I’ll never forget when my good friend Oliver decided to change the focus his dating life. Like most of my 20-something friends from high school now living in the big city, he was enjoying the multitude of opportunities to date—and sleep with— strangers. But the lack of connection was starting to wear on him and he was certain he knew why. “I’m only going to date people I already know,” he declared and set about reevaluating his attraction to the pool of girls we knew from high school. Today he lives with his girlfriend—a girl that, yes, we went to high school with.
After joking with a friend about Oliver’s dating plan I started to count the other instances of high school acquaintances getting together with each other only after graduation and could identify almost a dozen. Was Oliver on to something? I decided to reach out to a few of these high school friends and find out.
Daren was acquaintances with his wife Lauren when we were all still worried about prom dates and detention, but it wasn’t until eight years after graduation that they started dated. Though Daren says the commonalities of growing up in the same town didn’t spark an attraction during high school, they certainly helped once the pair got romantic. “Compared to relationships I had with people I didn’t go to high school or college with, I certainly felt a greater level of comfort at the onset,” he says. “Lauren and I continue to receive an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from childhood friends and parents of friends that know us both – something I attribute in part to the fact people like rooting for ‘home team’ relationships.”
On the other hand my friend Sarah says she had a crush on her wife Maddy from the minute she met her in ninth grade. Still, she says she was glad that her crush never developed into anything more serious until they were both ready. “Maddy and I were both out in high school and we both had girlfriends,” Sarah explains. “I think that has had a huge impact on both of us as adults, individually and as a couple. Being in a relationship with someone who has never needed to be closeted is incredibly empowering.” That, in addition to growing up together, provided their later relationship with a rich foundation. “We know all of the embarrassing things we both did in high school: Maddy saw me in my marching band uniform, and I saw her in her stage makeup for theater. High school is not something that we discuss frequently, but the common knowledge and experience is always there,” she says.
Dr. Brian Iacoviello, a Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, agrees that some people will find success looking for a mate in a pool with which they are already familiar. “The common bonds of earlier experiences can be a fantastic foundation for a relationship,” he says. “They can help ensure that there is a degree of matching with the dating partner.”
But should you decide to implement this dating strategy, Iacoviello urges you to keep a few things in mind. “Is this strategy in place mainly because you want to avoid anxiety around meeting new people?” he asks. “If so, you may want to reconsider whether there are other strategies you could employ to reduce your distress while still putting yourself out there.” He also encourages daters to favor potential mates within this familiar pool who can still push you outside your comfort zone and encourage personal growth.
Finally, Iacoviello insists you should keep in mind the criteria that is important for you to find in your dating partner. “Outside of the familiar, does this person still match on career, family considerations, spirituality, etc.” he says. Odds are, however, if they haven’t changed too much from high school, they just might. A future spouse maybe waiting back in the past, and if that fails, there’s always your old college friends.
Benjamin Solomon is a freelance writer based in New York City. He was most recently the Editor-in-Chief of Next Magazine. He has contributed to Vanity Fair, Playbill, Details, Out Magazine, Time Out New York, Today.com and has appeared on Biography Channel, East Village Radio and in Wallpaper magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @benjaminsolomon.