Posts Tagged ‘Alabama Conmmunity Healthy Marriage Initiative’

Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties – Glorious Fun or Grand Faux Pas?

August 23, 2010

Just thinking of the to-do list while planning a wedding can be exhausting…book the caterers, reserve the location, send invitations, obtain a marriage license, etc., etc.   After all that work, most brides- and grooms-to-be look forward to the fun events designed specifically to celebrate them and their upcoming nuptials – such as this now-infamous bachelor/bachelorette party.

I started thinking about this “infamous” party as I began helping to plan one for my younger sister, Jessica, who is getting married in a few weeks to a wonderful man.  In planning, I kept thinking:

1.  What is the purpose of this event? To party?  To celebrate the bride? To celebrate marriage?

2. What should be emphasized? Remembering singlehood?  Looking towards marriage?

3. How should be talk about marriage this weekend? Sad because you won’t be single? Excited?

I was probably READING way too much into this event.  Ha!  I know!  Yet, this is my sister and best friend, and I wanted her to not only have a special weekend, but I wanted to provide a solid example from what I know as a wife and a marriage researcher.  I have attended different types of bachelorette parties in the past, and it makes me a little sad when people think of parties like this as the “end of fun” or when people make comments like “RUN!” or “Don’t do it!”

I did some brief (non scholarly) research on the history of these parties and found that bachelor parties date back to the 5th century when Spartan men held a dinner in the groom’s honor and would make toasts to the groom in a celebratory fashion, but the term bachelor party wasn’t coined until the 1920’s.  After the sexual revolution in the 1960’s, women began their own version of celebration with the bachelorette party.  In wasn’t until the 1990’s that women “pumped up the volume” and were regularly celebrating these parties with wild nights on the town and often male entertainment.  So, maybe all my party planning questions were founded as the typical stereotypes of bachelor/bachelorette parties (think The Hangover) have only been normed during the past decade or two.

Today, I would venture to say that there does not appear to be a “right” way to celebrate.  As the party-planner and/or friends of the soon-to-be-married-couple, it is important to know what the couple wants (and what they do NOT want) at their party or separate parties.  There is nothing wrong with good ole fashioned fun as friends help celebrate the transition from singlehood into marriage, but honoring the couple and their upcoming life together is also an essential element for a successful party and for a healthy relationship for the couple.

As for Jessica’s bachelorette weekend, it was a raging success filled with fun, sun, and lots of talk about the adventures of marriage!

Mallory Lucier-Greer, MS

Do I NEED This???

January 15, 2010

Let’s take it back. Way back…. to about 3 weeks ago. It was the beginning of my Christmas vacation and I could not WAIT to see my family. After my plane landed in Houston (TX), I reveled in the company of my sisters, brothers-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, and nephew. I mean, my mother was here and she lives on another continent! What’s not to love?!

Fast forward to two weeks later. To me stalking into my sister’s guest bedroom for some peace and to maintain my precarious grasp on my sanity. As a loner by birth, it doesn’t take much for me to take a break from human contact, but I found myself seriously wondering if I really needed to be here and if I really needed to have a relationship with these people. I was overreacting (I do that), but it got me thinking: How important is it to have relationships?

As you may have guessed from my last post, I like research findings that are useful to Joe/Jane Six-Pack. Turns out that close relationships are vital to our well-being. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. As children, we gravitate toward our caregivers (for most, it’s a parent or two). We look to them for love, support, and protection. While growing up, we start to form friendships… we even invent imaginary friends. Then the teen years arrive, our hormones start acting up, and we look to forming intimate relationships. Around this time, it’s basically up to us to seek out healthy, long-lasting relationships. Relationships, according to research, help us realize who we are, how to treat others and how we want to be treated, and lend to our overall happiness. Having healthy relationships can also help manage stress! I’m all about that.

Forming and maintaining healthy relationships has a lot of benefits and that’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being a part of Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative or ACHMI ( ACHMI strives to educate youth and adults on the ins and outs of healthy relationships. It’s the best type of education – the one where no cramming is involved, you can learn things, and you can use those things for the rest of your life. It’s great being a part of something that has changed the trajectory of so many people’s lives by teaching the importance of healthy relationships and helping make current relationships even better.

I guess all this means I’m stuck with my crazy, loud, nosy, caring, protective, loving family. Darn. 😉

Happy 2010!

Christiana Datubo-Brown

PS – Are we saying “two thousand ten” or “twenty ten”??

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing!

December 16, 2009

Look familiar?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of your family’s dispute – trying desperately to calm the storm on both sides of an argument?  Whether your answer is yes or no, you can take comfort in the fact that people across all generations, classes and races have some type of recurring conflict in their family; and they often flare up – especially during the holidays.  Failed relationships, troubled family members, death, tough financial times and a myriad of other issues all add to a family’s stress level and inability to maintain healthy relationships.  Unfortunately this leads to arguments, disagreements and sometimes not communicating at all.  When these types of things happen in my family, I’m often tempted to try to solve the issue or run to comfort people on one or both sides of the issue.  What I didn’t know for a long time is that this isn’t the best solution!  Instead of always trying to solve the issue for the dueling pair – I should step back and let them work it out.  By stepping into the argument, I have triangulated myself into the problem.  And, instead of forcing those two to come to an agreement or an agreement to disagree, I have enabled them to let me work it out – never forcing them to develop the skill of arguing effectively.  The Healthy Marriage Handbook offers several tips that are essential  for arguing effectively with spouses – but if you think about it these tips really apply to any relationship argument – especially your family.  Here are a few that I think are important:

1) Describe your feelings using “I” instead of starting with “you….”.

2)  Focus on the specific and current behavior , and don’t label the person in a bad way.

3)  Use kind words and a kind tone of voice.

4)  Don’t keep things inside until you feel filled up and then dump everything out at once.

5)  Don’t fight dirty, i.e. physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive.

6) Don’t give the silent treatment.

7) Chill out!  If your “stress response” has kicked in, it’s only going to get worse.  Take a break, disengage, and re-visit the issue when you can think clearly and act reasonably.

Perhaps next time instead of trying to solve the problem, I can teach the arguers (after the argument) how to argue more effectively and keep the health of the relationship in mind.

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing to all!!

Charlsey Mahle

GRA, Auburn University

Cherished memories

December 10, 2009

This summer changed my life forever.  I know this sounds a little corny, but my experience abroad in Italy did indeed change my outlook on life and my commitment to helping families!  The magnitude of the greatness of this experience is hard to put into words.  At times, when people ask me about my experience abroad, I almost feel like a deer in headlights.  How can I explain standing in front of Michelangelo’s statute of the David, sitting on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, eating authentic Italian cuisine, and becoming a part of the Romani Castelli community (the list could go on and on)?  Well, words just do not measure up.    At times, it almost feels like my time in Italy was a dream—almost too good to be true.  Whenever I feel this way, I will take a look at my photo album in order to remember my cherished memories.

As I was thinking about how easy it is to forget the wonderful experiences that have occurred in our lives, I also contemplated on how it is easy to forget some of the wonderful experiences that we have in our relationships with others.  When I think about the goodness that I have experienced in my personal relationships, I feel like a deer in headlights again—mere words just do not measure up.  Remembering the cherished memories from my relationships helps me to appreciate my loved-ones more.  And in essence, when I am conscious of those memories, I have positive expectations for my interactions with them that usually come true.  You know, it is interesting how researchers have found the same experience to be true for couples.  For example, research has shown that when individuals generally have positive attributions (explanations) for their partner’s behavior, their partner tends to act in ways that reinforce those positive assumptions.  Also, I think that it is a little easier to make those positive attributions of our loved-ones’ behaviors when we remember the cherished memories we have had with them.   So, what are the cherished memories that you have of your relationships?  Why did you decide to marry your partner, or be in a relationship with your significant other?  At what moment did you know that you were “in love?”  How has someone made you feel like you are irreplaceable?  Thinking about these moments may help to fuel the development of future cherished memories.

~Cassandra Kirkland, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Is it Facebook official?

December 10, 2009

Is it Facebook official?

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard someone ask some lucky person who has met that special someone, “Is it facebook official?”  In our society, communication is becoming more and more based on technology such as text, email, and even facebook.  A lack of face-to-face contact has allowed intimate relationships to become even more complicated than ever. It is extremely easy to misinterpret text messages, emails, and even lengthy facebook statuses/messages. Just because your relationship is “facebook official”, does not automatically mean that it is officially healthy. Whether you are married or not, the following are some fantastic ideas of how to keep that relationship healthy while being facebook official. During this Holiday season try to not only connect with people on facebook, but connect with the same people face-to-face.

Here’s some great do’s and don’ts from K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky:

What Every Facebooking Couple Should DO to Protect Their Marriage!

Create boundaries to protect yourself, your spouse and your marriage. Spend some time talking about what’s in bounds and out of bounds and as a couple, agree on what boundaries you’ll set as a couple.  A little bit of agreement on what is and is not acceptable can save a lot of pain and disagreement later.

Set your relationship status to Married and keep it that way. Facebook’s version of the  wedding band, your Relationship Status makes all the difference in how people interact with you. If you do happen to go through some marital troubles, don’t change to “it’s complicated” because you’ll only make things even more complicated…in a bad way.

Update each other on your FB Friends and Friend Requests. Friends range from past childhood pals and classmates to current connections from work, church and elsewhere. Many of your FB Friends have a story attached to them.  Don’t assume your spouse knows how you know them; spend time sharing their story with your mate.

Share your username and password with one another.
Transparency is crucial to ensure trust in a committed relationship.  Exchanging login information provides accountability and emotional security for both of you

Make your spouse the topic of your Status updates at least once a week.
Using Facebook to affirm and build up your spouse creates a deeper bond between the two of you, and a higher fence around the two of you.  (Just be careful not to overdo and become an annoying couple.)

Be prepared to talk offline about online issues.
What happens on Facebook doesn’t stay on Facebook.  Facebook can and will trigger issues and conversations between you and your spouse: a poorly worded joke, an awkward comment by a FB Friend, or an unexpected chat session. Deal with hurt feelings or concerns in the privacy of your own home. If handling conflict is difficult for you and your spouse, attend a Marriage Education class to acquire a shared set of communication/conflict resolution skills.

What Every Facebooking Couple Should NOT DO to Protect Their Marriage!

(DON’T) Write cutting remarks or negative statements about your spouse. Even though Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind,” it doesn’t mean everyone really wants to know the answer to that question.  If in doubt, think about how your comments will be read by others (think about your mother-in-law, your boss, your pastor) before pushing the Share/Comment button.

(DON’T) Friend exes, old flames, past flings, former crushes or anyone you’ve been intimate with in the past. What starts as an innocent, “I wonder whatever happened to so-and-so” can lead to “I never meant for this to happen.” Friending exes’ invites an unnecessary threat into your married life that can cause any or all of the following: anxiety and insecurity for your spouse, friction and isolation in your marriage, and unrealistic and senseless ideas in your head.  If staying FB Friends  is a bad idea for a broken up (dating) couple, then it’s a really, really bad idea for married couples.

(DON’T) Lose track of how much time you spend on Facebook. Everyone needs a little down time to unwind each day.  Facebook can be a great way to wind down (e.g. connect with FB Friends, play games, find Groups and Fan Pages, etc). On average, users spend 12-15 minutes a day on Facebook. That seems like a healthy dose of daily Facebook intake. If time on the online social community infringes on your real-time marriage relationship, make changes to reprioritize your time.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and then log off Facebook and turn off the computer.

(DON’T) Report that you or your spouse is out of town. This is more security than anything else.  Say your husband is on a business trip and you post an update that he is out of town. What you think is a harmless Status Update is an announcement to the bad guys that your home, possessions and family are vulnerable and a prime target for bad things to happen.  Do you really know all of your FB Friends?  How about their Friends?  A FB Friend’s comment to your Status Update can unknowingly broadcast your “my husband is gone” news to a bunch of people you really don’t know.

(DON’T) Have private Chat sessions with people of the opposite sex. Chats are a private, real time message exchange between two people.  Once a person logs off, Chat sessions are erased forever.  Emotional affairs have three main ingredients: secrecy, chemistry and intimacy.  Chatting provides a perfect environment for the three ingredients to mix together and create a situation that supposedly “just happened”.  Avoid the drama and turn off the Chat feature altogether.

(DON’T) Let Facebook be a distraction during your time with your mate. Not only can writing a Status Update steal time from your couple time, but reading someone’s bad news can steal your mind from your special time together.  Make date nights, special moments, and times of intimacy Facebook-free.  No laptops, no computers, no smart phones when it is time for you and your spouse.

These tips are provided by: For more helpful tips like these, visit this website.

Rachel Dawkins, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

“Is It Really THAT Serious???”

October 20, 2009

I just started graduate school (if 2 months classifies as “just”) and I’m thrilled. I find myself surrounded by intelligent people but when I sit back and look around (like I often do), I get worried. Some of my peers are so stressed out just watching them gets my heart thumping. Then I ask myself, “is it just me or are things just not that serious???”

Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of things seriously. For examples: my next meal, my future, and my shoes. However, I don’t take some things like school so seriously that when it comes time to worry about life’s necessities, I have no energy left. Listen, I understand that graduate school is really important and can be  REALLY stressful and I know the immense pleasure doing well at work can give a person. Call me crazy but I think having great relationships (family, friends, and “more than friends” included) and being healthy are things that could trump those any day of the week.

I’m not crazy. Research has shown that increased and sustained levels of stress can deteriorate your health (I don’t know about you but I want to live for a while… like to see my grandchildren). People who experience more stress or anxiety tend to be more susceptible to infections and may have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. For us normies, this means stressing out or getting worked up over too many things could have us getting sick more often and spending more time/money on hospitals and pharmacies. It’s a recession people. This also means that fussing could help our heart go kaput. I’m exaggerating… but I wouldn’t risk it.

Now to the main event: relationships. What does stressing out about school and work have to do with the people at home? Research has been very intuitive about this. I mean, think about it — if you are feeling stressed, overworked, or stretched to your limit, what kind of energy would you be giving off to others? Our poor loved ones get us at the end of our busy days and have to hear us snipe about this and that. What about those days when you displace your emotions? Meaning, you’re angry about all the work your boss gave you to do, then you come home and yell at your partner/children/mom for nothing at all! All this can not be helping your relationships. In fact, you are probably pushing the ones you care about away!

Now, I wouldn’t say all this without giving you a way to get some stress relief. Here are a couple of links to a great site run by my alma mater, UT Austin (Hook ‘Em!):

The first has great tips on stress management and more resources on this topic. This site is a little specific to the Austin area, so find resources near you! The second allows you to listen to audio relaxation tracks. This way you can relax anywhere then give off positive energy to your oh-so-important relationships!

So, the take-home message: the next time you find your shoulders by your ears and your heart racing or you feel panicky and weighed-down by school or work ask yourself: “is it really that serious???” Chances are it’s not serious enough to risk your health or having healthy relationships.

Christiana Datubo-Brown, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

The Blame Game

October 9, 2009

How many times have you found yourself thinking, “There’s no point in talking to him about this because he won’t listen,” or “If she would just stop overreacting, this wouldn’t be a big deal!”? My guess is you can probably think of quite a few times when this, or something like this, has happened. It’s human nature to put the blame on someone else, but in reality, it’s probably not 100% the other persons fault. Playing the “blame game” may seem like the easy solution, but it ends up being very harmful to the relationship. Say a problem arises in your relationship that causes a disagreement between you and your significant other. Your first thought is probably, “I’m right.” Well guess what, they are probably thinking the exact same thing. Taking this position leaves no room for actually addressing the problem at hand, and talking about the issue becomes useless because there is no way to resolve it. If the issue is serious and remains unresolved, then you both might start to pull away from each other and, after awhile, no longer reach out to each other for emotional support. So, is being right worth losing the person you love? If the answer is no, then next time something comes up, take a deep breath and try to remember these tips:

  1. Bring up tough issues softly. If there is something you want to discuss, bring it up at a time when both of you are calm and not highly emotional. Think about how you would like to be approached in this kind of situation and don’t start by blaming the other person! If you partner feels attacked, he/she will respond with defensiveness.
  2. Avoid using the word “you” to blame. Instead of blaming, try talking about how the issue affects you by using “I” messages. For example, rather than saying, “You never make special plans for us!” try, “When we don’t do special things together, I feel unimportant and wonder if I’ve done something to upset you.”
  3. Make messages short during disagreements. Don’t address multiple issues at once! By bringing up multiple issues, you lose the ability to have a productive conversation by overwhelming your partner.
  4. Be respectful. Even when it is hard to do, it’s important to be respectful towards the other person. Avoid calling each other names, or bringing up issues from the past only to criticize. The point is to have a beneficial conversation that ends well, not make each other shut down and cause more damage.
  5. Take a time out. If things start to get heated and out of control, take a time out and allow both of you to cool off before starting again. This is important because you don’t want to say something you might regret later.  Being able to stop yourself is a key relationship skill. Be sure to set another time to finish the conversation and work on maintaining positive thoughts about the other person rather than dwelling on conflict.
  6. Finally, remember you love this person. Keep in mind that in the end the relationship is more important than the argument. Each person has to be willing to compromise and come up with a solution that makes both people happy. Remember that even though you may feel strongly that you are correct, so does your partner, and it is not easy to admit your own fault.

Remember, healthy relationships have conflict.  These tips are from research on strategies that work!

Kate Taylor Harcourt, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Relationship Rants & Raves

August 3, 2009

For someone in the relational health field, this has been a tough summer. I can’t attend any gathering without hearing comments about the state of marriage in this country, more specifically the state of marriage as it exists with our politicians and celebrities. Well, don’t get me started. There is a disconnect between the evidence I see during my work day (i.e, that Alabama citizens are successfully learning relationship skills) and what I read in the paper and see on television at home in the evenings: lots of “stupid” behavior going on by people who are smart enough to know better.

I am beginning to think that a requirement for getting elected to state or national political office should be participating in a relationship/marriage education program. Afterall, our elected officials attend conferences and trainings routinely as part of their jobs. It looks like they need to expand their learning horizons. As role models and leaders, their personal decisions are relevant and warrant our attention.

Many politicians insist on having balanced budgets. Stay with me, please, because there is a link to our topic. The personal is political and the political is personal, as was said in the 60’s. (Yes, I am old enough to remember the late 60’s.) Although infidelity is obviously a private decision, its consequences, if it leads to divorce, are not. According to the recent research, divorce costs the state and federal government an estimated 33.3 billion annually in direct and intervention costs. These estimates include divorce costs related to delinquency, poor academic performance, drug use, lost productivity, family support and mental health services.

There’s even an environmental cost! One household becomes two with twice the number of appliances and accompanying energy usages. The family’s green footprint doubles.

I wish this insanity would end. For those tempted to “take a hike along the Appalachian trail” or “take a trip to Argentina,” remember what Dorothy said, “There is no place like home.” So stay put.

Roberta’s Rants & Raves Re Relationships

July 24, 2009

Roberta’s Rants and Raves Re Relationships

Our local newspaper does what local papers are supposed to do.  It covers community news with an emphasis on high school and college sports and features local newsmakers, civic group events and school children. Important national and international events occur but that’s for the big city papers to cover. Occasionally, there is an article or two about national or international events or a feature from the wire services.  There is no pattern to what is covered.  So, why I am about ranting about our local paper in an ACHMI blog?

The other Sunday, a half page article by Ashley Heher from the Associated Press on page 7A caught my eye, “Downturn dating: Hearts flutter as markets stutter.”  The rhyming ending was not the most poetic but it did get my attention. The interesting article states that dating has increased along with our economic woes. Two online matchmaking sites report increased membership and activity despite monthly fees of up to $60.  One organizer of a singles event in Chicago said “…people are reexamining their own values.”  She attributes this change to the fact that people have been so disappointed in the institutions that used to hold their trust. Gee, I grew up in the era when people believed, “What’s good for General Motors, is good for the USA.” Well, we know that is no longer true and has not stood the test of time.

What we do know is true and universal, because it comes from current research, is that there are core dimensions that are essential if you want a healthy and stable relationship, whether it is within marriage, a dating relationship, work or with friends. These universals, the foundations for every successful type of relationship, can be learned. We are not born knowing these skills, just like we are not born knowing arithmetic.  We have to learn relationship skills just like we have to learn the multiplication tables.

For many lines of work, one is required to earn continuing education credits. Isn’t making the most of your relationship or marriage as deserving of CEUs as your work?  After all, we don’t think twice about attending a work-related conference to learn about the latest trends or technology.  And relationship skills are no different. My hope is that the couples featured in Ms. Heher’s article, individuals who are now dating less superficially or using internet matching services to find their soul-mates, will attend a relationship skills class so there will be an inverse correlation between their relationships and the declining stock market.

Dating and the Single Dad

April 9, 2009

I recently received a friend request on Facebook from someone that I knew back in elementary school. Hearing from someone that I had not seen in over two decades made me wonder who else was out there that I had lost contact with. I began putting in random names from high school, college, previous jobs, and finally some family members. I eventually found a cousin that I hadn’t spoken to since we lived in the Northeast, over 15 years ago. We began to catch up and I asked about the two darling little girls that were in all of his photos on his profile. It seems that he is currently a single dad who is raising an 18 month old and a 5 year old without the help of their mother who walked away from the family when their youngest child was born. I have to admit that I was in total shock at hearing his story because it usually isn’t the mother who walks away from the responsibility of raising a child. (I guess I had seen one too many episodes of “Maury” where women were hauling men onto national television to find out the results of the DNA tests to convince these men to take responsibility for the children they had created.) After exchanging pleasantries, we started discussing our personal lives and he was very excited to hear about my pending nuptials. I asked him if there was a special lady (aside from the two little ones on his profile) in his life and that was when he began telling me the woes of dating as a single dad. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would hear such tales of heartbreak, sadness, and disappointment. In the movies men usually use babies and puppies as “chick magnets.” Why didn’t that work in real life? (Note to self—you watch WAY too much television!) Apparently, dating for single dads is no easy feat and may leave many wondering if they’ll ever find that special someone again. I asked my cousin if he had any words of advice for other single dads out there and he says he has come up with five easy rules to follow:

1. Avoid the “baby momma drama.” Whatever you do, DON’T TALK ABOUT THE OTHER WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE! At least not in the beginning of a relationship. Your dates and prospective girlfriends have a right to know if you are widowed or divorced; however, they will feel intimidated if you talk about them incessantly. Definitely avoid talking about how well you and your ex get along as this may cause your new girlfriend to think there is a possibility you are getting back together with them. You also don’t want to badmouth her either as this sets the stage for ill feelings towards someone your ex has never met.

2. Me, myself, and I. Take some “me time.” The better you feel, the better you’ll be able to take care of your child(ren). Get plenty of exercise, engage in hobbies, and spend time with your friends and family. These are great ways to stay physically, emotionally, and psychologically fit!

3. The truth shall set you free! First, tell the woman you are seeing that you have children. It doesn’t make sense to try and date someone who is adamant about not liking/wanting children. Second, be honest with whomever you are dating about your financial situation. Women were so used to dating men who paid for everything that it was difficult for them to understand that sole responsibility for two children was definitely taking its toll on my cousin’s finances. R.J. says that this was the hardest thing for him do since he had always prided himself on being able to “wine and dine” the ladies….

4. Variety is the spice of life. The last thing you want to do is enter a long-term relationship with the first woman you go out with. You may feel loved and needed-perhaps for the first time in a long time but chances are you may not be ready for a long term commitment immediately after becoming widowed or divorced. Try dating a few people first.

5. Hi, my name is….When you introduce your children to your girlfriend for the first time, don’t set your expectations too high. No matter how much you want it to happen, your new girlfriend and your kids probably aren’t going to be instant best friends. Relationships take time to develop. (So what if R.J’s oldest daughter Leah wouldn’t let his current girlfriend touch her, or talk to her or even look at her when they first met? They have taken the time to get to know each other and Leah now runs to give her a hug goodnight!)

Eugenia Parrett, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative