Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Down to Business with… Playwright Rebecca Gilman

Every week in the couples-only SESP course Marriage 101: Building Loving and Lasting Relationships, Dr. Arthur Nielson answers questions about the ultimate commitment of love. Dr. Nielson sat down with The Current to weigh in on how to love, who to love and Valentine’s Day.

The Current: What is the purpose of Marriage 101?

Nielson: Kids that come from divorced families, as well as everyone else that’s got their eyes open, know that success in this area of life is not guaranteed. When we ask, they say that they’re scared they won’t succeed or they have no idea what leads to success. (The class) explicitly attempts to answer that question.

The Current: What’s one thing people might not otherwise know to do?

Nielson: Expressing gratitude towards your partner. Try harder to pay attention to the things that are working, and tell your partner you really appreciate them and love them. Love and respect what they’re doing. It shouldn’t be fake.

The Current: How differently do men and women approach relationships?

Nielson: For college kids, there’s a change now in the last 10 years or so. Especially the men, maybe the women too – they’re not looking for a long-term commitment. Often college-age men are more comfortable thinking the main thing they’re interested in is companionship and sexual relationship. I think often they’re deluding themselves. I think everybody wants more than that. The typical college woman wants more than that. They’re interested in sex, but they want more than that. There’s a mismatch there. It’s sort of sad. I think relationships in college are more unsatisfying than they used to be. When I talk to Northwestern undergraduates, I ask what dating’s like, and they’re like, “Nobody does that.”

The Current: What are the downsides and upsides to love?

Nielson: The joke is “Love is blind and sex is the blindfold.” People are somewhat blind to the likely problems down the road. The upside is many people have a growth experience. They fall in love and bond with somebody. They reveal their deepest secrets and concerns to the other person who accepts them. This is part of what romantic love is. It’s not just taking off your clothes, its taking off your psychological clothes. It powers people in deciding to share a life together. There’s tons of research that says if you have a happy marriage, you do better in almost everything that’s important in life. You’re happier, you make more money, you have more friends. It has all sorts of positive effects. Love moves people in that direction of commitment and expands people beyond their view of life, their selfishness or self-interests. I’m a big fan.

The Current: Do you think of Valentine’s Day as a manufactured holiday or valuable to society?

Nielson: The day devoted to telling people you love them would be a nice thing. One of the things that I do (with my wife) is we go out and celebrate our anniversary on the same day as Valentine’s Day. It’s a great time because all the restaurants are very romantic, and it makes us feel very good. The world changes for that day, and it’s like everybody is having a party that we get to tune into on our anniversary. For some people it’s a day when you can feel bad, like New Year’s Eve if you don’t have a date. But a holiday that’s just for love? I’d say seven points positive, three points negative.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Down to Business with… Playwright Rebecca Gilman