Posts Tagged ‘marriage education’

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 (www.alabamamarriage.org). 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”??

Premarital Counseling – New Perspective or Waste of Time?

April 9, 2009

Some may be cringing at the title of this blog! I can hear it now:

“Mallory, how could you say that something like premarital counseling is a waste of time?!?!”

“Don’t you want people to be prepared for marriage?”

“Aren’t you a therapist? How can you say that?”

Slow down one second and hear me out. This seems to be the season of weddings and love! All around me are bridal expos, bridal showers, commercials about that perfect diamond, and girls squealing with excitement about their friends becoming engaged. I am just as excited as the next person, and you can bet that I will be at 4 weddings in the next few months with tissue in my hand and a smile on my face!

As someone who has led premarital therapy, attended premarital education programs, and who truly believes in love that can last a life time, I am not trying to be cynical. I just want to put a disclaimer on premarital counseling and premarital relationship education programs.

Consumer Beware: Just because you sit in a course for relationship education does not mean that you have a “Golden Ticket” to marriage. If you treat premarital counseling as just another check on the checklist (i.e. got the caterer – check, got the dj – check, went to counseling – check), you are doing a real disservice to your relationship.

I think the truth is that premarital education can give you the right mindset and tools for marriage….IF YOU WANT IT! When premarital counseling is effective – which it is for many – it is because the couple comes ready to be real and to be purposeful. For me, I think premarital education can even prove to be a sigh of relief, because you learn that you do not have to have all the answers to love, communication, friendship, sex, in-laws, money matters, the impact of children on the relationship, etc., etc. now.

Rather, the emphasis is on engaging (and staying engaged!) in the relationship and moving down a new path together. Fortunately, skills can be learned throughout the relationship to address specific situations that will undoubtedly arise.

That’s the point! Healthy and stable relationships are made up of thoughtful choices and intentional actions. We get to decide – everyday and every minute – about choices that strengthen or strain the relationship.

So, decide to pay attention in those premarital classes; decide to be purposeful in your relationship; and, start before the “I do’s” are uttered.

Mallory Lucier, MS

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Single and Loving It…or Am I: Recognizing Personal Pressures (Part 1 of 3)

November 17, 2008

I would like to begin by welcoming you to my blog. My name is Charles Jackson, and I am a 26 year-old native of Montgomery, Alabama. I am currently working at Auburn University as a public relations coordinator for the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which is a public awareness and education program through the College of Human Sciences.

This entry is the first of a three part series that will focus on the importance of being single and loving it. Please do not mistake me to be a young, lustful man that is just interested in sowing my oats. I know this may seem a little odd coming from someone employed by a marriage initiative. However, the goals of the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative are not to push marriage upon anyone, nor is it to encourage anyone to remain in unhealthy situations. We are driven to promote healthy marriages while providing the education and resources to married couples, those considering marriage, and singles. We know that by doing this, we can strengthen our children, families, and communities. I am sure you will understand the relevance of “being single and loving it” if you stay tuned. So relax and enjoy the show. I look forward to your shared comments, and I hope you will continue to be a reader of my blog. Please understand that I am indeed a man, and I am writing from a male perspective. However, I always try to look at things objectively while also standing upon healthy marriage research.

Twenty-Something…also known as the Quarter Life Crisis. This is the time that many young adults are graduating college and finding themselves pressured to find a job. However, this is not the only pressure that they are experiencing. This is also the time that we begin to become overwhelmed by the personal and societal pressures to get married.

Throughout our lives, we tend to build timelines, and as we mature and age we become stressed with the reality of the approaching deadlines that we committed ourselves to. For women, it seems as if it is the looming ticks of the “biological clock” and a desire to be a mother that drives their race to the altar. Unfortunately, in the midst of this mad dash, they frequently settle for their first encounters while ignoring the warning signs that are SCREAMING at them. With the reality of this misfortune, some women find themselves blinded by impatience and eventually unhappy, contemplating divorce, or living with regrets. Contrary to popular belief, men also experience personal pressure to get married. As we enter into our careers, we tend to realize that it is difficult being single. After a long day at work, men desire that pat on their backs and that special person to share their thoughts with. We also enjoy an occasional stroke of the ego, and although we do not want to admit it, we reach our sexual peak prior to women. Whether by internal instinct, something we’re taught, or both, men desire to be providers and protectors. It makes us feel more like men, and it is important to feel like a “manly man.”

Together we can pressure one another. Thinking that it will be great to have “the ring” prior to our high school reunions, we tend to rush into marriages as we continuously attend the wedding of our friends and classmates. While the numbers of our friends that are single begin to diminish, we become anxious without adequately preparing ourselves. Thus, we find it difficult to love someone else because we have not figured out how to love ourselves. If you are single and unhappy, you will likely be married and unhappy. Ironically, recent research shows that divorces within 10 years of marriage are lowest among couples who entered a first-time marriage after the age of 25. So the next time someone asks, “What are you waiting on?” Simply, tell them that you are waiting on your opportunity for stability while not jumping into an irrational situation.

I like to look at transitioning from being single to married as a journey. While you are on the trip, you should take time to get to know you fellow travelers, their interests, and beliefs. Once you make it to your destination, things change. You have to be focused on the business of combining two lives, adjusting budgets, and meeting deadlines while balancing work and play. What will make this trip enjoyable is how well you got to know the other travelers and the one you choose to spend your time with.

Society does not make being single very easy. Part two will address societal pressures and measures of success, so please stay tuned for the next entry. Until then, please ponder these thoughts and feel free to comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

Charles Jackson, Public Relations Coordinator

Auburn University, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Isn’t it about time?

October 30, 2008

Last week I was driving home from a long day.  My husband had stayed home with our one-year-old so I could drive 2 hours away to spend the day seeing clients.  All in all, it would be an 11-hour day before I got home.  As I was driving home, I felt tired and was well aware of how long of a day it had been for me.  Then it hit me- it had been just as long of a day for my husband, maybe even longer since he was stuck home, transportation-less, entertaining a baby.  I realized how much he does to support my various endeavors, and I was really grateful.

I wondered how I could thank him.  Then I thought, “I just made XX amount of money; I’ll tell him to go out and buy something for himself (he LOVES books).”  Then the sad reality hit me “OH NO!! I’m his ‘sugar-daddy’!”  I couldn’t believe it; somehow our relationship had become such that he supports me in just about everything I want to do, and I thank him by saying “go and buy yourself something nice.”  This made me think about how ultimately important time together with family is.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if I’m the best therapist, most accomplished academic, or most successful career-woman.  Actually, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I’m even really good at these things.  What matters is my relationship with my husband and child, and that relationship requires time.  Quality time together is vitally important, but equally important is the amount of time we spend together.  It won’t matter if I’m there for graduation, office parties, and vacations if I’m not there for diaper-changing, dinner-time, and coming home.  This became clear when, a few days later, I spent the day with them doing “nothing.”  It was equally if not more fulfilling than all my other activities combined.

Angela B. Bradford, MS, LMFT

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Is Your Relational Glass “Half Full” or “Half Empty” ?

October 4, 2008

You’ve all heard the old tried and true question about whether someone sees their glass as “half full” or “half empty”.  This refers to whether a person tends to be optimistic, focusing on the positive, “my glass is half full” or whether a person tends toward pessimism, focusing on the negative, “my glass is half empty”.  Dr. John Gottman, a renowned relationship researcher at the University of Washington has published research that gives us important insight into this age old question.  He has been able to predict, with frightenly high accuracy patterns of interaction that lead to divorce and relationship dissolution.

One factor that regularly is associated with relational problems and divorce is something he calls a negative cascade.  A negative cascade is occurring when partners in a couple relationship regularly and overwhelmingly label each other’s actions and motives as negative. Interestingly, this “cascade” can become such a powerfully distorted tidal wave that even actions others see as neutral or even positive get labeled negatively or just ignored. Most all interactions become evidence of the limitations, shortcomings, even evil intent of their partner. It can get to the point where not only is the glass half empty, it feels thrown, crushed or stolen by the partner.  A relationship like I’ve just described is a relationship in BIG trouble, likely well on its way to ending.

Thank heaven there is another option! In sharp contrast, Gottman has found that relationships characterized by positive cascades include partners who expect and look for actions on the part of their partners that are positive, indicating love and thoughtfulness on the part of their partners. These folks usually shrug off actions by their partners that feel negative as out of character, exceptions.  Relationship positive people tend to see negatives as neutral at worst. Most importantly they keep close score creating in their minds a mountainous pile of positives.

I hope that at this point in my blog you’re absolutely sure that you desperately want positive cascades for all of your close relationships! Well, friends here is the really good news…………everyone can create positive cascading, not only regularly seeing their glass as half full, it is possible to honestly experience your glass as regularly running over. How?  Become a dead serious, totally committed, Sherlock Holmes issued master sleuth for detecting ALL possible signs that your partner cares about you. Become a total believer that your partner is ALWAYS doing something that you can choose to experience as a sign that they want to be with you. It is up to you.

Strive to become a person who truly experiences their glass as half full, because half full is well on the way to getting there, while half empty is no where most of us really want to be.  Good luck. You deserve the best so don’t settle for less!

Dr. Tom Smith, Co-Principal Investigator, ACHMI and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

The Passion that Binds

October 2, 2008

We’ve all been there: longing for that person who makes your “ liver quiver” but at the end of the day, he/she does not return those same feelings for you. I know, I know. It really hurts but what can you do. I can recall a situation similar to this in my personal life. He was popular, ambitious, intelligent, and did I mention gorgeous? I was crazy about this guy, but the sad part is that there was nothing that I could do that could make him return the strong feelings that I had for him. I found myself doing what those “desperate” girls do. I would cook meals and invite him over, “spontaneously” end up at events that I knew he was attending, and continuously call or text him just to let him know that I was thinking about him. The list goes on and on. Then, one day, I realized that there was nothing in my power that could make him return the feelings that I had for him. That realization was profound!

Well, a few months later, I met someone else who is absolutely amazing. He’s generous, funny, he enjoys cooking for me, and he treats me like a queen! He also made it very clear that he really liked me and he freely expressed this to me. Who wouldn’t want to be with a person like that? Yep. You guessed it. Me. I am the moron who does not like this guy, despite all of his great qualities. I recently hung out with him because I was thinking to myself, “Ashley, you are crazy for not liking this great man!” As this thought continued to cross my mind, I resolved to hang out with him enough so that he could “grow on me” as my friends said he would after spending enough time with him. So, as I was getting ready to go to his apartment I got so excited because I was ready for this guy to steal my heart . That is after he grew on me. As we were sitting at his apartment though, all I could think about how annoying his laugh was or how much it bugged me when he would talk about almost any subject. So as I left from his place that night I had a really insightful realization. I cannot make myself like this guy! No matter what he does nor how hard he tries. It’s almost like trying to fit a square puzzle piece into a place meant for a circle: No matter how hard I could try to make it fit, it’s just not gonna work.

There is one similarity between these two relationships: one person involved lacked the passion that would make the relationship worthwhile. Research indicates that the most satisfying romantic relationships are the ones in which each person is passionate about the other. While the levels of passion that each person has will indeed fluctuate over the years, it is important that there is passion. Whether it’s at the beginning stages of a relationship or later after the relationship has developed, this passionate component is one part of the glue that holds relationships together. Although neither of the above mentioned relationships worked out, I rest assured that one day someone will come along for whom I will have really strong feelings and he will return those same strong feelings for me.

Ashley Anders, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Ashley Anders, M.S.