I wrote this article back in February but it got published online in May…
I went to a workshop on How to Make Love Last three weeks after a break-up. I was in the throes of a long-term relationship when I agreed to cover a course at The School of Life in Sydney, an institution set up by a group of philosophers including Alain de Botton. After some important realisations, though, I was suddenly single, and left thinking — ‘what was I to do about this class?’
A few days beforehand, I received a task from the classroom manager. Gulp. We had to consider a couple who have made their love last and reflect on how they managed this. Arrrgggghhhhhh! My mind was drawing a blank. I know lots of couples in long-term relationships, but I couldn’t think of one that has made their love endure. I felt disheartened. I’d failed my homework and I’d failed my relationship.
It was now Valentine’s Day Eve and Coles had erected a large, temporary marquee selling beautiful flowers. I hate Valentine’s Day and I know I’m not the only one. I really didn’t want to go to this class. I had visions of being Bridget Jones sitting among smug married couples or loved-up hippies who preach peace, love and brown rice while looking down their noses at me and my single status.
I was pleasantly surprised. The class was run by Dr Elisabeth Shaw, a clinical psychologist who specialises in relationships. There was no judgement, just some thought-provoking talk and exercises designed to make you become more self-aware. I was immediately put at ease when a fellow student (married) also confessed to struggling to find an appropriate couple to psychoanalyse, (sorry, ‘consider’) as part of the homework. I could’ve kissed this woman and then I remembered, she’s married.
Over the next three hours Dr Shaw asked lots of questions about relationships and their many facets. We discussed how necessary good communication and negotiation skills are. Dr Shaw cited studies and her own research, which indicated that many individuals are afraid to discuss these important things because they’re concerned they might humiliate themselves or their partners, or because such talk will challenge the pre-conceived notions our significant others have developed about us.
We did an exercise where a Venn diagram with love, sex and friendship was represented. Dr Shaw asked us to consider what happens if you remove one of these things. I ignored the feeling that my previous relationship was a broken illustration. The consensus was that these elements are important but over time they can grow and diminish due to outside pressures. It is also important to consider whether there are conflicting expectations, because this can determine the relationship’s overall success.
‘How To Make Love Last’ was well-timed in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. The class was not too dissimilar to Alain de Botton’s talk on the course of love at the Opera House. It was wonderful to be able to learn new things that can be applied to real life relationships. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Originally published on 15 May 2017 at the following website: https://theplusones.com/sydney/2017/05/15/surviving-a-workshop-on-making-love-last-three-weeks-post-breakup/
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