All You Need is Love.

Lewis Dryden and Isobel Wiseman

When I was eight years old, my mum asked me who I loved. My response was my Bratz dolls. I used to sit for hours playing with their hair and changing their clothes, and question those who told me “when you discover boys, you’ll forget all about your dolls”. Blissfully unaware that I would soon be introduced to a whole new world of romance and heart ache.

A few years later, my Bratz dolls became just another thing in the box under my bed, and the only thing that really mattered was whether Harry would notice me on my way to P.E in my netball skirt. Unfortunately for me, Harry loved Alice. A beautiful blonde girl who was the most talented artist at school. Well I couldn’t draw and being the younger version of the hopeless romantic that I am today, I decided to write Harry a valentine’s card and tell him how I feel. Let it be known that I was single for the next five years of my life, which in teenage years is more like 50. Although it might be worth mentioning that I did put it in the wrong locker – which lead to an extremely awkward conversation with a very confused boy from the year below.

The point is love is messy and when it first enters our lives at that young, excitable age, we don’t know what to do with it. No one gives us a manual that says: “How to navigate the most complex emotion in human history”. Because the truth is, no one would know what to write in that manual.

In a generation that is filled with social media and dating apps, finding love isn’t the problem. It’s keeping it. The ease of swiping left makes getting to know people a lot harder and the expectation of disappointment more prevalent.

65% of the Kent students who completed a recent poll haven’t had a relationship lasting longer than a year. Is this simply a part of being a young adult or an unfortunate development of the generation Z?

First year Kent students Isobel Wiseman and Lewis Dryden met at beginning of secondary school. “He was sitting at the front of the bus on our way to school, which was so uncool for a year ten, but I thought it was cute” Isobel relayed to me. It was puppy love from the moment he asked her on their first playground date, and they’ve been together since. So how have they managed to beat the odds of our generation?

When I asked the couple what they love about each other they both told me that they bring out the best in each other. “We’re like complete opposites, but share the important things in common. Like fire and ice”. This hot and cold duo had a lighthearted and friendly energy and the way they spoke about each other is something to strive for. So what was their advice, in light of the disheartening statistics?

“Don’t look for love” Lewis revealed to me. “Love finds you, but the important thing is to be open to it”. They both stressed the importance of “taking each day as it comes” and not taking anything too seriously. After all, we’re still all so young.

Even though Lewis and Isobel have been together for over five years, they still find it important to continue to take it slow. “When we move in together for our second year, we’ll be having separate rooms. It’s important to take it slow and have our own space at this age”. This is an admirable trait; the young couple seemed to have an understanding of the complexities of love and relationships and are constantly trying their best to work with it.

Lewis Dryden and Isobel Wiseman

Ella Lamb and Charlie Bolton are trying to make long distance work. Ella is a second year Kent student and has been with her boyfriend Charlie, a third-year student at Reading University, for almost four years. “It isn’t easy, but that’s just it. Love isn’t easy. You have to work at relationships. Young people nowadays take love for granted, they take it and throw it away. If you love someone you have to put effort in” Ella told me.

Lewis and Isobel share similar views “If a couple doesn’t argue, something isn’t right” says Lewis. What I learnt from both my interviews and my research is that our generation are afraid. 57% of students who took part in my recent survey have said the reason they are single is because they are scared of commitment or vulnerability. We’re scared to put effort into the unknown, to lay our cards on the table and to try. It’s scary but so is walking into a room of people you don’t know, but if you don’t take the first step you might never find your best friend.

I asked Ella and Charlie if they thought commitment was dying out. Ella told me: “It’s now okay to leave a relationship after a couple of weeks, simply because the idea of “love” and working hard to make a relationship work is diminishing. A relationship that requires effort is, apparently, too much to handle, resulting in the end of many relationships”. When I asked them if they thought commitment was dying among our generation, they were absolutely certain. “Yes, I think times are changing fast and it’s hard to keep up with it or know what to do, which is why we should try harder with the ones we love, even if it’s just with your parents or your friends, love is so important”.

The interesting thing about all of this is that although 62% of you thought commitment was dying out, 86% of you told me you’d still like to get married one day. These figures speak volumes. We are all secretly hoping for that special person, that feeling that makes life a little easier. It’s understandable. Our generation suffer with the most mental health problems in recorded history. It feels like the odds are against us, but that gives us all the more reason to fight it and try harder.

Ella and Charlie stressed the importance of loving yourself first: “It’s hard to be with someone and expect them to love you if you don’t love yourself. It’s not just the relationship you have to work at but it’s yourself”. Charlie revealed that he has been through his fair share of mental health issues. “I had really bad anxiety and I was really insecure about myself, and at the beginning of our relationship we had lots of problems because of it”. They really emphasised that to love someone is to love yourself, something that I think everyone needs to hear.

I personally have been in my current relationship for over two years. Not quite the milestone Isobel and Lewis are at but we’re certainly on our way. Even though finding love hasn’t been easy I have realised it is something we shouldn’t waste. Sometimes I still feel like that clueless school girl, constantly making mistakes and not understanding why. But finally finding someone who gets me and loves me unconditionally has to be the greatest feeling. A feeling we all deserve to have in our life. And a feeling I intend to keep and work at. So if you’re one of that 57% who aren’t in a relationship because you’re scared, I encourage you to open yourself up to the possibility of human connection. Of love.

However you choose to define love; whether it’s a deep and meaningful connection or a mix of chemicals reacting in your body, it will always find a way into your life. It has been around since the beginning of time and will never cease to exist. Although it remains present, as we evolve, so does it. And as we grow more complex, so does love. Let’s try and keep up with it, embrace it, because in a world full of hate; all we need is love.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

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