Column: Learning the ropes of love

The Long of It

Children go to school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Teens attend driving school to learn the rules of the road and become good drivers. Workers go to training sessions to learn and improve on skills required for their careers. Society tries its best to prepare us for the important things in life. But what about love?

Relationships are a huge and important part of our lives. So why is there no prerequisite to dating? ‘Relationships 101’ should be just as much a societal and educational standard as algebra or history.

And with Valentine’s Day being Saturday, I’m sure there are a few guys and gals out there who wouldn’t mind sitting in on a lecture about making special occasions memorable or a training session on how to show you care.

But beyond the few relationship skills you may have learned in a ‘marriage and family’ type health course in high school, most of what we learn about relationships is from experience and examples.

And since most of our experiences with love don’t go much further than dreaming of pop stars or pulling a crush’s pigtails, at least until our teen years, examples of relationships are probably the biggest influence on how we view the crazy world of love and everything associated with it.

For most of us, the most prominent example of relationships is the one set by our parents or guardians. Just as they influence our views and beliefs on religion, politics and culture, they also impact what we believe a relationship is comprised of or how we believe a significant other should be treated.

Unfortunately, with about 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, according to AboutDivorce.org, these examples are becoming increasingly less reliable. And even the good examples are hard to learn from, since we are a different generation than our parents and have more modern problems plaguing our relationships.

Other major examples of relationships come from movies, television and the arts. Most of these examples, however, are unrealistic.

Romantic comedies, like ‘Serendipity,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘Notting Hill,’ only show the beginning or honeymoon stage of a relationship. Films rarely follow a relationship as it grows and changes. Movies also set unrealistic romantic expectations in people’s minds. Women shouldn’t expect their boyfriend to chase them through the streets of New York to make up or to rent out an entire theatre so you can have your own private viewing of a Broadway show.

Television series usually portray relationships more accurately, simply because they have more time to do it. They are able to develop characters more fully and place them in a variety of relationships and issues.

Some people also learn about relationships from celebrities’ real life examples. Unfortunately, only the dramatic, unhealthy relationships are splashed on the cover of tabloids and in the public eye. If the more stable, successful relationships, like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith or Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, were in the limelight, learning from celebrities might not be a bad thing. But many Hollywood relationships just teach people it’s OK to marry someone new every year.

Some people have noticed the absence in relationship education and are trying to fill the void. A variety of workshops, retreats and concealing sessions focus on teaching people ‘vital information about relationships in general and yours in particular,’ according to the Imago Center for Relationships website. Imago is one of the many companies that offer educational retreats and support systems for relationships in Boston and across the country.

Many of these retreats, however, are geared for older audiences and couples, leaving out two major groups of people who could benefit from relationship education ‘- young adults and singles. College, and even high school, is when many of us experiment with relationships, learn what we want in a significant other and maybe start a relationship with a potential life partner. And one could argue it’s better to educate oneself on relationships while one is single, so they can be prepared for and ready to work at a relationship when the time comes.’

The Short of It

Somewhere between learning our ABCs and quantum physics, society should teach us about relationships to prepare us for real life issues.

‘- Megan Jicha can be reached at inside@huntington-news.com.

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