Author Archive for Jonathan

Is Your Relationship Healthy?

We want to be healthy.  41.3 million Americans currently belong to some kind of fitness club.  Americans spend an average of more than $30 billion each year on weight-loss products and services.  Americans spend about $27 billion on yoga products annually.  Yet, how many ask if our marriage is healthy? Would we be willing to spend time and money to help make our relationship healthy? 

But, what makes a relationship healthy?  Researchers have identified seven habits of stable couple and marital relationships:

First, couples must CHOOSE to make their relationship a priority.  This includes making a sustained commitment to the relationship, exploring what it means to create a healthy marriage, and envisioning a healthy future together.

Second, time must be given to KNOWing each other.  People must move from an idealized knowledge of their partners to a real, intimate knowledge.  Time must be given for sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.

Third, genuine CARE must be demonstrated.   Individuals should understand partner’s pressures and needs, be respectful in valuing differences, and be intentionally express support and kindness. 

Forth, couples need to CONNECT with a supportive community.  This includes cultivating relationships with extended family members, serving together in community groups and organizations, and finding joint sources of meaning (spirituality and values).

Fifth, people have to SHARE their feelings, interest, and time.  Couples must be willing to accept influence from each other, be positive in their communication, and be make time to be together.

Sixth, couples must MANAGE differences and stresses.  People need to learn coping skills that include maintaining a positive emotional climate, team-oriented decision-making, and offering forgiveness.   

Last, individuals need to maintain CARE FOR SELF.  This includes maintaining good physical health (eating, sleeping, and physical fitness), avoiding dangerous behaviors like substance abuse, and learning to effectively manage stress.   

Getting fit physically is a worthy goal.  Getting fit relationally should be a worthy goal too.  In fact, the two are linked.  Adults in healthy marriages have lower stress levels and better health habits.  Also, couples in healthy relationships experience overall better mental and physical health.

One in Three

One out of three children are stepchildren.  One out of three Americans are in a step relationship.  More than half of Americans today will be in one or more step situations in their lives. 

These statistics about stepfamilies may seem surprising.  Yet, history may offer an even more surprising description of America’s families from the past:

  • There were less stepfamilies in the 1950’s than in the 1850’s.
  • Remarriage rates are lower now than in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • In the late 1700’s in America, the average length of a marriage was 7 years.

As history details, a large number of stepfamilies in the country is not a new phenomenon.  The main difference between now and the past is why there are so many stepfamilies.  In the past, stepfamilies were created mostly because of remarriage after the death of a spouse.  Today, stepfamilies are most often produced because of remarriage after a divorce.

When forming a stepfamily, remember these facts:

  • There is no such thing as instant love.
  • Stepfamilies require more flexibility.
  • A stepfamily is born of loss.  Family members may need a time of grieving.
  • Negotiation and conflict are normal and expected.
  • Individuals will have different ways of doing things based on his/her family history.
  • Children are often members of two or more households.
  • Children usually desire a continued relationship with the non-residential biological parent.
  • A stepparent’s authority role takes time.
  • Generally, the older the children, the more difficult the transitions and acceptance of stepparent.

Stepfamilies obviously face unique challenges.  These challenges can be turned into great opportunities.  There is hope.  There are practical things stepfamilies can do to be successful.  Families can learn strategies for strengthening the couple relationship, for co-parenting, and for building strong family relationships.

Remember When

Alan Jackson had a huge hit song from 2003 called “Remember When.”  He began by singing, “Remember when I was young and so were you and time stood still and love was all we knew.”  The song goes on to remember the ups and downs of his relationship with his wife.

For those who are currently struggling in their marriages, there is power in remembering.  Margaret Barber once said, “To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it more fit for its prime function of looking forward.”  Couples look back to see what brought them together.  Couples look back to see what brought them through the difficult times.  Couples look back to cherish the memories.  Couples look back to gain perspective.  Couples look back in hopes of creating a new future.

People should dust off that photo album.  People should break out those old home movies.  People should rewatch their wedding videos.  People should relisten to the love songs they used to listen to.  People should once again walk down memory lane.  Couples should do these things together.  Couples should relive those memories anew.

Prepare for Marriage, Not Just a Wedding

In America, people spend a lot of time and money getting ready for weddings. However, couples spend much less time, getting ready for marriage. Preparing for marriage can provide you with the foundation to build and grow a healthy marriage.

An engaged couple has to make a lot of decisions about their life as a married couple. Where will they live? How will they handle finances? Do they want to have children? Premarital preparation can help them learn how to discuss these issues in more positive and effective ways. In fact, according to a 2006 article in the Journal of Family Psychology, couples who participated in premarital education experienced higher levels of marital satisfaction and commitment and lower levels of conflict.  There is no recipe to guarantee a strong marriage but learning about the right ingredients can help couples begin their life as husband and wife with mutual respect and confidence in their future.

There is lots of material out there that suggests different questions couples should ask each other before marriage. Questions are good. Questions let people get to know one another better. Questions also get couples talking and communicating. Good communication is essential for a healthy marriage. Marriage education can teach people better communication skills and much more. Marriage education isn’t just for people who are already married. Learning skills early can help enhance marriage during the great times and help sustain marriage during the hard times. People say, “A good marriage takes lots of hard work.” Learning solid skills early through premarital education can make it a whole lot easier.

2009 Relationship Smarts Video

Relationship Smarts is a program we often do in schools.  The video below if from back when we did this curriculum in Junior High Schools.  It gives us a brief glimpse into what this class learned.

Fall 2009 Relationship Smarts