All you need is counseling

By By Charly Kuecks

By Charly Kuecks

“Now that was when people knew how to be in love. They knew it! Time, distance…nothing could separate them because they knew. It was right. It was real.” Thus opines Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle,” wishing for a halcyon era that never existed. Millions of Generation Y-ers grew up watching such films, where the protagonists are quite simply “made for each other.” Real life is rarely that simple. However, long-term relationships built on communication, sacrifice and gratitude can bring joy and fulfillment.

I sat down with Don Herrin, a professor in the family and consumer studies department, about the unique challenges and opportunities facing engaged, married or cohabiting students at the U. Although some might think these are problems for a much later date, there are far more married students at this university than at others, with the average age of marriage in Utah standing at 22 for women and 24 for men, as of the last census. Additionally, a significant proportion of the student body is engaged, living together or in a long-term relationship.

The younger you are when you marry, the more at risk you are for any number of problems. Most newlyweds have difficulties adjusting to each other’s differences; reality is at odds with their expectations. They think, “If we love each other enough, this problem will go away.” Anywhere you find an ideology of “soulmates”8212;the perfect partner to whom you will remain sexually and emotionally attracted to for life8212;with minimal effort, you can run into marital problems.

“These myths pervade American culture at large, not just that of any given state, belief system, or university,” Herrin said. “The solution is to change your expectations about the relationship.” It sounds easy, but there are concrete steps to help you along the way.
Just about every couple would benefit from premarital counseling, workshops or tests to assess their compatibility or how fit as individuals they are for a serious relationship.
A primary step in finding happiness in love is to increase your own well-being. You have to consciously become kinder, more considerate and more thoughtful. Expressing appreciation to parents and friends is just as important to improving your present or future relationships as is the more generic idea of “communication.”

As students come together from different states and backgrounds to go to school, they often find themselves in long-distance relationships. Frankly, it does not pan out for most people. If you decide to stick it out, compromising is essential.

Money, children, scheduling issues8212;these can all turn former lovers into bickering enemies. Once the initial sexual chemistry has worn off, if your relationship is not based on a secure attachment, any set of pressures can fracture a marriage. “Whose job is it to do the dishes?” “What takes precedence: my graduate program or your job offer?” Questions such as these are stressful.

If there’s one misconception Herrin said he wishes he could clear up, it’s the question of “what is love?” There is no perfect mate, no destiny.

“A lot of people want to believe this8212;that all of their problems will be solved once they complete this quest,” he said.

They don’t realize that relationships are work8212;selfless, unglamorous, lifelong work. Our boyfriend-girlfriend relationships don’t prepare us for what it’s going to be like to stick it out for the long haul. Therapists for couples considering remarriage warn them that they’ll have to work hard8212;so hard, in fact, that if they had put that effort into their first marriage, it might have lasted.

As the European Economic Review succinctly put it, “Marriages which involve partners who are similar, in tastes or in their productive capacities, and in which private goods are equally shared, are the most likely to be stable.” A dose of reality, gratitude and proactive counseling is much more likely to benefit all of us, single or not, than too much time with weepy romantic comedies.
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