Online course

Understanding Romantic Relationships

Get an introduction to romantic relationships, considering the types of relationship and the early stages of relationships.

Build a foundational knowledge of romantic relationships and how they start

Why and how do we choose a romantic partner, or partners? What challenges are faced in the early stages of a romantic relationship? What types of romantic relationship are there? Get answers with the first course in a series exploring romantic relationships.

You’ll learn about the types of romantic relationships people have around the world (including monogamy and polyamory), and understand how people make choices when they enter a relationship. You will explore research on attraction and mate selection, and consider processes and challenges in the early stages of relationships.

What topics will you cover?

  • Types of relationships from around the world, including monogamy, consensual non-monogamy (e.g., polygamy, polyamory), same-sex and different sex relationships, friends with benefits, “love” versus arranged marriages, and married versus unmarried committed relationships.

  • Deciding on the kind of relationship you want: pros and cons of singlehood, how relationship beliefs shape our goals, perceptions, and thoughts about relationships, balancing personal goals with cultural/social/family expectations.

  • The types of factors that influence attraction and where to meet partners: physical characteristics, personality, relationship goals and values.

  • Early relationship milestones and challenges: moving from initial attraction to dating to commitment, assessing compatibility with personal goals.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 18 February 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Identify different types of relationships that individuals have around the world.
  • Explore factors associated with the decision to enter a relationship, such as personal goals and social expectations.
  • Describe attractive. Students will learn what is considered “attractive” and how these perceptions vary (or not) across cultures.
  • Investigate in detail the theories and research about dating and early relationship milestones (e.g., sexual initiation).

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in relationships, you don’t need any previous experience of the subject.

Who will you learn with?

Jennifer Harman

I am an associate professor of social psychology at Colorado State University. My areas of research are related to power and aggression in relationships, and on promoting healthier families.

Who developed the course?

Colorado State University, a land-grant institution and a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University-Extensive, is one of the United States’ leading research universities.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 6 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$269 $199 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep the content of any of the courses you've gained a digital Certificate of Achievement on
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.
Introductory offer. Available until 11 May 2019. T&Cs apply.