Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI speaker offers advice on how to avoid falling for a jerk – or jerkette, March 1

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116

Talk launches lecture series at College of Human Science and Services

KINGSTON, R.I., Feb. 4, 2013 – They are self-involved, inflexible, short-tempered, and lousy listeners. A 2-year-old? Nope, that’s the description of a jerk, the kind of person John Van Epp, a nationally known therapist and author, is certain you can dodge if you follow his advice.

He’ll offer those tips and more during what promises to be a lively talk from 3:30 to 5 p.m. March 1 in the Thomas M. Ryan Family Auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, 120 Flagg Rd., at the University of Rhode Island. Free and open to the public, the lecture is called “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk or Jerkette.’’

The talk is the first in URI’s new College of Human Science and Services Speaker Series, which will showcase the range of the college’s academic diversity while connecting alumni with students, faculty, staff, and the outside URI community. Speakers will talk about issues involving health, education, and human science.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Van Epp as the first in our HSS Speaker Series,’’ says Lori E. Ciccomascolo, dean of HSS. “His message about healthy relationships fits very well with the curricular priorities of our faculty in Human Development and Family Studies as they focus on how family and community settings improve the quality of life.’’

A psychologist with 25 years of experience in family and marriage counseling, Van Epp has led hundreds of relationships workshops throughout the country, providing guidance on who is marriage material – and who is not. He also offers tips on how to build a strong and healthy marriage.

His list of clients is impressive: corporations; government organizations; mental health and domestic violence professionals; churches, schools, prisons, and, yes, even the U.S. Army, where years of war and deployment overseas can take a toll on couples. He has trained scores of military chaplains on how to help young soldiers find good companions.

A frequent commentator about relationships in the national press, Van Epp, who has a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Akron, has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, CNBC, and Fox News. He’s also been featured in O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and The Wall Street Journal. Plus, he’s written two books: How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk or Jerkette and How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.

So, how do you avoid hooking up with a jerk or jerkette? For starters, Van Epp says learn how to identify them. A jerk can be a man or a woman. Jerks are resistant to change their ways. They fail to see anything from anyone else’s perspective and have trouble controlling their emotions and tempers. Jerks also like attention and the intoxication of infatuation.

Unfortunately, nice people are drawn to jerks: “Good-hearted people have the greatest risk for staying in a relationship with a jerk because good-hearted people so quickly forgive, overlook problems, minimize shortcomings, and give second chances,’’ Van Epp says.

Too often people rush into romance. Van Epp suggests slowing down and taking relationships one step at a time. Strong love connections, he says, are based on five key areas: knowledge, trust, reliance, commitment, and sex.

“A relationship is not just one thing,’’ he says. “It’s made up of those five key bonds between people.’’

The new speaker series is part of an outreach campaign by HSS to spread the word, to the University community and beyond, about the college’s unique and expansive academic programs.

Van Epp’s talk is sponsored by The Heditsian Family Endowment for Life Partner Preparation. Manoog Heditsian, of Rhode Island, is a 1947 graduate of URI, a past member of the URI Foundation Board, and an avid supporter of the University.

Next month, HSS will host a screening of the documentary Miss Representation, written, produced, and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsome. The film, free and open to the public, will be shown at 6 p.m. March 19 in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium, Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Rd.

A talk will follow with three URI panelists: Laura Beauvais, vice provost for academic affairs; Judith Swift, director of the Coastal Institute and a professor of communication studies; and Shima Young, a doctoral student in education.

A hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, the film explores how media bias has led to fewer women in positions of power and influence.

“We’re very excited about the film and the panel talk that will follow,’’ says Ciccomascolo. “This film is a must-see for anyone interested in women’s issues in America today.’’

With more than 2,400 undergraduate students, 400 graduate students, and six academic departments, HSS is the second-largest college on campus, just behind the College of Arts and Sciences.

HSS is comprised of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies; Communicative Disorders; Physical Therapy; Kinesiology; School of Education; Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design; and Interdisciplinary Studies in Gerontology and Health Studies, which is the only undergraduate interdisciplinary health program on campus.

Students from the various departments tackle study areas as diverse as textile chemistry, exercise science, teacher preparation, speech and hearing, global health, and college student personnel, and they go on to work as designers, physical therapists, teachers, health care employees, and college deans.

"Sometimes people have difficulty identifying what academic disciplines are in HSS, but our programs can be categorized as health, education, and human science,’’ says Ciccomascolo. “Our diverse academic offerings are certainly one of our strengths, as our teaching and research examines health, education, and human science, from early childhood to older adults."

For more information about Van Epp’s March 1 talk, please contact Anne Seitsinger, associate dean of HSS at 401-874-4014 or at anneseitsinger@uri.edu. Registration is not required, but encouraged. Please visit http://www.uri.edu/hss for details.


Pictured above: John Van Epp, a nationally known psychologist and author who will talk about how to find a good mate from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Friday, March 1, in the Thomas M. Ryan Family Auditorium of the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.