Phoebe Walls discuses how platonic love might form the most fulfilling relationships of your life..
Falling in love focuses on romantic relationships. We chase the magical moment of a first kiss, the thrill of the first time they take your hand. The ‘L bomb’ lingers on the tip of your tongue, and you’re silently, wistfully waiting for them to feel the same. But what about platonic love? The happiness that can spread through your every cell when a close friend is nearby. Conversations that effortlessly flow for three hours. Many neglect their friendships when they get into a relationship; that special someone can become the only face they see in a crowded room. Oxford is a university with a notorious workload, and many students swearing off relationships to focus on being hopelessly devoted to their love of learning, so time for a relationship of any kind can feel limited.
Some of the greatest love stories of your life will be friendships. That first friend you made on the first day of school on a scratchy carpet will always hold a place in your heart. You think of her often, how you bonded over Jaqueline Wilson and Big Maths Beat That. There are friendships where a quiet pint at the local pub can reconcile two years apart. Oxford friendships can feel particularly magical. Some long-lasting friendships are founded in Freshers week. I remember feeling far away from home, drunk on newfound freedom and vodka drank out of unwashed mugs. The dizzying, dancing way that you feel not just from the eye contact of a love interest but a friend holding your hand as you spin on a sticky floor.
Oxford terms bring a rollercoaster of emotions, and platonic love is the only cure to heartbreak, homesickness or fifth-week blues. There’s a comfort derived from seeing your flatmate in the morning, and a quiet contentment that comes from catch-ups on the way to the college bar. There’s a joy from a cup of tea with a long chat, or raging rants, or gentle gossip. Nothing beats the thrill of a friend telling you they love you. I’d never experienced this before university, an honest declaration of a platonic love that rings in my ears like the favourite songs that we sing together. Love interests will come and go, treated by a friend’s affection.
There is nothing more freeing than feeling like you can fully be yourself around someone, which is harder with a romantic interest. At the beginning of the relationship, people try not to come across too keenly, waiting for the other person to reach out first. Lust is fragile and fleeting. Best friends see all your imperfections and yet still make you feel seen and heard. Friends will talk each other off a cliff edge, listen to dramatic anecdotes intently, and offer solutions to any problem.
This Valentine’s Day, shops are crammed with pink cards and tacky bears. Many singles feel a sense of missing out as colleges organise Valentine’s events from formal dinners to traffic light bops. Love can seem all around and yet so unreachable. Perhaps the people who most deserve a card are in reach. Nothing strengthens a friendship more than confessing how much you appreciate someone.