6 Sweet Tips for a Happy Relationship with your Partner

Strengthen Blog

When it comes to relationships, it might seem like we should just know how to build a happy one, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder of some of the basic tried and true principles that can take all relationships to a happy place. To make your relationship stronger, take the challenge to make each one of these happen regularly.

1. Communicate. Checking in with each other every day and sharing your joys and frustrations will help you strengthen and maintain your friendship.
  • Take 10 minutes today and ask your partner an open-ended question such as his or her current favorite hobby or television show or a favorite vacation memory. Any open-ended question is great as long as you are taking time to reconnect and listen to your partner.
2. Be positive. Even on tough days we can make the choice to be positive and to build up and praise others.
  • Take time today to share something you appreciate about your sweetheart.
3. Take time to play. Having fun together helps us to remember why we chose to be together in the first place and builds our friendship that will help us to be strong, even in tough times.
  • Set a date to do something fun together. It doesn’t have to elaborate or even cost money. For example, you could play a board game or build a snowman together.  If you have kids but no babysitter, choose an activity you can do together at home after the kids are asleep. Consider attending a USU-organized date night—a fun night out without any of the planning! (See the USU calendar for healthy relationship activities in your area.)
  • Bonus challenge: Make a list with your spouse of things that sound fun to do together so you can refer back to it in the future.
4. Build memories and rituals together. Traditions and rituals add meaning to our lives, create memories and help us appreciate the small moments together.
  • Take a moment to consider what traditions (celebrating special occasions, holidays, etc.) or daily rituals (ways to say hello/goodbye, bed time routines, etc.) you have. Is it time to add or change something that can help you get closer as a couple?
5. Discuss expectations and resolve conflicts when they are small. Everyone has disagreements but when we communicate with love and respect and discuss frustrations when they are small, we can usually resolve conflicts much more easily than after they build.
  • When discussing a frustration with your spouse, use “I” statements. For example, fill in these blanks, “I think…(insert your concern),  I feel…(share the emotion you feel because of this), and I want…” (share what you would like to see happen).
6. Be affectionate. While we all have different ways we’d prefer to express and receive love, all relationships flourish in an atmosphere of love and affection. We can show that we care in many small ways such as leaving a note, sending a text just to say hi, holding hands and kissing hello and goodbye.
  • Strengthen your relationship today by showing affection to your sweetheart in some way.
Take one small step today toward the marriage you would like to have this time next year!

Author – Naomi Brower
brower, naomiNaomi Brower is an Extension Associate Professor for Utah State University. She has a Masters of Family and Human Development from Utah State University. Often called the relationship guru by friends, Naomi is passionate about helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships with others.


5 Traits that Make a Family Strong

Author – Kathleen Riggs

Have you ever looked at another family and wondered why they seem to have it all together? Have you wondered what their family has that yours doesn’t? Every family has its issues, but all families can be strong. Let’s take a look at five tips to help create and maintain strong families.

* Caring and Appreciation. A strong, healthy relationship is a worthwhile goal for everyone. Showing care and appreciation for another family member helps adults develop their potential and it provides a model for children.

* Time Together. In some ways, time is like money—it seems like we never have enough of either one. However, the truth is, we tend to find the time or money for those things that are most important. How important is time with your family?

* Encouragement. All families face tough times occasionally. Healthy families have confidence that they will survive any crisis and come back even stronger.

* Coping with Change. All families develop habits, routines and a set of rules. These patterns help deal with day-to-day life and provide continuity and stability. In strong families, patterns remain flexible or adaptable enough to cope with crises or other changes. These may require changes in habits, rules, power structure, roles and division of labor or ways of performing family tasks and functions.

* Clear Roles. Members of strong families have a clear idea about their day-to-day roles and obligations to the family. Roles must be flexible and can be shared. For instance, it’s okay for someone who usually cooks to take over fixing the car because of a need, or even boredom!

According to the experts, if you work on one trait, it will benefit another area (the spill-over effect).

Looking for more? I’ve included four more traits  in an easy and downloadable PDF. Click over to read, save and also PIN this post to reference later! These traits were identified by researchers from the University of Missouri Extension Service. Details are in their training for families titled: Building Strong Families: Challenges and Choices. 

kathy riggs Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences professor for Iron County. She loves yard/garden work, where  her favorite tasks are weeding and mowing the lawn. Her favorite appliance is the microwave oven, and her specialty is microwave caramels. She  loves family time and occasions that bring everyone together from near or far.

Spread the Love by Volunteering

Volunteer Blog
Author – Zuri Garcia, Extension Assistant Professor
            Whether it’s a soup kitchen, a classroom, a youth camp, or the street, people can be found volunteering.  Just in Utah, millions of volunteers are found spreading the love.  Utah is ranked number one for adult volunteering in the United States with $3 billion in services contributed in 2012.  Volunteering benefits both the community being served and the individual volunteer.
            Many people are motivated to volunteer because of the benefit to the community.  When money is put aside and free time is donated, more work can get done.  Organizations that are created to improve community and family life have a larger reach when volunteers are involved.  Community needs addressed through volunteering include: disaster services, economic opportunities, education, the environment, health and families.
            Volunteers benefit from the work they do in their communities.  There are social benefits to getting out and building relationships with fellow volunteers and individuals being served.  Volunteers become less isolated and feel a sense of purpose.  Physical and mental-health benefits also exist for volunteers.  Volunteering at an earlier stage in life may decrease the likeliness of suffering ill health later in life.  The more committed volunteers are, the more significant the benefits are that they receive from volunteering.  An average of one to two hours a week has been found to be significantly beneficial.
            Volunteering is a way to spread love throughout the community.  So how can you get started?  There are countless opportunities to volunteer. Your local Utah State University Extension office is a great place to start.  By looking at your personal interests and hobbies, you can decide what area of Extension would be the best fit.  If you like gardening, you might consider becoming a Master Gardener.  Are you an experienced food preserver?  Would starting a youth 4-H club be for you?  Do you have ranching experience?  Family finance is an important area of Extension, do you have a financial background?  The best part of volunteering is that it can be a lot of fun.  Go to http://extension.usu.edu/ to learn about USU Extension and start volunteering today.
Charts and Utah ranking stats retrieved from:  www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/UT
Farris, E., McKinley, S., Ayres, J., Peters, J., & Brady, C. (2009). County-level Extension Leadership:  Understanding volunteer board member motivation. Journal of Extension, 47, 5.
Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy
Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.

USU Extension Co-sponsors Utah Marriage Celebration


Utah State University Extension co-sponsors the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration held at the Weber State University Shepherd Union Building Friday, Feb. 6, from 4 to 9:30 p.m.

Designed as a date night for those who want to prepare for or strengthen their marriage, the marriage celebration features workshops presented by professionals from Northern Utah. Workshops include such topics as intimacy, communication and staying connected. Keynote presenter is Liz Hale, Studio 5 marriage and family coordinator and former radio host of the Dr. Liz Hale Show,who will address “Creating the Best Ever Marriage.” Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist and has worked in the field for 23 years. Her presentation concludes the evening.

The conference begins at 6 p.m. and includes two workshop sessions. Bonus workshop sessions, including topics on second marriages, finances and others, are available from 4 to 5 p.m. with entertainment by nationally recognized musician Greg Simpson from 5 to 6 p.m.

“We are excited about this conference,” said Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences faculty for Weber County. “We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and we are confident that those who attend will come away with information and skills to enhance their relationship.”

Tickets are available by calling 1-800-888-TIXX, by visiting www.smithstix.com or at Smith’s Tix box offices. Early registration is $30 a couple or $20 an individual throughJanuary 25. Tickets purchased after January 25 are $40 a couple or $25 an individual. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door and purchased with cash or check only. More information can be found at www.strongermarriage.org.

Additional co-sponsors for the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration are Strongermarriage.org and Weber State University.


Parents Empowered: Underaged Drinking

Author – Nikki Capener


Parents often believe that school policies or church teachings will keep their kids away from alcohol use, but too often that is not the case. New, disturbing research indicates that the developing adolescent brain may be susceptible to long-term, negative consequences of alcohol use. Adolescent alcohol use is a serious threat to adolescent development and health. Parents are the most powerful influence on their children. It is important to stay connected, monitor and create lasting bonds with your child.

Did you know?

  • In Utah, underage drinking now begins as early as elementary school.
  • The brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s.
  • Negative effects of alcohol last far longer in a teen’s brain than in an adult’s.
  • Underage drinking can keep the good judgment and impulse-control part of the brain from properly developing.
  • More teens die from the results of alcohol use than all other illegal drugs combined.

But, did you also know?

  • Parents are the most powerful influence on their children’s behavior.
  • Children usually listen to their parents more than anybody else, including their friends.
  • Children who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink.
  • Knowing where your children are, who they’re with and what they’re doing helps prevent underage drinking.

Parents are often unaware of their child’s alcohol use. In a recent national survey, 31 percent of kids who had been drunk in the past year said they had parents who believed their children were nondrinkers. Take action! Start talking to your child about underage drinking before age eight.

Parentsempowered.org gives 3 research-proven skills to help prevent underage drinking.

  1. Bond with your children.
  • Create a positive, loving home environment.
  • Have daily positive interaction.
  1. Set boundaries for your children.
  • Set clear rules and expectations.
  • Help your children choose friends wisely.
  1. Monitor your children.
  • Know your child’s environment.

For additional tips and more information, visit Parentsempowered.org.

Resource:   Parentsempowered.org

Nikki Capener is a student at Utah State University studying family and consumer science education. She is the family and consumer sciences intern in Box Elder County and has loved working with the Extension faculty and 4-H youth. Her experience working with Extension has been incredibly beneficial and she has learned much while working with Ann Henderson. Her hobbies include running, cooking, sewing and making crafts.

Helpful Tips to Help Children Make Wise Choices

By Naomi Brower & Kyle Barth (WSU Intern)

Helpful Tips to Help Children Make Wise Choices

Parenting can be very difficult at times, especially when children make decisions that parents disagree with. If a child makes an unwise choice, it doesn’t mean the parent is a failure or the child will continue making unhealthy choices. The following are tips for parents on how to successfully help their children make smart decisions.

  •        The center of effective parenting is love. Fathers and mothers both have what it takes to be effective parents.
  •        Make the time you spend with your children count. For example, read books with them. This can also provide a way to talk about difficult topics.
  •        Allow your children to learn from their mistakes when the “prices” are affordable. Provide opportunities for them to make choices. Avoid protecting your children from natural consequences; allow them to learn from their choices.
  •        Teach your children how to set goals and solve problems instead of doing it for them. Set limits on behavior while helping them find solutions.
  •        Be honest and specific when praising and encouraging your child.
  •        Be aware of your children’s emotions, and help them label their emotions. Avoid telling your child how he or she should feel.
  •        Keep calm if your child comes to you with a serious problem. Be supportive, empathetic and let them learn from their choices.
  •        Be aware of your own emotions and recognize when you need to take a time out. Remember, it is okay to take time for yourself.
  •        Model the actions and behaviors you expect from your child.
  •        Responsibility cannot be taught; it must be “caught” by providing opportunities for children to be responsible.
  •        Use thinking words instead of fighting words. Fighting words: “Don’t talk to me like that.” Thinking words: “You sound upset. I will happily listen to you when your voice is calm.”
  •        Avoid “siding with the enemy” and communicate understanding.
  •        Offer your child choices. For example: “Bob would you rather sit in your chair, or would you like me to help you sit in your chair?” Don’t offer a choice to your child you are not willing to follow through on.
  •        Mean what you say and say what you mean.
  •        Discipline does not always need to occur in the moment. It’s okay to tell your child why the choice they made was wrong and let him or her know you need time to think about the best consequence.
  •        It takes a village along with parents to raise a child. Remember to utilize trusted resources such as community organizations or members, religious organizations or members, as well as family and friends.
  •        Remember, no parent is perfect, even those who appear to be perfect.


Cline, F. & Faye, J. (2006). Parenting teens with love and logic:  Preparing adolescents for responsible adulthood. United States of America: Piñon Press.

Gottman, J. (1997). Raising an emotionally intelligent child: The heart of parenting. New York,

NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc.  

brower, naomiNaomi Brower is an Extension associate professor for Utah State University. She has a master’s degree in family and human development from Utah State University. Often called the relationship guru by friends, Naomi is passionate about helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships with others.


5 Fun Fall Family Ideas

Author – Nikki Capener

5 Fun Fall Family Ideas | Live Well Utah

The cooling weather and changing seasons brings many opportunities to create family traditions. Family traditions strengthen families and create lasting memories. Here are five inexpensive and fun fall family traditions:

  1.  Head out for a scenic drive and enjoy the beautiful changing leaves. Better yet, take a hike or have a picnic while enjoying the scenery.
  2. Pumpkin bowling! Pick up a few small pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch or grocery store, set up some bottles or anything that might work for “pins” and start bowling.
  3. Create a Halloween candy house. Purchase graham crackers, frosting, and Halloween candy; assemble your house anyway you would like.
  4. Build a scarecrow. Scarecrows can be silly or scary. Build a scarecrow using household items and set it out in the yard.
  5. Rent or purchase a Halloween movie and watch it as a family.  For a yummy treat to sip on while you watch, make a batch of orange hot chocolate.

Orange Hot Chocolate: 10 Servings


12 oz. white chocolate
8 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange food coloring
Peeps ghost marshmallows (optional)


  1. Coarsely chop the white chocolate, transfer to a medium-sized heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to form at edge of surface (about 4 minutes).
  3. Immediately pour heated milk over chocolate; when chocolate begins to melt, stir until combined.
  4. Whisk in vanilla and orange food coloring to desired shade. Whisk until a light foam forms on the surface.
  5. Pour and serve immediately.

Recipe from: Matthew Mead

Nikki Capener is a student at Utah State University studying family and consumer science education. She is the family consumer science intern in Box Elder County and has loved working with the Extension faculty and 4-H youth. Her experience working with Extension has been incredibly beneficial; she has learned so much while working with Ann Henderson. Her hobbies include running, cooking, sewing and making crafts.

Thoughtful Graduation Gifts

Author – Tricia Mathis

Thoughtful Graduation Gift ideas

The dilemma: What do I give a student who is graduating from High School or college? It may be your own son or daughter, a niece or a nephew, a neighbor, a friend or a grandchild. No matter who the graduate is in your life, the search for the perfect gift can be difficult and sometimes even frustrating. I had a son graduate from high school two years ago and my daughter will graduate this year. We decided that we would give them a lap top computer for their graduations. It is something that they are going to need anyway as they head off to college. We are practical people, but we cannot afford to give everyone we know a laptop.

Here is a list of some fun ideas to give the graduate in your life.

The sentimental gift: give something that will be a keepsake.
– A scrapbook: fill the pages with school pictures, class pictures and school activities or sports.
– A t-shirt quilt: assemble those old T-shirts into a great memory quilt
– A quilt or blanket in the schools colors
– Personalized jewelry/ watch
– “Oh the Places you will Go” by Dr. Suess

Gifts for the College bound and practical:
– Lap top computer
– Printer
– Messenger Bag/Backpack
– Bicycle (to get around campus)
– Alarm clock (iHome)
– Portable Speakers
– Noise cancelling headphones
– Monogrammed Towels
– Interview Attire
– College Apparel

Fun Gifts:
– Camera
– Luggage
– Smart phone
– Candy Bar Poster
– Gift basket

…and last but not least.

Money: give it in a fun and creative way.
– Gift cards
– Book store credit
– In a chocolate box
– In a tissue box
– In case of emergency break glass
– Money tree
Money book

Tricia Mathis is currently the social media specialist for Wasatch County. She graduated from USU with a bachelors degree in Home Economics and Consumer Education. She taught high school and middle school for year after graduation. Since then she has been busy raising her family of six children.

Marriage Survival

Author – Carolyn Washburn

How 6 hours can change your marriage - LiveWellUtah.org

Marriage is important to Americans. Married couples are healthier, wealthier and their children do better in school.  More than 90 percent of Americans will marry, however about 50 percent of these relationships will end in divorce.

Did you know that a game changer for your marriage might be just 6 hours?

Research tells us that couples who spend 6 hours a year in relationship enrichment maintain strong relationships.

This might be:

  • taking the time to attend a couple’s retreat or conference,
  • reading marriage enrichment materials,
  • trying marriage enrichment activities found online.

Making a commitment to keep your relationship strong will be the best gift you can give each other and your children. And, don’t forget that those weekly date nights are a critical component for healthy relationships.

Relationship Tip:  Kindness – the most important element in any relationship!

Relationships and kindness - LiveWellUtah.org

Check your local area for marriage conferences and classes or visit Marriagesurvival.org (link). Do you have a relationship tip? Share it with us and also check out our Pinterest board on relationships for more fun ideas, links and ways to creatively and easily spend time together.

washburn, carolynnAuthor bio – Carolyn Washburn is a family consumer sciences agent for Utah State University Extension. Her responsibilities include financial management education, food safety and nutrition, healthy family relations, emergency preparedness and working with youth. Her goal is to help individuals and families become self-sustaining and resilient by being financially prepared and healthy for any emergency. She serves on the National Disaster Education Network and has just completed the new food storage manual for USDA. Her most cherished award is America’s Promise, awarded by Colin Powell.

5 Money Tips for Newlyweds

Author- Amanda Christensen

moneytips for newlyweds

Welcome to the wonderful world of marriage! Now it’s not just YOU, it’s WE. You may think that all the money stuff will just work itself out over time. You’d be surprised at how often married couples need to talk about money in order to stay on top of their personal finances. Learning to communicate now will help you avoid some of the common money pitfalls couples encounter in their first years of marriage. Here are my 5 money tips for newlyweds:

  1. Talk about Your Money History
    1. How were you raised with regards to money? How does that affect you now?
    2. Do you have a basic understanding of money management?
    3. What are your financial aspirations?
    4. What are your career expectations?
    5. What are your assets/liabilities?
  2. Talk about Your Spending Plan
    1. What money comes in?
    2. What money goes out?
    3. Who will be the day-to-day money manager?
  3. Talk about Your Debt Philosophy
    1. How will you use debt? Credit Cards?
    2. Good debt/bad debt?
    3. Each spouse has a separate credit report. Get a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
  4. Talk about Your Personal Allowance
    1. Decide on an amount that both of you can afford to spend each month no questions asked.  It may be $100 and it may be $5 depending on your circumstances. Either way it’s yours to spend without any quilt.
    2. Rule: When it’s gone, it’s gone; No running to the ATM for more cash after you’ve spent your allowance!
  5. Talk about Your Beneficiaries
    1. While you’re taking the time to change your last name be sure to get online or call to make your new spouse the beneficiary on any retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc.
    2. If you don’t have any of these accounts, now is a good time to have a conversation about what your retirement and life insurance needs are. There are many financial institutions (investment firms, banks, etc.) that will answer questions and give you options for free.

Who else uses the concept of a personal allowance for spending? How is it helpful?

Christensen, Amanda-42 Amanda is an Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. She has a master’s degree in consumer sciences from Utah State and is proud to  call herself an Aggie! Amanda loves teaching and enabling individuals and families to make smart money decisions. @FamFinPro.