Do You Need a Class to Learn to Have a Relationship?


You may say no to that assertion. Then again, you’d be ignoring the 40-50% divorce rate, as well as the fact that many people are unhappily married. So again, do you need a class to learn to have a relationship? As a dating coach, I sure think so. And so does the faculty at Northwestern University, which teaches a class called “Marriage 101”. First lesson: there are no soul mates. Amen.

According to The Atlantic article about this important new development, “Northwestern’s Marriage 101 is unique among liberal arts universities in offering a course that is comprehensively and directly focused on the experiential, on self-exploration: on walking students through the actual practice of learning to love well.

First lesson: there are no soul mates. Amen.

While popular culture often depicts love as a matter of luck and meeting the right person, after which everything effortlessly falls into place, learning how to love another person well is anything but intuitive.”

Among the biggest takeaways for students according to the professor, Alexandra Solomon:

1. Self-understanding is the first step to having a good relationship. “The foundation of our course is based on correcting a misconception: that to make a marriage work, you have to find the right person. The fact is, you have to be the right person,” Solomon declares.

2. You can’t avoid marital conflict, but you can learn how to handle it better. “The class instructors teach their students that blaming, oversimplifying, and seeing themselves as victims are all common traits of unhappy couples and failed marriages. They aim to teach students that rather than viewing conflicts from a zero-sum position, where one wins and one loses, they would benefit from a paradigm shift that allows them to see a couple as “two people standing shoulder to shoulder looking together at the problem.”

3. A good marriage takes skill. “One of our more beloved cultural myths about marriage is that it should be easy. The reality is that most of us don’t have adequate communication skills going into marriage.”

You have to know yourself, you have to be fair, you have to be a good communicator, you have to be selfless, you have to have boundaries, and you have to share the same long-term vision for your lives together.

4. You and your partner need a similar worldview.Among other things…the more aligned you are on certain crucial dimensions–such as day-to-day compatibility, or whether you are on the same wavelength about larger issues–the better off you’ll be as a couple. He learned that all the communication skills in the world won’t help if you haven’t learned how to recognize and invite in a compatible partner.”

This is the reason that I invite readers to take personal responsibility for their happiness instead of blaming men or blaming women. You have to know yourself, you have to be fair, you have to be a good communicator, you have to be selfless, you have to have boundaries, and you have to share the same long-term vision for your lives together. All the chemistry in the world won’t redeem a relationship where one of these things falters.

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  1. 21

    Amen to you Evan! Great advices and great articles as always. I think it would be the most intelligent thing all universities should do by adding a relationship class. Yes we need to learn about love because love is part of our life like work and hobbies.. And for work, you study, for hobbies you learn and practice, so what do we have for love? no wonder why most of the relationships fail. Yes yes yes I want classes for our children to come and the new generation to be aware. Because at the end, love brings us together. So let’s learn how to love 🙂

  2. 22

    I think a relationship class is a wonderful idea. Why do you think there are so many relationship articles and experts out there to begin with? No one is born knowing how to have productive, perfect relationships. It’s trial and error and alot of what you know about relationships is formed from your early life. And when you grow up, you realize your parents are also a product of what they learned in their own early lives. Teaching people to manage and adapt in their relationships is a great idea. Giving them the tools to get along with others, to learn how to compromise, the right things to compromise on, how to manage conflict and express your concerns and needs in a healthy way, everyone could always use a little improvement in these areas..Everyone!
    When I was young I was abused physically and emotionally. I wanted nothing more than to be recongnized as being beautiful and worthy enough for love. (I suspect the majority of young girls feel this same way which is often the source of them making unwise choices as younger girls.) I clung to the myth of the white knight coming to save me. Which made me a contradiction of   being idealistic, naive, unrealistic, untrusting, disappointed in the male gender while dually hoping a *good* man would come along and magically fix everything for me even though I didn’t really trust men at all to begin with anyway. I was so desperate for loving male attention even as I distrusted them emotionally that I put myself into some stupid situations just to get any kind of male attention. I settled for bread crumbs because it didn’t seem like I deserved something better. I sacrificed things   that I wish I hadn’t at tender ages. It took me a long time not see men as either being on a pedestal   better than me, or being the monster in the closet that was going to come out and abuse me.  And because I was so ashamed of all of this, I never talked to anyone about until I got older and could identify these personal aspects of myself. I very much could have benefited from a class about relationships. I suspect many people have some form of variation of experiences and range of emotions I’ve had.

  3. 23

    WTF? What about dudes and dudes and women and women? Is healthy relationship ONLY between men and women?

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