Life + Arts

Expert, students share advice

Expensive and inventive ways of expressing love may have turned Valentine’s Day into a debacle of pressure and stress, but many students have discovered it takes more than fancy dinners and boxes of chocolate to keep two people together.

UH students navigate through healthy, long-lasting relationships using methods they have acquired through trial and error. Students find their commitment techniques are working and are making more of the right moves in the right direction.

‘The three C’s,’ said pharmaceutical sciences junior Katherine Tom, referring to what she believes to be the keys to a successful relationship.’ ‘Communication, compatibility and compromise.’

Linda Acitelli, associate professor and director of the social psychology program at UH, said having good communication skills is a major factor in the development of a healthy relationship.

‘Partners need to be open about their expectations and their needs,’ Acitelli said. ‘At some point early in the relationship the couple needs to communicate about their level of commitment; that way partners know what the other expects and needs.’
Tom said understanding your partners’ needs is key.

‘Reach a middle ground,’ he said.

English freshman Elizabeth Brignac said her communication style is extremely different from her boyfriend’s. In their relationship, she is the one who has trouble communicating while her other half is more open.

‘We’ve gotten better at communicating,’ Brignac said.

Brignac’s assessment of having different communication styles is echoed in the book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Published in 1990 by Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen, the book explores the differences in communication styles between men and women and concludes that the majority of women, in stark contrast to men, use communication to create closeness.

Acitelli echoes Tannen’s premise.’

‘In general, women like to talk about relationships and men like to do things together,’ Acitelli said. ‘To women, talking connects people together.’ To men, talking is instrumental and needs to have a purpose.’ Keep in mind that these are generalizations.’

For Blaine Self, a marketing and management senoir, the generalizations were correct regarding his last relationship, which lasted more than three years.

‘She was definitely more talkative,’ self said, ‘I’m more quiet and reserved, but it was nice to have an opposite.’

Along with communication, Acitelli said partners need to know how to fight fairly and learn to compromise.’ She also said allowing time apart is also necessary to maintain an independent identity.

Karah Lawshe, a psychology junior, has been in a relationship with her fiance for three years and said when it comes to resolving differences, they do not waste time.

‘We fight about it for five minutes and get over it,’ she said.’ ‘There’s no point in harping on it.’

Couples are also finding that with their full schedules, carving out time for one another is important.’

Lawshe said both her and her fiance’s schedules are so hectic they have to set aside evenings only for each other and to enjoy movies together.

Acitelli said research has shown that feelings of closeness can be increased by doing new and exciting things together.

‘Perhaps young couples can designate times when they are to do something together that they would find exciting that neither of them has done before, like rock climbing or kayaking, taking a cooking class, or even go to a concert or play together,’ Acitelli said.’ ‘The activity itself is not as important as that it be perceived as something each partner would find exciting.’

Brignac and her live-in boyfriend also set aside time to watch movies once a week and participate in the 2009 BP MS 150, a bike ride from Houston to Austin which is part of a growing movement to end multiple sclerosis. Brignac said the event also serves as a way to bond with her significant other.

The everyday efforts a couple puts into a relationship is important, but Valentine’s Day remains the one day of the year when saying ‘I love you’ is considered by most to be a universal must.’

Acitelli said to communicate your Valentine’s Day expectations to your partner and come to an agreement about how to deal with the day.’

‘A card that said just the right things can go a long way especially if you write it yourself,’ she said.

‘Text!’ Shelton said.’ ‘It’s the way if you don’t have time to say, ‘I’m thinking of you.”

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