UF professor offers advice on love, relationships

Virginia

Southeast / Virginia 6 Views

As it turns out, it takes more than a box of chocolates and a dozen roses to be the ideal romantic partner.

Victor Harris, a University of Florida professor who studies human relationships and communication, said the keys to successful relationships aren’t well-portrayed in today’s media.

Sometimes, he said, people need to unlearn what magazines and popular culture have taught them.

So, here - from the expert — are his takeaway pieces of advice:

1. Focus on strengthening your friendships.

“Romance is nice, but friendship is the key,” Harris said. “The emphasis is [often] on the physical, and it should be a part of the relationship, but it should be put in its right place, below friendship, trust, commitment and love.”

2. See situations from other points of view, rather than being defensive.

“Throwing emotional and social mud at each other” is toxic to healing arguments, Harris said. Research shows that men are more likely to become defensive during disputes, he said, but this is likely a behavior learned from societal norms that can be changed.

3. Develop the three aspects of trust: dependability, availability and responsiveness.

Dependability is associated with keeping promises, and availability means being around to talk to someone or offer support, Harris said. Responsiveness is opening up to the other person in the relationship, rather than bottling thoughts.

“Commitment grows as trust grows,” he said.

4. Take a break during an argument before saying something you’ll regret.

When people approach the “flood zone” during an argument, they become so frustrated that they irrationally criticize others, Harris said. According to research, it takes about 25 minutes to calm down once a person reaches this point. To heal and move forward, he said, take time to be apart before resuming the conversation.

5. Seek help if you need it.

The university’s Strengthening Marriages and Relationship Training, or SMART Couples, program holds classes and workshops in Alachua, Duval, Palm Beach, Manatee and Santa Rosa counties. Harris said couples should be open to classes or therapy if they’re struggling. The goals of the free program are to help people at every stage of a relationship to evaluate how they can make improvements.

“Look at the strengths of your relationship and see if there are other skills that can be developed,” he said.

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