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Focusing on Healthy Relationships Creates Strong Local Families

Candy, cards or flowers may bring smiles on Valentine’s Day, but developing a healthy relationship takes more effort than a once-a-year tradition, according to Danielle Day, human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“February’s focus on relationships makes it a great time to reconnect with your partner. Those strong relationships not only make you healthier, but they also are the basis for strong families all year long,” said Day, who specializes in family wellbeing.

“The quality of a couple relationship, regardless of the family structure, directly affects the children. The research is clear: healthy relationships, and resulting family stability, promote the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of adults and children,” Day said.

Couples can explore how to focus on the positive and strengthen their connection by participating in “Elevate: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level,” a virtual workshop series from ISU Extension and Outreach. The program will take place four Wednesdays (March 23 and 30, and April 6 and 13), 6:30-8:30 p.m. via Zoom. Cost for the program is $175 per couple or $99 per individual and includes a workbook and materials for each person. For more information and to register, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/elevate.

The information presented will be based on a relationship education curriculum developed by the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network. The workshops will cover the following topics:

  1. Empower Yourself — Taking care of yourself makes it easier for you to care for and connect to others. Your individual wellness encompasses healthy eating, physical activity, sexual health and intimacy, and regulating your emotions. Finding healthy ways to manage stress empowers you to think more positively and better connect with your partner.
  2. Lay the Foundation — Being intentional in a relationship allows you to strengthen the relationship and connect with your partner. Focus on each other’s strengths and what each person brings to the relationship. This allows you to envision a healthy future together and set goals for the relationship and future.
  3. Enlighten — Continually learning about your partner creates stability and creates awareness in the relationship. People grow as individuals over time and the key to a healthy relationship is to continue to grow as a couple. Setting aside even 10 minutes in the morning or before bed to connect with your partner gives you time to discuss life. But be careful not to let to-do lists, kids or other obligations take over. This should be a discussion about each person and their thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  4. Value — It is the responsibility of each person in the relationship to keep the relationship healthy. This can be done by finding ways to show you care for your partner through support, affection and respect. Focus on the good by expressing caring actions instead of crabby reactions.
  5. Attach — Developing and maintaining your friendship with your partner helps build the couple identity. Continue to date each other no matter how long you’ve been together. By establishing couple traditions and rituals you are promoting togetherness and nurturing a healthy relationship.
  6. Tame — Every relationship will experience differences, but it’s how each person manages those differences that is key. Recognize your own anger warning signs and triggers. Then you can better manage your emotions when a conflict arises and be better prepared to deescalate the conflict quicker. Avoid criticism and defensiveness. Sometimes taking a break and trying to view the situation from a different point of view can help put things in perspective. Always remember to come back to the conversation and don’t leave things unresolved.
  7. Engage — Building a supportive, positive social network is beneficial to a couple. This can help provide a safety net during good times and challenging times. This can involve being parts of friend groups or other social networks with other healthy couples, jointly engaging in the community through volunteering together, and seeking out additional resources.

“All relationships take work and commitment, but when we focus on the positive and growing with each other, we strengthen our connection for a healthy relationship. You can explore these tips and more in the upcoming virtual ‘Elevate: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level series,’” Day said.

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