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.