Students receive college credit for learning about romantic relationships

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

University of North Texas sophomore Kyla Sham is engaged to be married in August and like any good student, she's doing her homework before the wedding.

Sham is one of nearly 40 students enrolled in UNT's "Romantic Relationships" course - in which students learn about communication, dating, mate selection and marriage.

As Valentines Day approaches, hoards of people run out for last-minute boxes of chocolate and flowers as a romantic gesture on just one day of the year. But these students are learning about more helpful statistics and skills that they can use every day of their lives.

"It's my favorite class," said Sham, from Carrollton. "You can really relate to this. Everyone has relationships in life, so this class is very valuable."

The class, offered for the third year at UNT, attracts mostly juniors and seniors. Many are interested in counseling careers, but some come from other majors, such as physics and math, just to get tips on how to relate to their partners.

"Everyone can benefit from it," said Dr. Nate Cottle, assistant professor of development and family studies and course instructor. "I want students to be more knowledgeable about the choices that they counsel others to make or that they themselves make. They can become informed consumers in their own relationships."

Cottle, who holds a doctoral degree in human development and family studies, has research expertise in healthy family relationships, including mate selection and marriage. He recently conducted an online research study about the romantic relationships of young adults ages 18 to 35.

"When we talk about gender, most people can remember 'Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.' That book tries to say that men and women are very different," Cottle said. "But when we look at the actual data, men and women are very similar. There are some key differences we have. We try to teach students, we have to be aware of some subtle differences we might have and how to deal with those better."

Those statistics have opened Sham's eyes in class.

"Sometimes when there's a problem, you feel like you're the only person having that issue," Sham said. "But now you come into this class and see the statistics, and it makes you feel better that theres a whole world of people out there having the same issues."

The class has reinforced her knowledge that women have larger-than-life expectations on Feb. 14, she said.

"Men have the Super Bowl," she said, "and women have Valentine's Day."

She doesnt have to worry, she said. Her fiancée leaves affectionate notes on the mirror and buys her flowers - making every day like Valentines Day.

Obviously, she has learned well from her professor.

"I would teach in my class that Valentine's Day is just another day," Cottle said. "Individuals need to make sure they communicate their love for their partner every day of the year, and not so much once a year."

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