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Working Through Religious Differences in Marriage

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that you love and disagreed with them? These conversations can be very uncomfortable, especially about firmly held beliefs. Differences in religious beliefs or spirituality can be a source of pain and discontent if not addressed in a respectful and accepting manner. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the religious landscape of the U.S continues to change at a rapid rate. With adults who identify as non-affiliated, atheist, or agnostic increasing yearly, changes and differences in religiosity and spirituality have the potential to negatively impact intimate relationships. This is further complicated because religiosity and spirituality affect more than Sunday worship, such as decisions on parenting, finances, and friendships. Even couples who practice the same religion may not agree on religious or spiritual practices. For example, a couple who belong to the same church may disagree on how often to attend service or engage in church activities. It is important for couples to recognize the pitfalls and potential for hurt when either engaging in a mixed faith relationship or when one partner’s beliefs change and are no longer in alignment with their spouse’s beliefs. 

There are many mixed faith marriages and relationships that are able to thrive despite having significantly different beliefs. Here are some tips from relationship expert Dr. John Gottman to help you navigate religious differences (or any type of conflict) in intimate relationships. 

1. Explore your own relationship with your faith.
There is a difference between identifying with a religion or spiritual practice and how you engage in that faith. Explore your religious or spiritual identity and what that means to you. It is necessary to understand your own faith identity to be able to navigate the differences with your partner. Here are some questions that Gottman recommends to help you with this process of exploration

  • Did you grow up in a religious or spiritual household? If so, what was practiced? What was your experience like?
  • What brings you peace? What helps you get through tough times?
  • What aspects of your religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold onto tightly?
  • Which ones are you more flexible with?

 
2. Acknowledge the difference and what they will mean for your life together.
Recognizing the differences and how they may affect your life together is an important step. Avoidance is not a sustainable option, identify the ways that may affect you so you can make a plan together for how to deal with these differences as a couple. 
According to Dr. Gottman, 69% of problems in relationships are perpetual, meaning they are not solvable. While that number sounds high it is reassuring to know that this is normal and includes happily functioning couples. Instead of trying to change the other person’s mind/belief, approach these conversations with curiosity and interest, try to understand your partner’s point and realize that this is an opportunity to increase your love for them.
The way that you start a conversation can predict how the rest of the conversation will go or be perceived by your partner. Be intentional in your tone of voice and the words you use to initiate a conversation. Using soft start up techniques such as ‘I messages’ and positive statements to start conversations allows for your partner to better receive and understand what you are saying.

3. Share stories
Sharing stories is a great way for you and your partner to get to know each other and this aspect of who you are. Stories can share your cultural and religious experiences with them in a way that is not threatening and invites understanding.

4. Participate before negotiating. 
It’s important to show genuine interest and curiosity in your partners beliefs and practices. Go with them to their religious events services and as they observe rituals. This is not a promise to leave your own beliefs and convert, this is a powerful way to communicate that you value them and are embracing who they are. 

5.  Make Repairs. 
We will inevitably mess up. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, apologize and move forward. Well used humor (not sarcasm) can help ease these tense moments. The main goal with a repair attempt is to determine what when wrong (not blame our partner) and resume being on the same team to address an issue together instead of treating each other as the issue that needs to be fixed.

6. Therapy is a helpful support.
Talking about faith is deeply personal, it can be hard despite our best efforts. Some differences might seem impossible to figure out. Seeking the help of a professional can provide relief. Find a therapist who specializes in helping interfaith couples.
It is unlikely that you will change someone else’s views, feelings, or beliefs on the topic of religion or spirituality, but you can practice respecting each other’s beliefs and purposely refrain from criticizing or attempting to sway them. Dr. Gottman maintains that disagreements provide an opportunity for increased intimacy and connection, and religious differences provide an opportunity for increased respect, understanding, and love.

References

https://www.gottman.com/blog/communication-tips-for-interfaith-couples/
 
Gottman, J. (1995). Why marriages succeed or fail: And how you can make yours last. 
Simon & Schuster New York
 
Pew Research Center (Oct 2019) In U.S., decline of Christianity continues at rapid pace: An update on America’s changing religious landscape
https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/
 
Racco, M. (Dec 2017) Global News. How to manage differences in religious beliefs in a relationship
https://globalnews.ca/news/3905900/religion-in-relationships/

By Elizabeth Davis, Extension Assistant Professor




Questions to Ask When Dating Someone

It might sound strange, but have you ever considered how much dating is like doing a research project? I say this because at the beginning, when you are first getting to know each other, both of you are collecting data. You are learning about them and they are learning about you through the questions you ask each other. This is very similar to how scientists collect data to answer their research question, except in this case, the research question is: Are we a good match with the potential to have a successful long-term relationship?

This article isn’t going to give you a one-size-fits-all list of questions to ask everyone that you go out with, or a detailed schedule of when to ask certain questions. Instead, it will provide guidance on how to start by asking yourself some key questions designed to help you learn about yourself and what is most important to you. Once you get clearer about what you need and want in a partner, the information you should collect about them will also become clear. 

Before we dive into some self-exploration questions, we are going to briefly cover which characteristics tend to be most important for couples to have in common. Research has shown that sharing characteristics such as attitudes, values, and background (e.g., social class and religion) tend to predict satisfaction, companionship, intimacy, and love in long-term relationships better than sharing personality traits (Gordon, 2020). In addition, researchers have found that when there was more overlap in the ideal preferences someone said they wanted in a romantic partner and their partner’s perceived traits, they were less likely to get divorced (Eastwick & Neff, 2012). 

Before you try to make a list of questions designed to assess how much you have in common with someone, take some time to reflect on your own values, beliefs, and priorities. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are your religious and/or spiritual beliefs?
  • What are your plans for marriage and having children?
  • What is your philosophy when it comes to money and finances?
  • What are your career aspirations or plans for the future?
  • Where do you want to live? Do you plan to stay in the same place, or would you like to move around?
  • What are your political views and views on key social issues? Are they likely to change?
  • How much time do you like spending alone, with friends, and with each other?
  • What makes you laugh? How would you describe your sense of humor?
  • What role does your family play in your life? 
  • Are you open to new ways of looking at things or do you tend to hold your ground when it comes to your beliefs?
  • How do you feel about the use of alcohol and other substances?
  • What are your values in terms of things like honesty, reliability, trustworthiness, etc.?
  • What are your favorite things to do?

Next, rank or rate each one of these items in terms of how important it is that your partner shares your response and circle the ones that are “deal-breakers” for you. These are things that, at least at this point in time, a potential partner must have in common with you for your relationship to be viable. Remember to be true to yourself as you answer these questions. It doesn’t do much good for your long-term relationship potential if you aren’t open and honest about yourself, your values, your vision for your future, and what you are looking for in a potential partner. Also know that it is perfectly okay to decide that someone is simply not compatible with your current or future lifestyle plans. That doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means that there is a better match for you out there.

Working through this process should have helped you learn more about yourself, while helping you identify the most important questions to ask your dates. Now you just need to figure out how and when to ask these key questions during your next dinner conversation. 

References

Eastwick, P. W., & Neff, L. A. (2012). Do Ideal Partner Preferences Predict Divorce? A Tale of Two Metrics. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(6), 667–674. 
https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550611435941

Gordon, A. M. (2020, September 25). Does similarity matter in a relationship? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-you-and-me/202009/does-similarity-matter-in-relationships

By Lisa Schainker, Extension Assistant Professor




How Do You Tell People Who are Interested in You That You aren’t Interested in Being in a Relationship?

Telling someone you are not interested in dating them is uncomfortable and can be a painful experience. In order to answer the question of how to tell someone you are not interested in dating them, it is important to point out that it really depends on the situation. However, there are a few principles that can be applied to a variety of circumstances. 

  1. Be Kind and Honest- It is important to remember that you can be nice and kind in addition to being honest. Being kind means being honest and treating someone the way you see them. If you see them as a friend, treat them as a friend, but do not treat them as a romantic interest or potential boyfriend/girlfriend. Although it is unpleasant for a moment, being honest and telling someone you are not interested is the kindest thing to do. 
     
    2.Be consistent- Similar to the last point, make sure to be consistent in your words and your actions. There’s a principle of communication called a double bind, which means you are expressing something different with your words than you are expressing with your actions. A double bind is an unhelpful communication pattern, so you want to avoid it. If you don’t want to date someone you can say, “Thank you so much but I’m not interested in dating.” Then make sure your actions support this statement. This may mean not texting or calling someone you just turned down, or it could mean something else. 
     
    If you are long-term friends with the person or if you just met them, your follow-up actions will probably look a little different. However, the principle is the same. Make sure your words and actions match. If you want to go back to being long-term friends, express that. If you just met and do not want to build a friendship or relationship with the person, then show them you’d like space. People generally will respect that and know how to act in response when your verbal and nonverbal communication matches.   
     
    3. Keep communicating the same message as long as you need to. Occasionally there may be individuals who you turn down, who will not get the message. Even if you are very good about communicating that message verbally and nonverbally, they may not respect this, or they may be unsure about how to give you the appropriate space to move on socially or romantically. If you have communicated to a person you are not interested in, and they keep texting, calling, or showing up and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you could clearly say to them “Don’t be offended if I am slow to reply or respond. I want to make sure I am not sending the wrong message.” Once you have explained your reason for not responding, you don’t need to feel guilty for not responding to any texts or not answering any phone calls.   

Managing relationships, especially with others whom you do not want a romantic relationship, can be tricky. The key is compassion and kindness balanced with straight forward communication and clear expectations.

By Luara Woodland, Intern, and Dr. Dave Schramm




How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Couples can create trust through sharing varied experiences. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They determine trust by giving a little of it at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it based on their perception of the person’s behavior. For intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits should be exhibited. Those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship (Zak et al., 1998).  

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. Zak et al. (1998) suggest that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with what they said they would do, the other member of the relationship can begin to determine whether or not there is consistency in their behavior. This idea, the feeling as if we know what to expect, is one way in which couples can build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what they say and do, then this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is established, Zak et al. (1998), propose that a couple can move towards establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship connotes surety that you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, even in your interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is part of being truthful. However, there may be times in which your partner needs to make changes to plans. Their willingness to communicate with you about the change is what makes the difference. 

It is important to note that our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Therefore, open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

  •     Does my partner keep promises?
  •     Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?
  •     More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?
  •     Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?
  •     Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain as to whether or not you can trust your partner, I would encourage you to explore your past experiences, behaviors that cause you concern, and why they are of concern. Talk with your partner about your concerns, and if you do not feel comfortable discussing these things with him, then seek out a licensed therapist to help you explore your experiences and thoughts. 

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor

References

  • Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224549809600373



10 Tips to Overcoming Loneliness

Humans need social connections to survive and thrive. One report found that one-third of adults age 45 and older feel lonely and nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Studies have shown that loneliness (distressing feelings of being alone or separated) and social isolation (lack of social contacts or interaction regularly) are associated with increased risk for health problems such as depression, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the former US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, declared that loneliness is an epidemic, with the equivalent reduction in lifespan to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Although loneliness is a challenge for many, there is much we can do to overcome loneliness. Consider the following tips to combat loneliness:

  1. Join a class or club. Whether it’s an exercise class or book club, joining an existing group can help you find others who share your interests.  
  2. Volunteer. Volunteering for a cause you believe in can help you feel a deeper sense of gratitude for what you do have. It can also help you find more meaning in your life and connect you with other volunteers that have similar altruistic goals as you. 
  3. Adopt a pet. Pets offer companionship, unconditional love, and can potentially provide ways to connect with others (i.e. while walking your dog). 
  4. Strengthen existing relationships. Make an effort to talk with family and friends about what is occurring in their lives.  
  5. Talk to strangers. Even small interactions with strangers, such as a cashier at a store, can help you feel socially connected.  
  6. Find support online. Connect with others who have similar interests in Meetup or Facebook groups. Many apps, like workout or fitness apps, also have a social element or discussion board. 
  7. Practice self-care. When you are feeling lonely, be sure to take care of yourself. Eating nutritious foods, exercising, spending time in the sunshine, and getting enough sleep can boost your mood. 
  8. Stay busy. Keep yourself distracted from negative feelings by doing a hobby or home improvement project that you’ve been meaning to do. Take time to invest in yourself and your interests while also keeping your mind occupied in the process. 
  9. Plan ahead. Make plans ahead of time for extra support from family or friends on holidays, anniversaries, or other times that may be particularly challenging. 
  10. Seek help. Sometimes getting out to meet people isn’t enough. Seeking the help of a professional can give you the tools needed to combat the challenges you are facing. 

While it can be tempting to just retreat into a corner and hide when feeling lonely, doing just one of these small tips can improve your mood.  

Additional Resources:

Additional tips to overcoming loneliness: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201902/feeling-lonely-discover-18-ways-overcome-loneliness

Tips to support others who are lonely: https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/7-ways-to-cheer-up-that-lonely-someone.aspx

References

Murthy, V. (2017). Work and the loneliness epidemic. Harvard Business Reviewhttps://hbr.org/cover-story/2017/09/work-and-the-loneliness-epidemic

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2020). Social isolation and loneliness in older adults: Opportunities for the health care system. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663

National Institute on Aging. (n.d.) Loneliness and social isolation—Tips for staying connected. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/loneliness-and-social-isolation-tips-staying-connected

Scott, E. (2021). 9 ways to cope with loneliness. Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-with-loneliness-3144939

By Naomi Brower, Extension Professor




How Can I Express My Feelings in a More Gentle (less blaming) Way?

We cannot expect our loved ones to guess what is going on inside our minds. This makes expressing our own feelings in a non-judgmental or blaming way critical to healthy relationships. Blame can be a quick route to arguments and resentment. Here are five tips for how to start expressing yourself with loved ones without blame:

1. Understand your emotions – before discussing our feelings with someone else, we must first understand them. Put a name to the emotions that you’re feeling. If you find that your main feelings are “mad” or “angry,” give yourself time to calm down before you attempt to have a discussion so that you can talk openly without anger with your loved one (Heitler, 2013). Further, think about what changes could improve the situation, from your point of view so that you have a good understanding of what you feel as well as how to start to mend any issues (Vilhauer, 2016).

2. Pick the right time – make sure that you both have time to talk, schedule time if you need to, but make sure that you don’t wait too long. We want to talk about things to resolve them, instead of bottling-up our feelings.  Addressing problems as they arise, rather than letting them become too big to discuss in one sitting helps us stay focused on one issue at a time, and have open conversations with loved ones (Lisitsa, 2013).  

3. State your feelings and solutions – emotions are not right or wrong but coping with them is exclusively the responsibility of the person feeling the emotion (Heitler, 2013; Payne, 2017). This means that nobody else can control how we feel individually, so when one person feels blamed by another, it can lead to conflict. To avoid blame, use “I feel…” statements (e.g., “I feel sad” or “I feel lonely”) to own your feelings. Stating our emotions directly in this way, without justification about why we feel that way, can make us feel vulnerable. However, it leaves the door open for loved ones to engage with us and enter into a conversation where both people are active participants. Avoid “You make me feel…” statements which can sound like accusations and lead to defensiveness (Vilhauer, 2016).

4. Avoid accusations and opinions – be careful to express what you’re really feeling and don’t confuse those feelings with your thoughts or opinions. It can often be hard to tell them apart. If you find yourself saying, “I feel that” or “I feel like” what you’re about to say is probably an opinion or thought masquerading as an emotion. When we present our opinions as emotions, agreement between people with differing opinions becomes harder to reach and opportunities to have open conversations with loved ones are minimized (Vilhaurer, 2016; Bernstein, 2018).

5. Bring Solutions and Listen – present your ideas for how to improve the situation. Focusing on solutions and validating both parties’ feelings can help people feel less defensive (Vilhauer, 2016). Some solutions will be best created together with open communication. Tell your loved one what you need, give them an opportunity to express their needs, validate each other’s feelings, and work on solutions to meet those needs together. Approach the conversation with the goal of making sure what you are feeling is clearly expressed, and you will be able to talk more openly with your loved one, without blame (Payne, 2017). “Problem-solving together makes negative feelings lift” (Heitler, 2013). 

Rather than being afraid of expressing our feelings with loved ones, we can choose to look at these moments as opportunities to increase connection. Starting with gentle and non-blaming strategies, like the ones above, can help us do just that. 

References

Bernstein, M. (2018). “I feel that…,” “I feel like”: Problems big and small. ETC: A Review of General Semantics. 75(3/4), 463-465.

Heitler, S. (2013, May 23). How to express feelings…and how not to. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201305/how-express-feelings-and-how-not

Lisitsa, E. (2013, March 15). How to fight smarter: Soften your start-up. The Gottman Institute. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/softening-startup/

Payne, M. (2017). How to communicate anger without blaming. MarciPayne.com. Retrieved from https://marcipayne.com/communicate-anger-without-blaming/

Vilhauer, J. (2016, September 17). 3 ways to speak up without starting a fight. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forward/201609/3-ways-speak-without-starting-fight

By Chapel Taylor-Olsen and Ashley Yaugher, PhD




Cooling Hot Heads

Have you ever been so upset with your partner that you can’t think straight? It is normal to have moments of frustration and anger in relationships. How we manage strong emotions in our relationships is what matters. Being filled with uncontrolled, unmanaged anger during an argument is not constructive for you or your partner and can have long-term damaging effects to the relationship. So, what can you do to cool down and reach a point where you can think more clearly and problem solve with your partner? 

When you or your partner get to a point where you are feeling overwhelmed or “flooded,” it is important to take a break from the situation for at least 20 minutes, about the amount of time that it takes for the parasympathetic anti-stress hormones to put the brakes on runaway emotions (Navarra, 2021). Taking a break can help you to prevent further escalation and possibly saying or doing things that you will regret. Consider creating a signal that you need a break such as a code word. Use this time away from each other to calm yourself and get your mind off the situation by doing something such as: 

  • Focused breathing: Take ten slow, deep breaths, pausing for one or two seconds after inhaling.
  • Positive imagery: Close your eyes and think of a positive, relaxing experience, time or place.
  • Get active: Take a short walk to help you decompress, burn off extra tension and reduce stress or, if it works better for you, try non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises to relax your muscles to feel calmer. 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: slowly tense then relax each muscle group. 
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax” while breathing deeply.

By Naomi Brower, Extension Professor, & Sophia Pettit, Student Intern

Once you are both calm enough to have a conversation, make sure you approach each other to try talking again. At some point, it may also be helpful to talk about what may have triggered such intense emotions (such as past experiences/history). While intense feelings and conflict are uncomfortable, with effort, difficult conversations can also lead to increased closeness. For more information see this article:
The positive side of anger in relationships: A door to increasing intimacy.

References

American Psychological Association. (2011). Strategies for Controlling Your Anger: Keeping Anger in Check. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/strategies-controlling

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434

Navarra, R. (2022). The Dark Side of Anger: What Every Couple Should Know. The Gottman 

Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-dark-side-of-anger-what-every-couple-should-know/Navarra, R. (n.d.). The positive side of anger in relationships: A door to increasing intimacy. Dr. Robert Navarra. https://drrobertnavarra.com/the-positive-side-of-anger-in-relationships-a-door-to-increasing-intimacy/




The Benefits of Adult Friendships

An old poem tells us to, “Make new friends but keep the old, the new are silver the old are gold” (Parry, n.d.).   Researchers are finding that friendships are worth even more than silver or gold, in fact, there are many benefits associated with adult friendships. In a study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers note, “Incorporating social support and connections is critical for overall health and for healthy habits to be sustainable” (Martino, et al, 2017).  These same researchers found evidence that social support (e.g., friendships), help people maintain a variety of health factors such as blood sugar control, heart health, a healthy body mass index, cancer survival improvement, and overall mental health improvement. Another study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that “social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression”(Choi, et al, 2020). The benefits of friendship also increase your sense of belonging and purpose, contribute to improved self-worth and confidence, help you cope with traumatic events in your life, and increase happiness while reducing stress.  

Adults often find it more difficult to develop new friendships or maintain existing friendships. Responsibilities such as work or taking care of a family may take priority. Additionally, friendships change as people change interests or move away. However, you are never too old, and it is never too late to reach out to old friends or make new friends. Friendship takes effort but given the benefits of friendship, the extra work can be worth it.  Following the suggestions below from the Mayo Clinic may help as you seek to nurture new and existing friendships:

1. Be kind. This is the core of successful relationships. You get back what you put in so make certain what you give is positive and kind. Try expressing gratitude for the small things, say “thank you” when you are thankful or appreciative of your friend or something kind they did.

2. Be a good listener. Let your friend know you are interested in their life.  Show interest though eye contact and body language. Try to listen and ask clarifying questions, but don’t seek to respond with advice unless it is asked for directly.

3. Open up.  Sharing about your life can deepen connection and build intimacy with your friend. It shows them that they hold a special place in your life. Try expressing your feelings with “I” statements to be vulnerable and build connection. 

4. Show that you can be trusted. Be dependable, reliable, and responsible. When your friends share confidences with you, keep it confidential. Be sure to follow through on commitments and be on time when you plan get togethers.

5. Make yourself available.  Forging friendships takes time, including time spent together. Try to see new friends regularly and check in with them in-between times. Try texting or calling your friends when you think about them just to talk and be available to them.

References

Choi, K. W., Stein, M. B., Nishimi, K. M., Ge, T., Coleman, J. R. I., Chen, C.-Y., Ratanatharathorn, A., Zheutlin, A. B., Dunn, E. C., Breen, G., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2020). An exposer-wide and mendelian randomization approach to identifying modifiable factors for the 
prevention of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111158

 Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 16, 2022, 
     from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860 

 Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, E. (2015). The connection prescription: Using the power of social interactions and the deep desire for connectedness to empower health and wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(6). https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788

Parry, J. (n.d.). New friends and old friends. Poetry Nook. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/new-friends-and-old-friends 

The power of social connectedness. (2020, August 17). Psychology for all. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from http://www.psychologyforall.org/blog/the-power-of-social-connectedness

By Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professor




How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They often determine trust by giving a little at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it, based on their perception of the person’s behavior. According to “Assessments of Trust in Intimate Relationships and the Self-perception Process,” in The Journal of Social Psychology (reference below), for intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits need to be exhibited. Two of those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship.

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. The article suggests that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with promises, the other person in the relationship can determine if he or she feels there is consistency in the behavior. Feeling as if we know what to expect is one way to build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what he or she says and does, this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is proven, a couple can move toward establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship means you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, including in interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say are part of being truthful. However, there may be times when your partner needs to make a change to plans. Their willingness to communicate about the change is imperative. 

Our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

·             Does my partner keep promises?

·             Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?

·             More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?

·             Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?

·             Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain whether or not you can trust your partner, explore your past experiences and behaviors that caused you concern, and determine why. Talk with your partner about your concerns. If you do not feel comfortable discussing them, seek out a licensed therapist to help explore your experiences and thoughts. 

Reference

·         Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224549809600373

By: Eva Timothy, Extension assistant professor, Eva.Timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483




Show Gratitude for Your Partner This Season (and Always!)

This month, we celebrate the joy that comes from sharing gratitude. According to research from Harvard Health, gratitude can truly make a person happier. In recent years, psychologists have focused on the benefits that come to individuals when they create a habit of being thankful and showing gratitude. These benefits, however, are not just for the individual. This research shows that couples who show gratitude for their partner, and who express it regularly, feel more positive toward the partner. Research also shows that expressing gratitude releases oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” which builds a greater connection and bond between two people.

Although showing gratitude to your partner has many benefits, it can be difficult to find a way to do it regularly and in a meaningful way. Consider these tips to help you cultivate gratitude in your relationship. 

  1. Share compliments out loud. Have you ever caught yourself thinking something nice about your partner? Instead of keeping the thought to yourself, say it out loud. Tell your partner what you appreciate about what he or she did, right in the moment. 
  2. Pitch in and give your partner a break. It can be easy to forget or not notice how much effort your partner is putting into his or her job or at home. Show your gratitude and appreciation for those contributions by giving your partner a break and helping where you can to lessen the load. 
  3. Involve your children in thanking and letting your partner know of your appreciation. Getting children in on the joy of practicing gratitude can be fun and worthwhile. Help your children recognize how much work your partner puts in by encouraging them to show thanks through notes, words, or chores.
  4. Write a note, text, or letter expressing appreciation and gratitude. Can you remember the last time you wrote a love message to your partner? Go deeper than merely expressing your love; explain the reasons for your love and share the small things that he or she does to make your life better. 
  5. Express gratitude for your partner, especially when he or she isn’t there. It can be easy to get into a routine of complaining about our significant others when they are not present. For example, if your coworkers are talking about what bothers them about their partners or expressing frustration about a home situation, your instinct may be to join in and share your complaints. Next time this happens, turn the complaining session into a gratitude session. Even though your partner may not be present to hear what you appreciate, you will have an increased level of gratitude and may even be able to influence those around you to have an increased level of gratitude for their partners as well. 

No matter how you choose to show gratitude and cultivate a greater sense of appreciation in your relationship, remember that it is a simple way to build and strengthen your bond. In this month of November, when we focus on gratitude and giving thanks, remember that you can strengthen your relationship by sharing your appreciation for your partner, with your partner. For references and citation links, visit https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/faq/index.

By: Tasha Howard, Utah State University Extension assistant professor