Timothy Loving, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at UT, will give a Science Study Break talk on the science of relationships Tuesday night. Loving will analyze relationships through movie clips from films such as “(500) Days of Summer” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” The Daily Texan sat down with Loving to discuss the modern college relationship and Valentine’s Day.
DT: What do you think some of the biggest issues that modern relationships face are, especially in college and adolescent relationships?
Loving: I think, and this is my personal opinion, I worry about what our constant connection means for folks’ abilities to manage things in their relationships. People don’t know how to be alone anymore. They’re not quite comfortable with just being able to sit and be with themselves and when you take that away, you take away people’s ability to value solitude to some degree then. I think it really takes away the alternatives people have if they’re in bad relationships or other types of things.
DT: If more people had an understanding of the science and psychology of relationships, do you think that would improve their relationships with other people and their lives in general?
Loving: Yes. Absolutely. It’s not going to change things, but knowing how things work and function helps give us insight and some perception of control of what’s going on. So it makes things seem a little bit less out of the way or kind of crazy at times. It helps us understand why we might behave in certain ways at different times in our lives. Why, when we’re falling in love with somebody, there are these particular sets of outcomes that go and it affects the way we evaluate and take a look at whether a partner’s good for us, why it is that when we break up with somebody we can’t eat anymore and what’s going on there emotionally and physiologically.
DT: Do you think Valentine’s Day is good or bad for relationships?
Loving: I don’t know that it’s good or bad. Valentine’s Day can put a lot of pressure on people. There is also something to say to find the time to give people a little kick to do something nice for their partner. We see that breakups tend to increase fairly dramatically around this time of year. It’s because we as a society and a culture, we put so much pressure on Valentine’s Day and unfortunately I think that makes people decide, “OK, is this really worth it to go through all of that.” But I don’t know that those relationships ending is necessarily a bad thing — they probably would have anyway. I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing. I think, though, that to some degree every day with a partner we should try to treat them like Valentine’s Day. If that means showing somebody we care about them and their needs mean something to us and we value them, well that’s what we should always be trying to do.
DT: What are some of the most important things to learn from college relationships?
Loving: I don’t want to sound preachy, but I think people need to be safe, first and foremost. When we lose a relationship, we lose a piece of ourselves. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s a chance to grow and to think about values and to get a feel for what worked and what didn’t work and to reflect on who you are and all of those things. And so in 10 years, 20 years, it’s just a part of your story. It’s a part of your history, and I think that if there’s anything folks should realize, it’s you’re just creating a history right now. Be smart about how you approach that because it’s always going to be your history. So if you’re honest with yourself and your safe and you’re honest with other people, even if things don’t work out, then you’ve got nothing to regret.
More from Dr. Loving on the science of relationships at scienceofrelationships.com.