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Couples tested, lectured on love at Counseling Center event

By Mitzi Y'Barbo
On February 16, 2012


Relationships were the subject of the day at The Club in the Rayburn Student Center on Thursday as the Counseling Center presented the first Navigating the Relationship Roadmap event. Advice, games and prizes were all centered around building and maintaining successful relationships.

The event started with a mixer that had students, faculty and staff scrambling to find others who could sign off on such items as preferring hamburgers to steak, or who would admit to being a snorer.

Dr. Nick Patras, counselor at the Texas A&M University-Commerce Counseling Center, gave a short informational program detailing factors that contribute to developing and nurturing long-term relationships.

Patras said there are two natural necessities to successful relationship: love and respect.

He pointed out the differences between men and women in regards to feeling motivated and empowered. Patras said that men want to feel needed, and that women need to feel cherished.

There are three stages to love Patras said. The first is passion, which actually brings us together, which, according to Patras "we are hard wired" to do. The second stage is attraction, when we "love just being together." This is when couples get to know each other, and when the phenylethylamine – or the "feel good" – chemical reaction takes place. The final stage is attachment and commitment, developing into love for the duration. According to Patras, this final stage is when couples see and accept each other for who they are, calling it "the conscious love" phase.

Patras also addressed those who are single and gave a few tips to those seeking a relationship.

"If a single person becomes their authentic self, they become more attractive to others," he said. "If they focus on being with someone, they forget to be who they really are."

Patras quoted Dr. John Gottman's five critical factors that contribute to couples not being able to stay together. The first he called "Harsh start-outs", or trashtalking.  This is when couples begin conversations with a negative approach. He suggests trying to start the conversation with a neutral tone instead of an attack. The next four factors he groups together as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." They are criticism, contempt (name calling), defensiveness and stonewalling.

"The most rewarding or challenging thing is to be fully present [in your relationship,]" Patras said. 

The informational portion of the program ended with Dr. David Richo's "Five A's that Help Relationships Last:" attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing. 

Fred Fuentes took over the program to emcee the "Newlyweds to Nearly Weds" game show.  Five couples from the A&M-Commerce family were the contestants for the game, fashioned after the "Newlywed Game" format.

The couples participating were the student couple of one year, Daniel Starks and Tiffany Landers; international graduate student fiancés Mid Kadavil and Angee Anthony; A&M-Commerce faculty Jorge and Veronica Juarez, who have been married for 10 years and have four children; A&M-Commerce faculty Dr's. Kenneth and Linda Clinton, married 42 years with one son and two grandchildren; Dr. Dan Jones, A&M-Commerce President and wife Jalinna, married 16 years with two daughters.

When the scores were added up, the Clintons came out the winners with nine points. Next were Kadavil and Anthony with eight points, Jorge and Veronica Juarez with three points, Starks and Landers with one point, and the Jones' with a score of zero. 

The Clinton's were presented with a trophy, and will pass it to new winners at next year's event. Each couple was given a certificate of participation and appreciation for their participation. 

Door prizes were given away throughout the evening that amounted to over $400 in value, and included certificates for massages, meals and services from the Commerce area. The grand prize, a gift basket valued at over $200, was the final award of the night, and was won by student Keniesha Caldwell.

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