Love 101 on Valentine's Day


Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.

More strenuous than completing a triathlon and trickier than passing the Mensa entrance exam, being in love challenges every iota of our beings.

Facts

Tips on how to develop healthy relationships from Dr. Isabell Springer:

1. Learn how your partner processes relationship conflict.
"Never push your partner for a quick resolution to a breakdown if they are the type that needs time to 'sleep on it,'" she says. "This may be viewed as avoidance but issues typically work themselves out better after a good night's rest."
2. A relationship is unhealthy if there is distrust.
"We aren't able to relax and feel secure in our relationship when we don't feel that our partner is being honest," she says.
3. Don't say "I love you" before the one-year mark.
"Just say 'I am so infatuated with you,'" she says. "If we start interpreting infatuation as love, then we start making poor decisions."
4. Don't get a DUI.
"DUI's are decisions under the influence of infatuation," she says. "Within the first six to 12 months, don't move in together, get pregnant, cut friends and family off, make big decisions or start a long-distance relationship. If you want to invest yourself in something long-lasting, you have to do it like this."

That's the lesson in the Love 101 event held at Santa Fe College this Valentine's Day. Organized by Driver's Ed for Love, an Gainesville relationship education organization, the event aims to impart lessons on how to develop healthy relationships and the importance of self-awareness and emotional maturity.

"We want to inspire people to become relationship-educated," said Isabell Springer, a marriage and family therapist in Gainesville.

A key lesson is learning the difference between infatuation and love. At the start of any relationship, chemicals like oxytocin flood the brain and create obsessive, passionate feelings which many confuse for love, said Springer.

"Infatuation is a stage. We're not being authentically ourselves. We put our best foot forward. We like this idea of being desired by someone and we want to keep that going. We're not maliciously or knowingly doing it," she says.

The infatuation stage lasts six to 12 months, and only after this stage is complete can two people experience love, she said. Once the infatuation stage ends, partners should assess each other's qualities - at the top of the list is a romantic partner's emotional maturity.

How does someone recognize emotional maturity? Is your partner truthful, organized, and steadfast in her values? Can you identify how your partner feels? Can your partner identify your feelings?

"Being an emotionally mature person is having an awareness of yourself and your impact on others, then behaving in ways that match up," she says. "Emotional maturity exists in all of us, but it tends to be underdeveloped."

Driver's Ed for Love, which was created in 2008 after Springer ended a long-term relationship, hosts bimonthly workshops at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development on West University Avenue.

"I was sorting through this pain," she said. "I wanted answers for why yet another relationship was not working and therefore had to end. What I realized was that there was nothing wrong with me - it's just that no one ever taught me anything about love or how to choose well or have a successful relationship. I just needed education and skills."

Springer said the skills her workshops provide can help those in their college years and beyond attain success interpersonally, academically and professionally.

"Being in an unhealthy, unhappy, confusing, dramatic relationship is a distraction from the goals you're trying to achieve," she said. "When you're always caught up in conflict, how can you possibly be focused on achieving big things?"

Western culture, with its emphasis on individualism and monetary gain, doesn't enable individuals to develop interpersonal skills and emotional maturity, said Springer.

"Our parents don't teach us and we don't teach our children about healthy relationships - it's time for change."

To save a seat for the free Driver's Ed for Love March or April workshops, visit http://driversedforlove.com.

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