For past generations, love was expressed with a cold soul. If you washed his clothes, gave him children, milked his cows, cooked his meals…then that was love.
But the younger generation thinks love is a feeling that expresses itself in action. Actually, romantic love for them only comes after platonic love, a kind of affection that is not centered on lust or sexual needs but it is unconditional.
Millennials have an added benefit with the advent of social media and dating sites. Yet they are seen as the ‘lost generation’; they do not want to own homes, they up and leave jobs when they are unhappy and are too verbose when talking about feelings, things that the older folk think makes them unstable and demanding, even in relationships. But is this true?
Twenty-four-year old Valary Ambati says for their generation, platonic love plays a big role in how they expect to be loved by romantic partners.
“I can’t imagine being with a person who wouldn’t sacrifice themselves for me as my friends would,” she says.
Sharon Ochola, 28, says that a lover should strive to be a balanced cocktail of both.
“I expect my partner to be my friend, as much as he is my partner; to love me for who I am and who I am becoming and not give up on me no matter what,” she says.
A 29-year old man known as Otieno equates love to the sun.
“I’ll try using the sun’s example. It shows up every single day, without asking why the Earth is not shining back,” he explains.
Iain Kwoba, 29, adds that he expect a partner to respect his space and time.
“We don’t have to see each other every day or talk every day for the friendship to be valid,” he says.
For millennials, there are many ways to meet the proverbial ‘one’. In a world where meeting a spouse meant being in the social circles or asking your rich aunt to find you a nice young man from her church, millennials got smarter and invented apps like Tinder and Bumble where you get to choose that person for yourself at the swipe of a finger.
Even so, Valary says that old school interactions still reign.
“While it’s possible to find amazing people who are genuine in apps, it’s not really how I want to find love. It’s exhausting, trying to figure out if someone is honest or not isn’t the trajectory I’m on right now,” she says.
“I need face-to-face connections to see how well I relate with prospective lovers.”
What about breakups and disagreements? Does being friends help out in the transitional process? Iain seems to think so.
“I can only see you as a romantic partner if you give me what I need as a platonic friend. Those two are mutually exclusive, since if the relationship breaks we can still maintain a friendship.”
This begs the question as to whether the way millennials love was influenced by the love they received from their parents and other family members growing up.
“It did for the better part of my life. However, as I grew up, I learnt to carve my way to love,” Valary says.
Part of carving her “own way to love” involved a lot of research. “I had to do a lot of research on love languages and how people love. I had to be more understanding and learn to listen to how people want to be loved instead of imposing my ideals,” she adds.
Love languages, a concept developed by American author Gary Chapman in 1992, delve into the five different ways that one can express one love for another.
These “languages”; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch; form the basis of human interaction and explain why some expressions of love feel more profound to an individual as opposed to others.
For Sharon, parental love only inspired her to do better with her own family.
“My father wasn’t so present and my mum tried as much as she could [to be present], but love wasn’t evident in our home. I’m more intentional with my family and try to give my all, both to my son and husband,” she says.
Views on matters of formalising marriages are a bit divergent. Iain worries that the legal attributes of such a union make it hard for love to thrive over practicality.
He favours a come-we-stay partnership.
“If I have to enter into a civil agreement, that’s where marriage turns me off,” he says. “I don’t think it’s intended, but in formal marriage, there are changes. The dynamic shifts from romantic to obligatory.”
How do millennials approach compromise in relationships?
“I don’t believe compromise should be part of love. Understand is often confused with compromise. Am I making myself better or not? Because the latter is called settling for less,” Iain adds.
In his opinion, each partner should come to the table with their own set of standards that they wish to be met, and should strive to be the best they can be in the relationship.
Maggie Gitu, a marriage, family, and sex therapist, explained why compromise may seem increasingly difficult in this day and age.
“Compromise is about finding balance. How does the younger generation view balance?” she says.
“Even though our parents may have been looking for equality, a mother had to sacrifice something that she wanted. When the man got his way, then the family was ‘balanced’, since he was the head of the home. But now, if both partners are equal and goes for what they want, compromise becomes complicated because now you need to consider two different things. A man can no longer say he’s the head of the house,” she adds.
Ideas like feminism and the fight for equal rights may also make compromise difficult, Ms Gitu explained.
As for millennials, the idea of love may seem different from traditional love, which, as Ms Gitu narrated, had more communal implications as to who coupled with who and what social benefits such couples would add.
The older generation performed all sorts of duties for their spouses year the felt little or nothing for them.
“Back then it was more about coupling and less about love. Now, it’s more about love and less about relationships. People are choosing not to get married unless they’re in love with the person, whereas before, love had almost nothing to do with it,” she said.