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Working Through Religious Differences in Marriage

Disagreements with someone you love can be challenging. The conversations can be uncomfortable, especially about firmly held beliefs. Differences in religious beliefs or spirituality can even become 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 United States is rapidly changing. 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 relationships. This is further complicated because these things affect more than Sunday worship, including decisions on parenting, finances, and friendships. Even couples practicing the same religion may not agree on religious or spiritual practices, including how often to attend church service or engage in church activities. It is important for couples to recognize the pitfalls and potential for hurt when engaging in a mixed faith relationship or when one partner’s beliefs change, no longer aligning with their spouse’s beliefs. 

In spite of the challenges that come from significantly different beliefs, there are many mixed-faith marriages and relationships that thrive.

Consider these tips from John Gottman, psychologist, author, and relationship expert, to help navigate religious differences in intimate relationships. 

1. Explore your own relationship with your faith.
There is a difference between identifying with a religion or spiritual practice and engaging in that faith. Explore your religious or spiritual identity and what that means to you. It is necessary to understand your own faith identity in order to navigate the differences with your partner. Here are some questions to consider:

  • 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 hard times?
  • Which aspects of your religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold onto tightly?
  • Which aspects do you feel more flexible about?

 
2. Acknowledge the differences and what they will mean for your life together.
Avoidance is not a sustainable option. It is important to identify the differences that may affect you so you can plan together on how to best manage them as a couple. According to 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 or beliefs, approach these conversations with curiosity and interest, try to understand your partner’s point of view, and realize that this is an opportunity to increase your love for them.

The way you start a conversation can predict how the rest of the conversation will go or be perceived. 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 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 better. Share about your cultural and religious experiences 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 partner’s beliefs and practices. Go with them to their religious events and services. This is not a promise to leave your own beliefs and convert, but it is a powerful way to communicate that you value them and are embracing who they are. 
 
5.  Make Repairs. 
Mistakes are inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up, just apologize and move forward. Well-used humor (not sarcasm) can help ease tense moments. The main goal of making a repair is to determine what when wrong (without blaming) and resume being on the same team to address an issue instead of treating each other as the issue that needs to be fixed.
 
6. Consider therapy.
Talking about faith is deeply personal and can be hard, despite our best efforts. Some differences might seem impossible to overcome. 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.

Gottman maintains that disagreements provide an opportunity for increased intimacy and connection, and religious differences provide an opportunity for increased respect, understanding, and love.Working Through Religious Differences in Marriage

By: Elizabeth Davis, Utah State University Extension professor, Elizabeth.Davis@usu.edu




Healthy Partner Relationship Boundaries

We all have personal boundaries that we want to be respected. This includes boundaries in romantic relationships, but how do we know if these rules we set are healthy? Healthy relationship boundaries exist when both partners feel respected and heard. Unfortunately, boundaries are often seen as controlling, when in fact open and honest conversations about your limits will create a healthier and more satisfying relationship (Cosio, 2014).
 
Every individual and every romantic relationship will have different boundaries that work best. To identify your boundaries, have a conversation with your partner where you both openly discuss your rules. Talk about why your boundaries are important, and let your partner respond with how it makes them feel (Barkin & Wisner, 2013). 
 
Below are three types of boundaries and examples of each, to help get your conversation started with your romantic partner:
 
1. Physical Boundaries are your personal “bubble” of space and the physical touch you are comfortable with (Therapy Aid, 2016). To create healthy physical boundaries in your relationship, have a conversation with your partner about the physical space you need at different times. You can also talk about what types of physical touch you are comfortable with and when you are comfortable with public displays of affection.
 
2. Emotional Boundaries focus on how people make you feel (Therapy Aid, 2016). Sometimes in relationships, we overshare or mention something that is a sensitive topic to our partner; which can lead to emotional limits being crossed. To create healthy emotional boundaries, use I-statements when explaining your needs to your partner (e.g., “I feel safe when we share this kind of information with each other;” Selva, 2021). 
 
3. Time Boundaries are how you spend your time (Therapy Aid, 2016). Sometimes it can feel like your partner expects too much of your time, and they may feel like you spend too much time on things other than the relationship. You can create healthy time boundaries by explaining to your partner when you need personal time and how they can help make sure you get it, as well as planning time to spend together one-on-one with full attention for one another (Barkin & Wisner, 2013).
 
Creating healthy boundaries is a gradual process; it can take time for both partners to adapt to the other person’s limits. Healthy boundaries will grow, change over time, and protect or even strengthen your romantic relationship as you continue to take the time to respect each other. 

Resources to learn more:

Establishing Boundaries: Essential or Selfish?
 
Personal Boundary Worksheet
How to Respect and Set Boundaries with your Spouse

References

Cosio D. (2014). How to set boundaries with chronic pain patients. The Journal of family practice, 63(3 Suppl), S3–S8.

Barkin, J.L., & Wisner, K.L. (2013). The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood. Midwifery, 29(9), 1050-1055.

Selva, J. (2021, February 24). How to set healthy boundaries: 10 examples + PDF worksheets. Retrieved from 
https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/   

Therapist Aid. (2016). What are personal boundaries? Retrieved from: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/relationships_personal_boundaries.pdf

By Emma Cambell, BS & Ashley Yaugher, Extension Professional Practice Assistant Professor, PhD




What are Some Fun, New Ideas for Date Night?

When you hear, “date night,” what do you picture? Getting a great babysitter to watch the kids and heading out for dinner and a movie? Or maybe, “who has time for date night?” is what flashes through your mind. Whether it’s been years since your last date night or you’re looking for ways to shake up your routine, we’ve got a few ideas for you.

1. Talk To Each Other

With busy days, we may not realize that time to talk with our partner has slipped away. Just the act of communicating about intimate and vulnerable topics with another person can strengthen our connections (Aron et al, 1997). Here are some ideas for how to set time aside for talking with examples linked:

2. Play Together

Play promotes greater closeness and positive feelings between people which has been associated with better couple bonding, communication, and ability to resolve conflicts (Aune & Wong, 2002; Vanderbleek et al, 2011). What that play looks like is entirely up to you. Play should be lighthearted and something that you both find fun, funny, or entertaining (Aune & Wong, 2002). Here are a few ideas and links to get you started: 

3. Do Something Totally New

It’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable pattern. However, boredom can be harmful to our relationships and “lack of novelty” or not having enough new experiences with your partner can lead to boredom (Ursu & Turliuc, 2019). Finding something that pushes you out of your comfort zone a little or allows you and your partner to have a new experience together might be just what you need: 

  • Take a class (online or in person) and learn something new together
  • Find something happening in Utah that you’ve never heard of and try it out
  • Go to an amusement park or arcade without the kids 

 
The most important factor in any date night is the people involved. Making the effort to spend time together regularly and connecting in ways that you both find enjoyable is the most important goal. These few ideas can get you started on new adventures, but don’t be afraid to find more and create your own date nights, too!

Additional Resources

Date Your Mate Adventure Guides for areas all around Utah
https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/hiddengems/date-your-mate-adventure-guides
 
More Articles and Videos on Improving Couple Relationships
https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/couple-relationships

References

Aron, A, Melinat, E, Aron, E.N., Vallone, R.D., & Bator, R.J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.
 
Aune, K.S. & Wong, N.C.H. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of adult play in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 9, 279-286.  
 
Ursu, A. & Turliuc, M.N. (2019). When partners get bored in their relationships? A mixed method and cross cultural approach of romantic relational boredom. International Journal of Education and Psychology in the Community, 9(1&2), 132-148.
 
Vanderbleek, L., Robinson III, E.H., Casado-Kehoe, M., & Young, M.E. (2011). The relationship between play and couple satisfaction and stability. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 19(2), 132-139. DOI: 10.1177/1066480711399729

By Chapel Taylor-Olsen, BA and Ashley Yaugher, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor, PhD




6 Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship

School is almost back in session, you’re running your kids around for activities, you’re trying to make time for yourself, and the list of to-dos goes on and on. Having children is great, but about 67% of new parents experience a drop in marital satisfaction after a new birth of a child (Shellenbarger, 2005). So, with so many things going on, what can you do to nourish your relationship with your spouse?

Seeking to connect is incredibly beneficial but it can be daunting to try and find time to do so. However, creating moments of connection does not have to be a huge part of your to-do list and can be done through very simple means.

Here are 6 simple ways to start strengthening your relationship:

1. Set aside time together.

Spending time together is important in building any connection. As your family grows, the time you can spend with your partner seems to decrease. You can make this priority by setting aside 20 minutes each day just for the two of you, no distractions. You may want to schedule a weekly date night so you can leave the house and spend one-on-one time together. Creating moments just for the two of you can make such a world of difference (Abreu-Afonso et al., 2022).

2. Make ordinary things feel more special.

You can make ordinary things special by using them as a vessel to help you spend time together. Maybe you can weed the garden together or you can help your partner work on the car (Harris et al., 2016).

3. Find a hobby or interest that you both can get on board with.

Planning time to invest in a hobby together can help you find another avenue through which you can spend time together alone (Tenginkai et al., 2017).

4. Remind yourself that no family or relationship is perfect.

Every person you know has gone through some sort of stressor in their personal and family lives. It’s important to remember you aren’t the only one who may struggle (Tenginkai et al., 2017).

5. Take time to remember and talk about special moments in your relationship.

Take time to reminisce on all the good memories you have. Share those memories with your partner (Abreu-Afonso et al., 2022).

6. Be kind to each other and express love for each other in front of your children.

Expressing love can be as simple as complimenting the breakfast your partner made. Doing so in front of your children helps them see how others should be treated. It also helps your partner feel appreciated (Harris et al., 2016). 

Try taking a few minutes out of each day to work on a few of these simple methods. Be patient with yourself and your partner and look for results over time.

References

Abreu-Afonso, J., Ramos, M. M., Queiroz-Garcia, I., & Leal, I. (2022). How Couple’s Relationship Lasts Over Time? A Model for Marital Satisfaction. Psychological Reports, 125(3), 1601–1627. https://doi.org/10.1177/00332941211000651

Harris, V. W., Bedard, K., Moen, D., & Álvarez-Pérez, P. (2016). The Role of Friendship, Trust, and Love in Happy German Marriages. Marriage & Family Review, 52(3), 262–304. https://doi-org.dist.lib.usu.edu/10.1080/01494929.2015.1095268

Shellenbarger, Sue. “Not in Front of the Kids: Documenting The Emotional Toll of Parental Tension.” Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition, vol. 245, no. 122, 23 June 2005, p. D1. EBSCOhost, https://search-ebscohost-com.dist.lib.usu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=17399009&site=ehost-live.

Tenginkai, G. S., Chadha, N. K., & Sharma, C. B. (2017). How to maintain a strong marital bond? Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing, 8(9), 1093–1095.

By Hannah Butler, Extension Intern Cindy Jenkins, USU Extension Assistant Professor




Common Reasons for Feeling Disconnected in Marriage

When many people are asked what they want for their marriage, they reply that they want to love and be loved. And while that is true, most couples want even more. They have a deep desire to feel understood, respected, safe, needed, heard, appreciated, and perhaps most of all, to feel connection (Johnson, 2008). 

When most new relationships are formed, there is often a feeling of excitement and anticipation surrounding the “newness” of the relationship. Our brains and bodies release a host of happy neurochemicals designed to draw couples together. 

But for all couples, at some point, the newness wears off and the reality of stresses and imperfections arise. Busy schedules, bills, and babies come along and that feeling of closeness and connection becomes more difficult to maintain.

What happens to the connection between couples and what can be done? Here are 8 “D’s” of disconnection that help explain why most couples grow more distant over time.

1. Drifting

Over time, without being mean or nasty, all couples experience a slow drifting apart. Like two people in inner tubes floating a slow river, without intentionally holding on to each other, they will naturally drift apart. Over time, all couples get used to each other and when they get casual and comfortable, they tend to get critical. This often leads to “affection deprivation” and ADD or “attention deficit dilemma” as couples get busy and neglect doing the things that created feelings of connection earlier on.

2. Darts and Daggers

Many couples feel hurt when unkind things (darts and daggers) are expressed. Excessive complaints, criticism, name-calling and contempt drive distance between people. It has been said that reactions can wreck relationships. Couple connection could be strengthened if partners pay more attention to their temper, tongue, and tone of voice. And when unkind things are said, be quick to apologize and forgive. One more tip – don’t parent your partner. No one likes to constantly be told what to do.

3. Disruptions to Daily Life

Often circumstances out of our control cause chaos and disruptions that create distance and disconnection in a marriage. These range from mental health and moving to job loss, car troubles and even having a baby. These anticipated and unanticipated disruptions and stresses can create tension that creeps into couple relationships. The key is to be aware of them, manage them in healthy ways, and don’t let a challenge to be solved become more important that a person to be loved.

4. Distance

Close relationships require meaningful time together. Some couples drift apart due to factors that keep them from being together. These can include being physically apart for long periods of time, working long hours or different hours than your spouse, working multiple jobs, and frequent travel. Long periods of physical distance can lead to emotional distance in relationships.

5. Destructive Decisions

Marriage requires consistent clear communication about all aspects of life. Making some decisions without discussion or one-sided, secretive hidden habits can diminish trust, connection, and closeness. This could be things such as excessive spending and pornography addiction to substance abuse and even affairs. How each partner uses their time and how they make decisions can make or break some relationships.

6. Disagreements and Defensiveness

All couples will experience disagreements and it is natural to become defensive and even feel some resentment when there is a heated discussion. Common topics of disagreements include money, sex, how time is spent, and how to parent children (Schramm et al., 2005. Anger and resentment can create icy distance that melts feelings of closeness and connection. Instead, view irritation as an invitation for understanding and compassion. 

7. Daily Hassles

Living with another person and managing schedules and daily stresses can be exhausting and overwhelming. The arduous list of to-dos ranges from cooking and cleaning to paying bills and running errands. All couples will face daily hassles—connected couples find ways to check in regularly with their partner, express gratitude, ask how they can help, and practice patience.

8. Digital Distractions

Married couples today encounter a relatively new 8th challenge—managing digital devices and screen time balance. Social media, working from home, gaming, emailing, texting, television—all of these can consume our time and more importantly, our attention. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your spouse is not your time, but your full undivided attention. Living in the digital age has plenty of perks, but when it intrudes into couple time it can create “technoference,” and quickly erode connection (McDaniel & Coyne, 2016). It may be wise for couples to consider kicking technology away from two areas of connection—tables and beds.

It is important to point out that these 8 “D’s” of disconnection are relatively common in most relationships. The key is finding balance, managing emotions and differences in healthy ways, responding with patience and kindness, being aware of how you use your time and attention, and intentionally investing in ways to connect and communicate.

References

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown.

McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5, 85– 98. doi:10.1037/ppm0000065

Schramm, D. G., Marshall, J. P., Harris, V.W., & Lee, T. R. (2005). After “I do”: The newlywed transition. Marriage & Family Review, 38, 45– 67. https://doi.org/10.1300/J002v38n01_05 

By David Schramm, Extension Associate Professor




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