Marriage 101: An integrated academic and experiential undergraduate marriage education course*


  • *

    Some of this material was presented at the panel “University Based Pre-Marital Education” at the 7th Annual Smart Marriages Conference, Reno, Nevada, June 29, 2003.

  • Thanks are due to former Northwestern students Ben Ambrosino, Ali Baske, Jennifer Cheng, Sean Homan, Susan Israel, Meregan Kline, Mia Nabong, Sheila Nagaraj, Lesley Singer, and Ashley Yirak, who assisted in the initial stages of course development; to the 15 couples therapists we consulted; to the 51 “mentor couples” who opened their homes and lives to our students; to Mary Galvin and family for a generous development grant; and to the Gertrude B. Nielsen Charitable Trust for ongoing grant support.

**Address correspondence to: Arthur Nielsen, MD, The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 618 Library Place, Evanston, IL 60201 (


We describe “Marriage 101: Building Loving and Lasting Partnerships,” an innovative, for-credit undergraduate course at a large, religiously unaffiliated research university. Marriage 101 engages students in the scientific literature and discourse in the psychology and sociology of marriage and marital success. The course has the additional explicitly practical goals of preparing students to choose compatible partners, to face inevitable challenges, and to experience greater marital and relationship satisfaction. To achieve these goals, Marriage 101 integrates traditional academic methods with experiential and self-discovery assignments. Four years of experience with 150 students has found students eager to learn and able to do so, gaining considerable insight about themselves and the challenges of intimate relationships.