“People who marry their high school sweethearts are incredibly stupid.”

To this day, those words still echo in the deepest recesses of my memory. While now I think back on them and laugh at the absurdity of the idea, at the time they struck me like a knife to the heart.

I was 20 years old, sitting in my sophomore biology lab, holding the hand of my high school sweetheart, when the girl across the table from us decided to give her two cents on the matter. Though we weren’t married at the time, it had long been set in both of our minds and hearts that we would be tying the knot in the near future. I only had eyes for him and any thought of playing the field or trying to find myself flew out the window the moment we decided to make a go of it during our last year of high school.

I don’t even remember how the topic was brought up in a biology lab of all places, but I do remember with extreme clarity how her comment made me feel.

Broken. Angry. Desperate to prove her wrong.

I yearned to find the gumption that always seemed to show up to an argument five minutes too late. To give her a detailed list a mile long of reasons why high school sweethearts are the epitome of true love; the ultimate #RelationshipGoals.

Instead, I just sat there in silence. Stewing, cringing . . . not paying any attention to the anatomy of a cell.

How do you possibly explain that being young and in love does not in any way diminish the quality of that love?

The feelings I felt for my husband when we started dating when I was 17 may have dulled in excitement, but not in passion. If anything, that has only grown.

This past September, we celebrated 10 years together as a couple and nearly five years of marriage. While most people have to secretly cyber stalk their old high school sweethearts on Facebook or flip through old black and white yearbook pages, I simply have to look across the room.

Sure, our conversations can be slow at times, having exhausted our list of unheard stories years ago. But that means we have reached a level of comfort in silence that with anyone else would seem awkward. I love that I can spend a whole day with him without saying a word and still feel completely fulfilled by his presence alone.

I have loved him through his baby-faced, acne-covered years, and he has loved me through childbirth and a few too many DIY hair dying disasters. We have been study partners, birthing partners, late-night feeding partners, and everything in between.

There is a unique beauty to our relationship that I believe warrants true merit. Everything we have today, we built together. Our home, the things it is filled with, even our child are all perfect representations of the two of us. Imperfectly blended. Impossible to divide.

Since that fateful biology lab I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our life together and how finding each other so young changed how we saw our relationship.

Though I know everyone’s love story is different, though nonetheless special, I am so thankful mine started at age 17.

My husband knows how to make me smile even on my saltiest day. He knows when I need to be loved and when I need to be left alone. Likewise, I know his every tick. What makes him happy and what he would rather not think about. I know because I have grown up beside him and learned along the way.

This profoundly God-given gift of finding love so young in life is one of my most cherished blessings and proudest accomplishments. Although I may still not know the anatomy of a cell, I know with absolute certainty that my life has only been changed for the better by marrying my first and only love.

If you start dating in high school and know he’s the one, why wait, right?  

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Kayla Runkel

Kayla is a former marketer turned stay-at-home-mom to two sweet boys. You can follow her blog, The Rustic Hideaway, or her writing page, K.C. Runkel. When she is not writing, Kayla loves teaching fitness classes, reading books, and spending time with her husband and sons exploring her favorite place in the world, Wyoming. Or as she simply calls it: home.