Northwestern Marriage 101 professor shares advice for healthy relationships


Rachel Kupfer/The Daily Northwestern

Psychology Prof. Alexandra Solomon speaks at University Hall on Wednesday. Solomon advised students about how to maintain healthy relationships.

Alane Lim, Reporter

A Northwestern professor has some advice for heartbroken students struggling to get over a breakup: don’t get mad at yourself, think of your broken heart like a broken bone.

“Our brains code heartbreak in the same exact centers where our brains code physical pain,” psychology Prof. Alexandra Solomon said at an event in University Hall on Wednesday. “You wouldn’t get mad at yourself if you had a broken arm and then it continued to hurt.”

Solomon, who also works as a clinical psychologist at The Family Institute, spoke about maintaining healthy relationships to about 30 people during an event hosted by Alpha Chi Omega sorority. She said students can develop deeper relationships by being kind to themselves and understanding others.

People should allow themselves to process a breakup and get over a relationship, Solomon said. She stressed the importance of understanding feelings, rather than burying them, which often happens in hookup culture as people try to avoid heartbreak.

“Part of what happens in hookup culture is we try to have experiences of sex or of closeness without getting hurt,” she said. “There’s a sense of not trusting ourselves to be vulnerable, to open up.”

Solomon said people adhere to an idea of what hookups or relationships should be, which makes them feel inadequate when reality doesn’t match.

Communication during conflict is also important, because finger-pointing is ineffective, Solomon said. Rather, people should focus on how a conflict makes them feel and communicate that sentiment.

Emily Diehl, Alpha Chi Omega’s vice president for philanthropy who helped organize the event, told The Daily she thought Solomon’s talk would encourage conversation about healthy relationships.

“A lot of what we do is (talk) about unhealthy relationships and how you know the signs of unhealthy relationships,” the Weinberg senior said.

She added that she enjoyed the many questions audience members had, which touched on topics relating to relationships, families and whether love even exists.

Alicia Zheng, a Communication senior and member of Alpha Chi Omega who attended the event, told The Daily she appreciated the opportunity to see Solomon outside the classroom.

Zheng said she heard great things about Solomon, whose “Marriage 101: Building Loving and Lasting Relationships” class is popular among students.

“Her class has gained quite a reputation on campus as (one) you have to take during your undergraduate career,” Zheng said.

Ultimately, people must have a healthy relationship with themselves to have meaningful relationships with others, Solomon said.

She advised students not to tell themselves anything they wouldn’t tell a best friend.

“The heart of everything that I do and believe about the nature of love, sex, romance, marriage is that it’s all about the relationship with yourself first,” Solomon said. “(Your relationship with yourself affects) how you view love, what you believe about love, thoughts and feelings about love and the choices that you make about love.”

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