During a forum Thursday Dr. John Van Epp, author of the book, “How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind,” and President/Founder of Love Thinks, LLC, taught students and faculty members principles from his book to help guide them in their relationships.
As he shared his presentation with the students and faculty, he spoke of principles from his book that involve using one’s heart and mind together when it comes to falling in love.
Van Epp interacted with the audience as he talked about the qualities of what he terms a “jerk” or “jerkette.” He then spoke about his model to avoid falling in love with such people.
In his book, Van Epp outlines how to have healthy and appropriate bonds that will keep people safe with those with whom they are in a relationship. He calls it the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM).
Van Epp said the RAM is based off of five different areas in which humans bond to each other:
He said those five areas need to be balanced in order to develop and maintain a healthy, well-paced and bonded relationship.
Van Epp said that in a dating situation, one area – or dynamic bond – of the RAM should not become more deeply developed than the area preceding it. For example, a couple should not form strong bonds of trust beyond what they have established in their level of knowing each other. Also, a couple should be careful not to rely on each other beyond their developed level of trust. The model follows this principle throughout the remaining dynamic bonds of commitment and touch, suggesting that physical touch is kept at a level lower than the levels of the four other dynamic bonds represented in the RAM.
“When a couple has gone too far in one area of the RAM – say touch – but decides to put that area back in balance with the other four, not allowing one area to develop more than a previous, then they often feel awkward,” Van Epp said. “However, that feeling is only momentary while the benefits are lasting.”
Trent Winn, a freshman studying psychology who attended the forum, said he agreed with the concept of the RAM in waiting to move forward with the physical aspect of a relationship until the other fundamentals have been established.
Cole Ratcliffe, faculty member in the department of marriage and family, said he uses Van Epp’s book in his marriage preparation class.
Ratcliffe said that when he first began teaching the course, he did not want to use the book because it seemed strange. However, he said that after he read it, he found it intriguing and that there was a lot of truth in it.
Kindsey Smith, a senior majoring in marriage and family studies, is currently taking Ratcliffe’s marriage preparation course, and is reading Van Epp’s book.
“Oh, his book is amazing,” Smith said. “I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Smith said the principles that Van Epp teaches in his RAM model have been beneficial to her married life.
“It’s just helped me learn so much more about how to have a healthy relationship and how to use your brain in the relationship,” she said.
Van Epp said he developed the RAM during his counseling days in the 1980s. He said he found extensive research about what creates bonds and closeness in relationships that had never been organized and integrated into a holistic model.
“As I began to share my ‘how to avoid marrying a jerk(ette)’ program, I found that the majority of people who attended were those who had been divorced, ” he said. “Most of them remarked to me, ‘If only I had known this before I got married.’”
Van Epp said he began to feel like it would be better to prevent this situation than to try and heal the damage it causes later.
“I felt burdened by God to help singles build safe and healthy relationships, while feeling confident that they know what are the most important areas to explore about a dating partner that predicts what that person will be like in a marriage,” Van Epp said.
He said that he remembered saying a prayer in which he told God that if he could make a living out of doing this, he would dedicate himself to sharing his RAM and “How to Avoid Falling in Love Wth a Jerk(ette)” program with others.
Van Epp said he enjoys being able to help people form healthy relationships by helping them use both their heads and their hearts.