From the Love Issue: Love and Other Complications

Sometimes, talking to my friends, I feel like we’re all just a bit confused by relationships. Much deep philosophising has been done on the subject over a cup of tea – or when everything just gets too much – over a few too many cans of Tennents or glasses of Lambrini (we’re a classy bunch). For example – what’s this whole thing about “love at first sight” and having “such a deep connection that nothing could ever tear us apart, we never argue about anything and we’re just going to be together forever” nonsense that some people seem to be spouting? Surely that’s all a bit of a lie, right? Surely there are other factors that come into a relationship like the right timing, or like continually putting in effort to keep everything running smoothly? Or are there really….?

“I’m just SO confused!” more than one friend has wailed while reaching for another alcoholic beverage. If you, dear reader, are anything like me you will probably also be finding yourself despairing about similar deep, dark questions. Well never fear! Because now I am here to distribute some of my much sought after – well, eagerly shared at least – advice. Along with hangovers and crying in the library at 2am, just the whole experience of being a student is filled with a myriad of mystifying relationship dilemmas. For example, unless both of you happen to live in the same city outside of uni, the fact is this: you’re going to have to deal with SOME distance of some sort at least sometimes. If this is, say, 2 hours, easy peasy and lucky you. Phoning and texting are your friends, and you can easily visit them over summer etc. But for many students, this distance will be longer. “The Year Abroad and Relationships” is probably the topic of many student forums. What do you do if you have to move a long haul flight away from the person you love the most?

This was exactly the position one of my best friends found herself in, over a year ago now. I remember us all sitting together on a bench with a poignant view of a pine tree forest as we all drew on our infinite wisdom to launch in and advise her on what to do. Personally I advocated the “break up for now and see what they’re up to when you get back” option. Obviously, at that point I had never been in love myself or I would never have given such ridiculous advice and I apologise to my friend now for the sheer insensitivity of it. Breaking up with someone you don’t feel as strongly about anymore is difficult enough; ending things with someone that you are madly in love with is such a soul-crushingly terrible thought that it is essentially impossible.

But seeing my friend and her boyfriend on New Year’s Eve, back home together after what was obviously a few unthinkably difficult months apart, they were just so right together and it was just so obvious to everyone in the room how happy they were. And I just thought how powerful not only their love, but their commitment to maintaining it must be.

And yet, it seems to be a question that many students I know wind up at again and again – “should I break up with someone I still love?” In my idealistic days of younger “youth” I would have passionately said “No! Love heals everything!” I mean, there are some things that love does not heal (and from personal experience I can affirm that these include emotional abuse, cheating and forgetting your birthday). But maybe, eventually – for good relationships- over time it does prevail? And maybe it’s not immediately apparent how or why it will work out, but it will.

A contrasting example of circumstance being just too much to handle is my other friend and her high school sweetheart. She got very ill and he thought the best thing for both of them was to break up. 2 years after splitting up they are back together and talking about getting engaged. So yes, sometimes the circumstances undeniably get in the way of the connection and it would be naive to think otherwise. However, I want to believe that the universe always has a weird way of getting round it, so that’s what I’m going to think.  And that’s kinda cool and makes you believe in the whole “power of love” thing.

But I do want to end on a stronger, more warning type note – despite its immense power you always, always need to put effort into love. Alone, it is nothing. Love is an active process that is always changing; and as students growing and learning and going out into the world, we need to be okay with this. Love is not static. Saying “I love you” is not a magic spell; these three words are not the end of the line. Put no effort into your relationship, treat them how you like once you’ve “hooked” them and you will feel the love start to erode.

So basically – if you love someone, show, don’t just tell them. Every single day. I may not know much, but I do truly believe that if you do this it will all work out.

[Alice Lannon]

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