, should we choose to date, to be aware of both the positives and negatives of dating and prepare ourselves to take on this complicated but exciting experience.


Photo Courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK.COM