You are here: Home / HPRC Blog
RSS Feed for Family & Relationships

HPRC Blog

Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Talk about sex before tying the knot

Healthy communication about sex increases relationship satisfaction. Start these discussions early to create a common understanding about your sex life with your partner.

Honest, forthcoming conversations about sex should start early in your relationship—before you tie the knot—to establish a strong foundation. Good communication about sex in a romantic partnership can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and a more fulfilling relationship.

Physical affection and sex are important parts of developing and sustaining a romantic connection. Intimacy builds through both communication and sex—and partners who talk often about sex are more satisfied in their relationship and sex life. Talking early during your relationship, whether you already have an active sex life or you’re waiting for marriage, establishes a mutual understanding of expectations. When couples struggle with sex and intimacy, relationship satisfaction can decline and partners might opt to go their separate ways.

Physically satisfying sex requires coordination and communication between partners. Talking with your significant other about sex enables you to plan sexual encounters and explore how your partner likes sex to be initiated. As you grow as a couple, you create a shared meaning about your joint sex life. Open discussions ensure you both remain engaged and content. Disclosing your desires and fantasies with your partner and listening in return is an opportunity for connection. When a relationship develops into marriage and then possibly parenthood, a couple’s sex and sexuality are likely impacted. Having a strong foundation of healthy communication about sex from the beginning can help you persevere through relationship transitions.

Talking about sex early also enables you and your partner to establish the mutual value of sexual health and discuss any sexual health risks you might experience. Begin by being forthcoming about your sexuality and sexual history. If you have concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, know the signs, prevention and risk factors, and treatment options.

HPRC offers concrete skills to help you talk about your sex needs. Check out our FAQ section for more about sex, intimacy, and sexuality. If you’re unsure how to have these conversations with your partner, consider seeking premarital education or counseling.

Communicate with curiosity

You probably work and interact with people who are different from you. Approaching conversations with curiosity can improve those relationships.

People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.

Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?

Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.

Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:

  • What was that like?
  • How did that feel?
  • What did you think when that happened?
  • How did you end up making that decision?
  • Tell me more.

Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.

The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.

Seeing differences differently

Learn how your own perception clouds accuracy to help you be more mindful and open to interpreting differences in the world.

Your human nature can prevent you from being open to diversity and differences, but you can learn to overcome this. Diversity is a strength—of this nation and its military—and navigating differences in beliefs, values, and perceptions begins with challenging your own assumptions about how you see others and the world. However, despite living in an increasingly global environment characterized by ever-broadening horizons, many still struggle with viewing differences as an asset to be explored rather than a weakness to be fixed. HPRC offers a few strategies to help raise your self-awareness and promote openness, accuracy, and flexibility. Read more...

Show concern about your partner’s weight

During Healthy Weight Week, find out how you can best support your partner’s healthy eating goals.

If you’re wondering how to talk with your partner about his or her weight, resist the urge to control or criticize. Instead, express genuine concern, and focus on healthy, sustainable changes that you can make together.

Couples typically share similar values and engage in activities together, so you’re more likely to impact each other’s health habits. Yet criticism about weight can be a source of conflict between some couples, which can affect your otherwise fulfilling relationship.

When one partner is at a healthy weight and one is overweight, there’s a greater chance for conflict, especially when they eat together. If one tries to restrict the other’s eating, things become less enjoyable. You might argue more too.

Try to be supportive about your loved one’s health issues. It’s most helpful when your message expresses caring and closeness. Be in tune with your partner’s needs if she or he is asking for your help with making healthier habits. Try being an “accountability” partner and help keep your partner on track towards his or her goals. Establish mutual goals you can work on to help improve your health and wellness too.

Some phrases to avoid include:

  • “You’re going to eat that?”
  • “Maybe you should stop eating.”
  • “You’re going to gain more weight if you keep eating so much.”

Some supportive phrases to try include:

  • “Let’s both commit to healthy eating in the new year.”
  • “Since you’ve expressed wanting to eat healthier, how can I help?”
  • “I know you’re trying hard to eat healthier, and it’s not easy. I’m proud of your efforts. Let’s continue in a positive direction.”

Create healthy lifestyle changes together. Pack nutritious lunches and snacks for work or school, and prepare well-balanced meals. Check with your installation about couples cooking classes and other wellness activities offered through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs too. And check out HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition page and videos for more ideas.

“Coaching” your kids’ emotions

Learn how to “coach” your kids when they’re dealing with strong emotions.

Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.  

Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...

Infidelity 101

Infidelity is a concern for some military couples. Read about what leads someone to cheat, why infidelity hurts so much, how it impacts a relationship, and where to turn for help.

Some service members and their partners worry about infidelity, especially during deployments. Warfighters also can experience many mental stressors in the months after their return, which can make their relationships vulnerable to infidelity.

  • What leads someone to cheat? If you’re unhappy in your marriage or don’t have sex very often, you’re more likely to cheat. Those who feel powerful also are more likely to be unfaithful now or in the future. If your friends, family members, or coworkers support your infidelity, you’re more likely to cheat too.
  • Why is infidelity hurtful? Sexual faithfulness in a relationship is related to trust, respect, and intimacy. Infidelity damages the emotional foundation of a relationship, and it can feel like an intense betrayal of your agreement to trust and respect each other.
  • What’s the impact? Both men and women experience the pain of infidelity. Discovering your partner has been unfaithful can lead to a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, or jealousy. Infidelity can lead to increased conflict and poor communication in a relationship too. Cheating increases unhappiness in a relationship and can lead some to contemplate divorce. Service members whose partners were unfaithful during deployment tend to experience more depression symptoms. And if a service member experienced trauma while deployed, then having an unfaithful partner can make things worse.
  • What if I’m worried about infidelity? If you’re concerned about infidelity in your relationship, keep in mind that help is available. HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section offers guidance on talking to your partner about sex and building intimacy in your relationship. DoD also offers professional counseling services over the phone, online, and through video chat. Or connect with a Military and Family Life counselor who specializes in couple relationships. You can meet alone, or with your partner, to discuss how to manage your worries about infidelity.

Ladies: Set limits on drinking

The holidays are filled with celebrations, which sometimes means temptation to engage in heavy drinking. Learn how to cope with holiday stress and avoid drinking too much.

The holiday season is here, and it’s time for parties and gatherings with family and friends. Through these good times, try to steer clear of risky drinking and manage stress well, so you can enjoy the festivities. 

Those who consume 4 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting—or within 2 hours—are binge drinkers. Binge drinking is dangerous, and alcohol can be especially harmful to women. It can impact your speech, memory, coordination, and balance, and sometimes result in alcohol poisoning. Women are more likely to develop liver and heart problems from drinking. And drinking during pregnancy can severely impact fetal development.

Alcohol use can affect your marriage too. It can have a negative impact on other family members as well. Alcohol also is commonly used as a sleep aid for Warfighters and their spouses, but it’s ineffective. While drinking might make you sleepy, it disrupts your ability to get the deep sleep your body needs.

Military wives might be more likely to binge drink than civilians too. They might drink because of stress related to deployment, or they’re exposed to alcohol more frequently at “post-deployment” parties. Some younger wives are more willing to experiment with drinking as well. Some might binge drink to let off stress, but other, healthier coping skills can help you go the distance. Military wives report that what really helps them keep stress at bay is staying busy, exercising, journaling, spending time with family and friends, and focusing on spiritual activities.

It’s fine to enjoy a drink or two at a holiday party, but it’s important to know your limits and drinking patterns. If you’re concerned you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, understand the signs and symptoms and get help.

Bounce back after a breakup

Everyone experiences a breakup differently. Some people are able to rebound quickly, while others struggle with intense emotions and insecurity. If you’re having a hard time moving on, keep reading.

The loss of a romantic relationship—whether through divorce, separation, or breakup—is a distressing event. It sometimes can be challenging to move on, especially for those who might question their self-worth.

Be aware of your anxiety. Highly anxious people tend to be more emotional after a breakup. They might become preoccupied with what happened and sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-soothe. Effectively managing your anxiety means you’ll be better able to leverage the breakup and improve yourself.

Focus on personal growth: Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Maybe this breakup will help you clarify future expectations of your romantic partners. Perhaps you can reframe being “alone” as now having more time to be with friends and family. Write out what led to the breakup to help lessen negative thoughts about your split too.

When your relationship ends, it doesn’t have to mean you lose sight of your own goals. If your ex didn’t help you meet your goals or wasn’t supportive of your pursuits, then breaking up can help you shift your focus to what you want to achieve on your own. Concentrate on finding new, more effective sources of support as you move towards reaching your goals.

Expect other relationships to change too. Particularly after a divorce, it’s likely that you’ll lose contact with some people, including your in-laws or your ex-partner’s friends. Yet, you’re also likely to meet new people and expand your social network. You might find comfort in new friendships with others going through similar situations as well. And soon enough, you’ll be ready to date again.

Treat your partner right

New Year’s Day brings an increased risk of mistreating loved ones. Instead, commit to taking care of each other through healthy communication and respectful conflict resolution.

Partner maltreatment—also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence—tends to peak on holidays and weekends, and one date is quickly approaching: New Year’s Day. Commit to respecting and taking care of each other in the new year and beyond.

IPV can include physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, or sexual harm within a relationship. By some estimates, partner maltreatment rates are nearly 3 times higher among military veterans and active-duty service members than civilians.

Weekends and holidays often mean more time with significant others. For some, time away from work also can coincide with increased use of drugs or alcohol. There’s some evidence that IPV spikes in military households on weekends, New Year’s Day, 4th of July, and Super Bowl Sunday. In addition, drug and alcohol use tends to increase alongside more reports of IPV.

Depression, antisocial traits, and marital problems also are linked to increased instances of domestic abuse. Combat exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with partner maltreatment as well. Women might be just as likely to maltreat their partners. Yet when females become victims, they tend to sustain more serious injuries than males. In some relationships, both partners can be violent towards each other too.

IPV can lead to physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. If you have children, they’re at increased risk of abuse as well. If you’re concerned about your own alcohol or drug use, take the Alcohol and Drugs Assessment at AfterDeployment.com to better understand how it can affect your relationships. Domestic violence resources and reporting options also are available for military families. So, start the new year by practicing healthy communication and conflict resolution skills with your partner.

Transgender service members and veterans

Filed under: Sexuality, Transgender
DoD policy changes now enable transgender service members to openly serve. Training for commanders and other personnel in this policy’s implementation is underway. Learn more.

As of June 2016, DoD policy states that qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service solely for being transgender. Transgender describes someone whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior doesn’t conform to what’s typically associated with the sex he or she was assigned at birth. This policy enables transgender persons to serve the military without fear of dismissal or harassment. It also ensures transgender service members and veterans have access to medical care and a structure is in place for those to transition gender when medically necessary. In addition, DoD has produced the following policy-related guides for military personnel:

The Services will use these guides and other materials to conduct policy training for commanders, medical personnel, operating forces, and recruiters through June 2017. The handbook reinforces that harassment of any service member is inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated. It also states that discrimination based on gender identity is considered sex discrimination, and any concerns should be addressed through DoD’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program.

In recent years, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also has updated its approach to working with transgendered veterans. VHA Directive 2013-003 summarizes its healthcare services for transgendered veterans. This shift at the Veterans Administration (VA) helps lessen barriers to care for transgender vets. Transgender males and females can now change their gender identifications and names in the VHA system. In addition, VHA sometimes will provide transgendered veterans with sexualizing hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. However, VHA won’t provide surgeries for those considering sexual reassignment.

Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality website for additional resources for transgender service members and veterans.

RSS Feed for Family & Relationships