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Sliding vs. Deciding for Better Relationships

Sliding v Deciding.jpg

Find out why it’s important to make clear decisions instead of just going with the flow.


One of the reasons relationships can be difficult is that people don’t make clear decisions together about what they’re doing or where they’re headed. There are times in life when it’s easy to slide, or go with the flow to enjoy life. However, sometimes we need clear decisions that make it easier to follow through.

Sliding vs. deciding means people do best when they make decisions about important things in life rather than sliding through life without thinking carefully about what they want. For example, after coming home from work and the business of the day, instead of sliding into watching TV, decide to plan an activity with your partner or child. Another example would be deciding to save up for a trip or large purchase and setting up a savings plan, rather than just hoping there will eventually be enough money for the trip you’d like to take.

USU Extension – will be teaching Within Our Reach curriculum as part of our Healthy Family Fun Nights. One of the core themes of Within Our Reach is based on this idea that we do best in life when we make clear decisions, instead of sliding through choices. The course will teach critical life and relationship skills to help create a better environment for your family. Participating families will also learn how to make a healthy, quick, delicious dinner and enjoy it together. We are currently recruiting for a series in Logan, UT that will be held in the evenings on May 16, May 23, May 30, and June 6. Register for the event in Logan here.

Check out our website to find a Healthy Family Fun series near you!


This article was written by Carrie Durward, PhD RD Assistant Professor and Extension Nutrition Specialist

 




Increase the Joy with Forgiveness

joy through forgiveness graphicSo much of our happiness is within our own control. Find out how to increase joy in your marriage or relationship through forgiveness.


Isn’t it amazing that the people we are closest to have the ability to offend us the most?  One reason for this is that when we love someone, we lower our protective emotional wall so we are more vulnerable to getting hurt.  It works the same with the people who love us – none of us are perfect – we have all said or done things that offend those we love the most. It is the way we REACT to offending or being offended that determines the effect on our relationship. It is important to think about how we really want to feel. Do you want to feel anger, resentment, bitterness, pain, and misery or do you want to feel love, peace, joy, and happiness? There are two responses that will bring about the positive feelings we all want to enjoy – forgiving your spouse when you are offended, and offering a sincere apology when you have offended your loved one.

The following five steps can help you in the forgiveness process and will allow you to replace the feelings of bitterness and hurt with positive feelings of love:

  1. Take time to calm down before speaking to your spouse. This allows your brain to switch from the “fight or flight” area of the brain to the higher level thinking part of the brain.
  2. Talk with your spouse about what happened to offend you. Sometimes you will find it was a misunderstanding or totally unintentional.        
  3. Recognize you aren’t perfect either. Think of the many times your spouse has forgiven you for offenses.
  4. Think of at least three memories when your feelings of love were especially strong for your spouse. Whenever you feel negative emotions of anger, hurt etc., think of these memories.
  5. Give yourself time for the hurt feelings to be replaced with feelings of love. It may take some time, but don’t give up!

It is also important to learn how to offer a sincere apology. Three crucial steps are:

  1. Recognize exactly what you did to offend your spouse.
  2. Develop a plan to avoid repeating the same mistake again.
  3. Tell your spouse you are sorry.

Making sure you include the first two steps will make the third step more meaningful and effective.

So…think of something you may have done recently to offend your spouse and begin the steps of apologizing — and think of something your spouse has done that offended you and begin the steps of forgiveness. Don’t forget the three memories!

Marriage can be hard work when you think about giving and taking, forgiving and asking for forgiveness – but when you are snuggling in the arms of the one you love, it is well worth it!


This article was written by GaeLynn Peterson, Wayne County Director and Extension Assistant Professor, FCS and 4-H Youth




10 Tips for Romance on a Budget

Romance on a budgetYou don’t have to break the bank to add a little romance back into your relationship. Try these 10 tips to make it happen.


When couples first meet, romantic feelings are usually very strong and partners go out of their way to create romantic experiences together.  Over time, it can become challenging to find time, money and energy to create romantic moments together. However, creating romantic moments together does not have to be time consuming or expensive. Consider the following tips to reignite the romance in your relationship.   

  1. Candlelight dinner. Going out for an expensive dinner is a popular way to show your partner that you care, but is often reserved for special occasions because of the cost. Almost any meal (even take-out) can be made special by adding a nice ambiance of candles and soft music.  Just be sure to keep the television off and focus instead on having a conversation with your sweetheart. To make the night extra special, dress up in your best clothes to make it feel like you are at a special event.
  2. Express yourself. Take a moment to reflect on the things you really like or appreciate about your partner but often don’t say. Write them a short note and put it some place where it will surprise him or her, like their car’s dashboard or tucked inside their tablet case. While handwritten notes are a bit more personal, romantic text messages can also be a nice surprise.
  3. De-stress together. Forget about life’s challenges while watching a movie you both enjoy and giving each other a massage or a pedicure.
  4. Take a stroll. Going on a walk with you partner can provide a relaxing time to talk, and provide a boost of feel-good endorphins. For extra romance, try going for a walk at sunset.
  5. Get “board.” Board games are a timeless and inexpensive way of having fun together. To add some extra fun, decide on a prize that the “winner” will get such as a favorite treat or doing a chore for the other person, and be sure to make an effort to flirt with each other while playing.
  6. Catch some culture. Concerts or plays can make a fun date night but can also be expensive. As an alternative, check out the local newspaper and community websites for local band concerts, school plays and community-hosted events.
  7. Dream together. Escape from your current financial situation and let your imagination run free as you dream together about your hopes and dreams for the future. Consider creating a dream board or book of ideas and pictures that you can reflect on together at a later time.
  8. Get cozy. Snuggle up together in a blanket and enjoy the night sky together. For an added bonus, find a place to star gaze where you can also cozy up together in the glow of a small fire.
  9. Take a class together. Research indicates that couples who take time to learn relationship skills and insights together have stronger and happier relationships. Consider attending a healthy relationship class in your area or reading and discussing a relationship book or article aimed at keeping your relationship strong. Find classes and resources at www.strongermarriage.org.
  10. Expand your experiences. Attending community date nights can be fun because you can try new experiences and you can have a fun night out without all of the event planning! They also provide opportunities to interact with other couples who are committed to strengthening their relationships. Check out the low-cost date nights coming up this spring across the Wasatch Front found on www.strongermarriage.org under classes and events in Weber County.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor, naomi.brower@usu.edu, 801-399-8206




7 Ways to Make Media Work for Your Relationship

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Does social media add or detract from your relationship with your partner? Check out these tips on how to use media as a tool to strengthen your relationship.


According to recent statistics, over 97 percent of American adults own a mobile phone, and 67 percent own a smartphone.  In addition, the platforms and mediums for connection are seemingly endless (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, email, Instagram, WhatsApp, IM etc.).

Increased options for instant connection can have positive and negative impacts on relationships. While online resources can help us stay connected to those we love and increase relationship satisfaction, being constantly connected to the world through online platforms can also potentially lead to neglecting our partners, conflict, less relationship and life satisfaction, and affairs.

Consider the following seven ways to use technology to strengthen your relationships.

  1. Checking-in texts. Take a minute during a break to tell your partner you are thinking of him or her or to send a “kiss.”
  2. FaceTime/Skype. While media cannot replace actual face-to-face time, it is an important tool that can be used to help couples stay connected. This is particularly true for couples who spend extended periods of time physically apart (e.g. military, those who travel for work, etc.).
  3. Facebook Posts. Facebook can be used to publicly express admiration and appreciation for your partner. Photographs, memes, videos and messages can all be used to express affection.
  4. Instagram. Instagram can be a great way to share moments and different aspects of your day and life with your partner.  This can be particularly useful for couples who are often physically separated due to work or other circumstances.
  5. Email. Emails can be a fun way to share possible gift ideas found online, date night or getaway ideas, silly pictures or jokes or just to check in with each other.
  6. Pinterest. Similar to emails, Pinterest can be used to collect fun date night ideas, funny pictures to share with each other, or to create a dream board for future events or goals.
  7. YouTube and Videos. Videos can be a fun way to connect with each other if you are watching, discussing and/or laughing about them together.

While using media to express affection and commitment can be a great boost to relationships, in order to prevent misunderstandings or frustration, be sure to also discuss boundaries for technology with your partner (keeping profiles public, being open and honest about technology use and who you are communicating with, having technology-free zones or time while you are together, etc.). By having an open and honest discussion and agreeing on boundaries as a couple, you can better ensure that technology will be a benefit rather than a detriment to your relationship.


This article was written by Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor, naomi.brower@usu.edu, 801-399-8206, and Elizabeth Davis, Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Assistant Professor for Kane County,  elizabeth.davis@usu.edu 

 




Ask an Expert: How to Combat 13 Barriers to Relationship Fun

relationship-fun-graphicLooking to add some fun back into your relationship? Take a look at these thirteen common barriers to relationship fun, and how to combat them.


Boring, drab, lifeless, stale, dull, tedious. These are probably not the words you hope to use to describe your relationships. How about well planned, frugal, precise, productive, serious, busy? Though these can be characteristics of a strong, healthy relationship, they are not likely those things that make a relationship seem appealing. What made your relationship so attractive in the beginning? What is it about your partner that made you want to be with him or her?

In the beginning, no matter what the “spark” in your relationship was, it was so enjoyable you that both wanted to continue being together. Have your blissful days of being in love continued? Unfortunatelystrong, healthy, long-lasting marriages don’t just happen. We have to be intentional about our marriages, and research tells us that playing together helps us connect and feel more positive toward each other. Keeping the spark alive can be the most enjoyable work you and your partner will ever do. Make time to play and have fun; it is good for you and your relationship.

Consider the following barriers that stop couples from playing together and also ideas on how to combat them.

  1. Lack of energy, unhealthy living habits. Make a plan to eat right and participate in physical activities. Help each other stick to the plan.
  2. “Some day” syndrome. Schedule it and leave reminders for yourself.
  3. Fear of looking silly. Let your partner know your fears and trust him or her to help you overcome them. Do fun things together that you feel comfortable with.
  4. Differing ideas of fun. Find out why your partner enjoys his or her hobbies so much by asking questions and trying it yourself. Be open minded. Compromise.
  5. Serious disposition. Laugh at yourself. Just try playing and see what happens.
  6. Resentment. Remind yourself of how you used to feel toward each other by doing things you used to enjoy together, looking at old photos or talking about feelings.
  7. Loss of hope in the relationship. Remind yourself of happier times by displaying happy photos, reminiscing, looking at memorabilia, etc.
  8. Too competitive. Play a new game. Don’t keep score. Work together to complete a task.
  9. Lack of money. Find fun things to do together that are free. Or, save for a special occasion.
  10. Other priorities. Talk together about what you feel is important to make an enjoyable relationship.
  11. View it as a waste of time. Consider play as a way to strengthen your relationship, because it is!
  12. No role model. Talk to or read about other couples that have had successful relationships. Watch children play; they are the experts.
  13. Feel it is unnecessary. Just try it and see how much more enjoyable your relationship can be.

Now that you have considered some of the barriers to play in your relationship, take action and make a plan to do something fun.

Based on ideas from The Power of Play in Relationships Manual (Braff & Schwarz, 2004) and Your Time Starved Marriage (Parrott & Parrott, 2006).

For additional ideas, see the fact sheet:

http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FC_Relationships_2011-04pr.pdf.


This article was written by Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor, naomi.brower@usu.edu, 801-399-8206, and Clarissa Barnhill, USU Extension intern




Ask an Expert // How to Start the Money Conversation

money-conversation

Struggling to get that money conversation going with your partner? We’ve got some tips on how to discuss finances without creating contention.


Talking with a significant other about money-related decisions can be difficult. Financial experts suggest one reason we may struggle to communicate about money is that we are unaware ourselves of the underlying values and beliefs that inadvertently guide financial decisions.

Communicating about value-driven money decisions can often lead to contention or misunderstanding when we do not first attempt to understand each other’s money values and attitudes. The way we choose to spend, save, invest and otherwise allocate our money is often a reflection of our knowledge, personal beliefs and values—including how we were raised with regards to money management.

To start the money conversation, try answering the following questions for yourself and ask your significant other to do the same. Once you have your answers, have a conversation and share with the intent to listen and understand each other’s perspective.

  • What are your first money memories?
  • How did your family handle money when you were growing up? How does that affect the way you handle money now?
  • What was the first big purchase you made entirely on your own? How old were you?
  • How would you choose to spend $1,000?
  • If you could change one thing about your current financial situation, what would it be?

Talking through questions like these may provide valuable insights to help you understand your own money values as well as those of your loved one. Focus on listening to each other and being honest when communicating. Do not hold anything back, even if you think it may be different from how the other person thinks and feels about money.

Once you have discussed each other’s answers, consider setting a goal that will help you achieve a money-related objective. For example, you may decide to save for a major purchase or pay off a debt. Whatever you agree on, do it together and decide what each person will sacrifice in order to accomplish the goal.

Having different money values can be a great strength in a relationship. Take time to discuss and focus on the positive aspects together. You might find you have more in common than you think.


By: Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension Associate Professor




Marriage Survival: It’s a Jungle Out There!

marriage-survival-graphicInterested in strengthening your marriage? Read on!


Research has found that married couples are healthier, wealthier and their children do better in school than those who are unmarried or divorced.  But, marriage can be challenging! Gaining skills and tools of healthy relationships can keep relationships happy and strong. Here are tips to keep relationship strong in five important areas of relationships:

Commitment

Being committed to each other is the first step in a good relationship. As part of thinking about “we” instead of “me,” it is important to understand and discuss each other’s personalities and needs.

Communication

Learning and practicing healthy communication skills such as “I messages” and good listening skills can show your partner that you value your relationships and promote positive communication.

Financial Harmony

Understanding each other’s money styles, keeping a budget, and setting financial goals as a couple can all help you to help you grow closer together rather than having finances be a source of frustration and contention in relationships.

Strengthening Your Friendship

Investing in your relationship with quality time, finding small ways to show that you care, and maintaining a positive mind set can strengthen your relationship.

Protect Your Marriage

Learning how to cope with conflict effectively, and learning traits of safe and happy relationships can help you protect your marriage from negative outside influences.logowithcouple

Learn More

Join us for a fun and interactive class to learn more about these five important areas and strengthen your relationship. Register Here


This article was written by Naomi Brower, USU Extension associate professor, Weber County




On the Menu: His and Her Needs Pizza

Whatever your Valentine’s Day dinner plans may be, try a few slices of his and her needs pizza. Watch the video for some common needs of men and women, then take some time to discuss needs with your spouse or partner.


The Highlights

We all have needs. By understanding and appreciating each other’s needs, couples can grow closer together and protect their relationship from outside negative influences.

 




4 Tips to Becoming a Better Listener

better-listenerShow how much you value and care about your partner and set a positive tone in your relationship by being a better listener. Watch this video from USU Extension expert Naomi Brower for tips to becoming a better listener


Highlights:

  1. Check your body language to show that you’re listening.
  2. Focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t interrupt!
  3. Repeat back in your own words what has been shared in order to make sure you understand the full message.
  4. Share your point of view using “I” messages such as, “This is what I think and feel.”



15 Easy Dates to do at Home

AtHomeDatesBlog

You don’t have to go out on the town to have a fun date! Whether you are looking for something to do after the kids are in bed, or for budget-friendly date ideas, we’ve got some tips for you.


Couples Night In

Finding time alone as a couple is an important aspect of maintaining a strong and healthy relationship.

Couples with children often struggle to have the time or energy to reconnect as often as they would like.

While it can be a challenge to find the time and resources to go “out” on a date, there are many fun activities couples can do at home to reconnect, especially after the kids are asleep. In order to make at-home dates successful, follow these three tips:

1. Keep it simple. Going on a date with your sweetheart is about connecting with each other. Activities do not need to be elaborate or require a lot of time or energy. Even 20 minutes of uninterrupted quality time can boost a relationship.

2. Make a plan. Because you are staying at home, it will be easier to just fall into the normal routine rather than to have a date night, so plan what you will be doing and when. This will also help you to know what you might need to do or buy to be ready for your date. Be sure to take turns choosing the activity (complaints on either side can spoil the fun).

3. Focus on each other. Once again, because you are at home, it is often easy to get distracted by housework, electronics, etc. Commit to focus only on your spouse and the activity you are doing together for the timeframe you have planned.

Where possible, make an effort to connect through conversation throughout your date, especially about personal thoughts and feelings (not just about the kids).

15 Ideas for at-home date nights:

  1. Star gaze. Set up a blanket in the backyard and enjoy looking at the stars. For bonus points, get a star map and try to identify constellations.
  2. Walk in your partner’s shoes for an evening. Swap your normal “duties” for the night to try to understand life from your partner’s perspective. After the kids go to bed, discuss your experience.
  3. Look through old photo albums and reminisce together. If you feel really energetic, make it a time to put loose photos into albums or delete out-of-focus and duplicate digital files.
  4. Have a fondue party. Dip your favorite veggies, fruits or snack foods in cheese or chocolate. Yum!
  5. Curl up for an evening of reading. Find a book you both enjoy and take turns reading to each other.
  6. Go dancing. Check out a dance instruction video or find one online and turn your living room into a ballroom.
  7. Camp in your own backyard. Set up a tent, snuggle and tell ghost stories. If you have a fire pit, light a fire and roast marshmallows and make s‘mores. If not, improvise using a gas stove, barbeque or microwave.
  8. Go gourmet. Sample a few types of cheese you haven’t tried before with crackers, bread or fruit and critique each one.
  9. Cozy up on a blanket in front of a fireplace and have a picnic or treat. No fireplace? You can improvise with a bunch of candles grouped together.
  10. Watch a classic romantic movie or funny videos on YouTube. Make a fluffy bed out of pillows and cushions on the floor for a fun change.
  11. Play board games or card games. For a fun twist, decide on a service or treat that the winner will receive.
  12. Get sweet. Have an ice cream sundae bar, experiment with creating your own smoothie recipes or have a chocolate tasting night.
  13. Have an at-home spa night. Light some candles and give each other a massage, take a bubble bath or if you are feeling adventurous, treat each other to a pedicure or facial.
  14. Create a dream board of pictures or a list of places you want to visit or fun things you would like to do together in the future. Make a plan to make one of them happen.
  15. Get active. Try a new exercise video together or take a stroll around the outside of the house to get some fresh air.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, Extension Associate Professor