Venkata: Incorporating a Marriage 101 should be a no-brainer

Northwestern University to offer Marriage 101, which addresses relationships among other key issues.

by Uma Venkata

I have said things to the people I love most in this world that I would give anything to go back and stop myself from saying. By hurting those I love, inadvertently or not, I’ve always done more or unintended damage. It’s taken 20 years and counting to realize that the problem isn’t the other person — it’s me and not knowing how to process my own feelings or understand where others are coming from. Close relationships to people we care about profoundly have a learning curve and deep responsibility.  

Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy offers the undergraduate course “Building Loving and Lasting Relationships: Marriage 101.” The course content is exactly what the title claims — it aims to develop students into conscientious partners in “happy and successful intimate relationships,” according to the website of the course professor Alexandra Solomon. Some may say this sounds superfluous, and that it just continues the childhood habit of hand-holding through challenges that we should figure out ourselves. I understand this reaction completely. I’ve always been pretty averse to hand-holding, getting some kind of advantage or push-and-shove through my parents. But that’s not what this kind of class is about.

Marriage 101 could be construed more as a sociology class, or at least a micro to sociology’s macro. It doesn’t have to do with society as a whole, but with our close relationship with another person — or with more people, if the student is interested in being a generally better friend. Northwestern’s Marriage 101 requires students to conduct interviews with married people, pinpoint their own weaknesses by discussing with their friends and undergo a significant amount of introspection.

Yes, it is in a way preemptive marriage counseling. But it makes sense as a preparatory class, just as all of our other classes prepare us for our careers — and for liberal arts students, well-rounded lives. High school usually offers sex education of some kind, but the most important romantic relationship is a lot more than just sex. Watching out for STIs is probably not what marriage is about. But marriage on the whole, I am told, is difficult. I haven’t been married, but I believe it. 

The University of Minnesota should offer a class like Marriage 101, where it could be open to a more diverse undergraduate student body by fulfilling a liberal education requirement. A class like this would teach a real life skill and could touch on credit and mortgages as well. This kind of intimate communication can make a huge difference in a student’s entire future life, and the University student body is mature enough to understand the real implications.