I read a fascinating article in The Atlantic recently about a particular class Northwestern University offers: Marriage 101. The school has a course entirely dedicated to helping students have successful marriages and fulfilling romantic relationships in life. How cool is that? Students attend weekly lectures and then break into discussion groups focused on a range of topics such as child-rearing, infidelity, and addiction. Some of the class’s broader teachings include Dating and Selecting the Right Partner, Managing Conflict and Fighting Fair, Common Problems of Marriage, and—one that I thought was particularly great—Getting To Know Yourself.
“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,” says Alexandra Solomon [one of the four professors teaching the course]. “Our message is countercultural: Our focus is on whether you are the right person. Given that we’re dealing with 19-, 20-, 21-year olds, we think the best thing to do at this stage in the game, rather than look for the right partner, is do the work they need to understand who they are, where they are, where they came from, so they can then invite in a compatible suitable partner.”
To that end, students keep a journal, interview friends about their own weaknesses, and discuss what triggers their own reactions and behaviors in order to understand their own issues, hot buttons, and values. “Being blind to these causes people to experience problems as due to someone else—not to themselves,” Solomon explains. “We all have triggers, blind spots, growing edges, vulnerabilities. The best thing we can do is be aware of them, take responsibility for them, and learn how to work with them effectively.”
What an incredible class to take, don’t you think? Northwestern has offered this course for 14 years and it’s so popular that teachers are forced to turn students away every year! If you’re married, what are some of the challenges you face in your relationship that you didn’t expect to? Is marriage easier or harder than you imagined? Do you think a course like this one would have properly prepared you? If you’re not married, would you take a course like this?
p.s. I’ll always remember the time my 11th-grade English teacher told us: “You know that movie Jerry Maguire, where they say ‘you complete me’? That’s bullshit. Nobody completes you. You complete yourself.” I don’t remember the majority of the things I learned in high school, but I’ll always remember learning that. ;)