Two people meet. They smile. They talk. They smile some more. The minutes turn into hours and the hours turn into days, and everything is blissful and giddy and full of giggles and blushes and hugs, until reality sets in.
The reality for two people in love (or in like) today is this. They must navigate sticky situations and he-say she-say moments and weird emojis and making the relationship Facebook official and one of my personal favorites, interpreting what the dreaded love ‘ya means.
Oh yes, friends, that reality.
Earlier this semester I was proud to deliver what I thought was going to be an absolutely awesome lecture to my college reading class. As I presented the material, I wrote key words on the board that would illustrate my points about reading comprehension. Before I knew it, one of my students raised his hand and said, “Are you talking about reading skills or relationship skills? In another class we talked about how the exact same thing is needed in order to have a successful relationship with someone.”
At first, I was confused. I didn’t know how he was able to get there. But he explained himself rather clearly. It was so clear that I noticed though, the other students’ body language changed. The room was now filled with nervous laughter masking some issues with romantic vulnerability and non-academic memories that might have led to heartbreak in the past. It was also clear that without me even knowing it, the elephant in the room had now been introduced to the crowd.
We were going to talk about relationships. And not the kind between nouns and verbs. We were going to talk about heartbreak. And somehow I needed to let them express themselves, and before the end of the hour bring it back to college reading and the lesson from Chapter 5. So I let them talk. When I did, I stepped back for a moment and I realized they were right.
Romantic relationships have an uncanny way of using the same patterns and concepts that are taught in Language Arts classrooms. So much so, that when revisited, it becomes pretty clear. There is a connection between reading and love. Here’s how:
- Just like a short story or an essay, a relationship has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Didn’t we learn that in 3rd grade? It seemed so much simpler then. Relationships also have beginnings, middles, and while we don’t always like to think about it, an end. Understanding where you are in the story can help you understand the story.
- Take it slow at first. When reading something for the first time, read it slowly at first. Then allow a rhythm to develop between the words, the thoughts, and the brain. Relationships need time to develop, grow, and establish a rhythm between the heart and the brain. I’m not sure about you, but it’s when I haven’t allowed that natural rhythm to develop that I’ve had the biggest heartaches.
- Characters work to solve problems, and so do humans. In prose, the characters are often faced with problems they must solve, and situations they must analyze for cause and effect.Interpersonal relationships work the same way. Just like the characters we read about, we don’t always analyze a problem and solve it in the best way possible. If we recognize that life itself is about problem-solving, it might not be such a shock when we are faced with a situation that we, “just can’t believe is happening.”
- Talk it through. Sometimes, talking about things helps. Even if you are talking to yourself. I like to think that when I talk to myself, I’m able to process my understanding of both specific and general instances that I don’t process as well when I’m just thinking. Make sure though you are talking about the situation and how you feel. Passing judgements and overreacting is not appropriate here. Just talk. For additional help, see number 2 above about natural rhythms.
5. Pay attention to the roles. The parts of speech have distinctive roles or functions in a sentence. In relationships, people take on roles such as protector, counselor and confidant. In the English language, there are some words that have more than one role, depending on how they are used. The same things happens in relationships. Don’t use something as a noun that was meant to be a verb or an adjective. A perfect example of a word in the English language that has multiple roles is the word love. Go figure.
6. Definitions always help. When reading something we don’t understand, sometimes a definition of certain words can help.In my classes, dictionaries are actually required. In a relationship, especially a new relationship, certain titles and expectations need to be defined so the comprehension of the story (or relationship) is better. I know there’s that weird time in the beginning when it may be a bit uncomfortable to talk terms and meanings, but if it’s worth reading (or dating), it’s worth understanding.
7. Introduce the element of surprise. The element of surprise is not a requirement for a great story, but it can keep the reader intrigued. In prose that translates to an unknown character, a new scene, a sudden plot twist. In a relationship, it’s the unexpected flowers, or early-morning coffee just to see the sun rise, and a card just because. Note: I probably don’t need to warn you of this, but the element of surprise is not always a good thing. Some surprises cause feelings of anger and sadness. Remember though, if they are authentic feelings, it’s okay. Keep looking at the clues to finish the story. (Numbers 3, 4, and 5 may be a help here.)
8. Transitions are necessary. Even when we aren’t ready for a part to end, they have to happen. The key to successful writing is the ability to move from one episode or adventure to the next one seamlessly. The language should flow for the readers so we know something is about to change. In relationships, change is inevitable. It’s not necessarily bad change, but it’s just change. The fabulous date has to end and transition to a whole new day, a celebration will be over and life will eventually return to normal. We may get angry with the author or with the universe for this, but it’s up to us to follow the transition, because the next step is usually right around the corner.
In teaching reading, one of the indicators we have for students is to assess the comprehension and understanding of the material. The ultimate mark of a good relationship is understanding the relationship we’re in. And while we won’t always understand everything about another person, we can use some common tips and tools to get there.
I’m trying to read 52 books in 2016. Click here to see what’s on my reading list so far. If you have any suggestions, please tell me in the comments below!