One Course: Intimate Relationships

Ever wondered about the best way to argue with your partner? Or how to know when a relationship is over? Or what to talk about on a first date? These are the types of things that students in Professor of Psychology Bill Dragon’s Intimate Relationships class learn.

Bill DragonIntimate Relationships started in the early ’90s as a workshop called What’s Love Got to Do with It? Dragon offered the workshop as part of New Student Orientation to ensure that students had an understanding of how to navigate relationships during their time on the Hilltop and beyond. The workshop was so well-received that Dragon knew he had to turn it into an 18-day course.

“I really enjoy that it’s a service to the community,” Dragon says. “It gives people an opportunity to get exposed to ideas about relationships that they hadn’t thought about, or would never have thought about, and then have a positive benefit on their interactions with others in the Cornell community.”

The class is set up to follow the life cycle of a relationship. The first third covers meeting people and starting relationships. The next third focuses on maintaining relationships, and the last third covers why and how we sometimes disengage from relationships.

Dragon was quick to point out that he likes to end with a message of hope.

“I always at the very end do a little phoenix lecture, you know, rising from the ashes,” he says. “I’ll say ‘Okay, what have we learned and how can we make the next relationship better?’ because people tend to want to be in relationships.”

Dragon uses the block plan to his advantage. The morning consists of a mixture of lecture and discussion, bringing in outside examples in addition to reading materials.

The afternoons consist mainly of labs. The class might view and discuss “When Harry Met Sally” to study the topic of attraction and meeting people. Or they might analyze song lyrics that relate to the section on violence and power in relationships.

A graduate recently wrote Dragon to thank him for providing him and his wife, who also took the course, tools for a successful marriage.

“Thanks so much for teaching my wife and me,” he wrote. “Knowledge of how to properly and directly voice exactly what is wrong in one short sentence has been wonderful. It has spared us from many long arguments.”