Filed under: Couples
Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.
Premarital education programs can help couples maintain the satisfaction they feel early on in their relationship—and thrive in the long run. In the bliss of an engagement, couples often don’t think about future challenges they might face.
Premarital counseling offers a neutral place where engaged couples and newlyweds can learn about communication, conflict resolution, commitment, and ways to manage expectations. Couples learn to convey the importance of their relationship and focus on what’s necessary to create a loving and lasting marriage. Programs are adapted into various formats: Couples can attend a group workshop or meet privately with a counselor or religious leader.
After completing the program, many couples are more open to resolving conflict. Premarital counseling tends to lower a married couple’s risk of divorce. Or it can help unmarried couples decide whether to move forward with their marriage plans.
Don’t rule out premarital education, even if it’s your second marriage. Most divorced people eventually remarry. However, second marriages are even more likely to end in divorce than first ones.
Explore various marriage education programs to find one that’s right for you. Make sure to check with your installation office too. Another option is to ask your chaplain or religious leader about enrolling in a faith-based program. Or search for a local marriage and family therapist who specializes in premarital counseling.
Moving in with your significant other is a big step in your relationship—and that often means combining finances. Take some time to explore your comfort level in the relationship and decide what’s best for you.
Sometimes couples have a hard time talking about money, especially if you approach finances differently. What if you’re thrifty, but your partner lives paycheck to paycheck? Or your significant other made some smart investments over the years, while school or job changes kept you from doing the same? Here are some tips to start the “money talk.” Read on...
No doubt about it: Being rewarded is a great way to make someone happy. When you were a kid, you loved getting a reward for doing something good, right? It still works when you become an adult, but the reward—and what you did to earn it—is often more subtle. Rewarding your significant other for his or her daily acts of love and care is a sure way to bring you closer.
So this year, in addition to giving the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try these two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.
For more information on supporting your relationship with your partner, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement page.
Getting married again is a time of new beginnings. It’s often a time of challenges and changes too. While you’re celebrating your marriage and deciding what kind of stepparent you’ll be (if your partner has children), there are a few things you can do to stay happy:
- Maintain your identity as an individual—separate from your spouse. This will help you weather challenges with confidence. But strike a balance with staying close to your spouse too.
- Focus on each other. Sharing intimacy with your spouse includes a healthy sex life too. This helps you two connect regularly.
- Stay flexible. Often remarriage means juggling new responsibilities, living in a new place, or becoming a stepparent. Bending with whatever life throws at you means you’re less likely to break or falter.
- Keep a sense of humor. Laughing at yourself or the situations you find yourself in can help you keep perspective.
- Don’t take the place of a biological parent if you’re becoming a stepparent. Foster your own relationship with your stepchild and follow your partner’s lead.
- Remember how you felt when you fell in love. Keep those memories alive—they’ll help get you through tougher times.
Forgiveness can help you adapt, embrace flexibility, be happier, and move through resentment in your relationships. Balancing children, career, and your marriage is difficult enough; adding deployments to the mix can lead to eruptions with family members. Meditation has been has been shown to help people lower stress their levels and become more forgiving. To reduce friction with your partner or children, consider following these steps associated with forgiveness meditations:
- Take a time-out, and find a quite space to calm down.
- Relax and focus on slowing your breathing.
- Recall times of closeness and connection with your spouse and children.
- Develop awareness of your reactions, and patiently find your way to forgiveness.
Disagreements aren’t necessarily bad. Good relationships hinge on being able to communicate different viewpoints effectively, express yourself well, and really hear your partner. Here are some communication tips:
- Start gently. Being direct is good, but you don’t need to dive in so hard and fast that you trigger defensiveness.
- Own how you feel. You can be direct about how you feel without blaming anyone. And when you’re drawn into a fruitless argument over who’s to blame, it’s difficult to argue about how you feel. Consider saying, “I felt totally unimportant” rather than “You totally ignored me.”
- Really listen. Summarize what you heard without defensiveness. Really tune into how your partner feels and communicate that in your summary, even if you don’t agree with why he or she feels that way.
- Criticize behaviors, NOT character. It’s important to talk about specific actions that upset you. Rather than categorizing your partner as “the kind of person who…,” stay focused on a specific and recent behavior.
- Always be respectful. Resist destructive temptations such as insults or name-calling; staying respectful is crucial for long-term communication success.
- Hang in there. Problems often can’t be solved right away, but when talking together, persevere rather than escape: Don’t “zone out,” and don’t storm away.
Chances are that neither you nor your partner is a mean person. Nonetheless, because you’re human, your worst behaviors can come out during a difficult conversation. You might be aggressive, blame the other person, stop caring what the other person has to say, or you might work to avoid arguments altogether. But it doesn’t have to happen this way. Following the tips above will help you communicate constructively. For more on these kinds of strategies check out Basic Training for Couples Communication.
Trust is an important part of relationships. It allows you to feel secure, depend on others, and take important risks with co-workers, family, and other important people. Whether as a team member or a partner, trust positively impacts commitment. Trust also tends to happen in two directions: You trust others and they trust you. You can’t force trust, but there are some concrete steps you can take to foster trust—to help you feel more trusting of others and to help others trust you more. It’s especially helpful to focus on what’s in your control, that is, on what you can do. Read more here.
When stress threatens to overload you, be careful it doesn’t spill over into your relationships. Stress can make you less patient with your loved ones, less able to solve problems well, and more disagreeable.
When you’re under a lot of stress, you’re also more likely to feel negative about your relationships. This generally leads to more fighting, which can be especially tough for military families if one of you deploys or leaves for training before you’re able to rebalance your relationship and de-stress. While you’re apart, negative feelings can fester and further damage your relationship.
But just knowing about how stress can impact your relationships is the first step. Next time you feel stressed out, don’t let it fester. Instead, do something about it. To ease your stress, you can try:
- Deep breathing or another mind-body skill that can switch you from your body’s stress response to its relaxation response.
- Exercise, which can make you feel better and lower your stress.
- Something just for fun, which can take your mind off your stress.
- Connecting with a loved one. Feeling loved and supported can also reduce stress.
Finally, if you’re apart from your loved one, set aside time regularly to connect to him or her, regardless of the last fight you had. Try to give each other benefit of the doubt and move past the argument. You can always finish discussing it when he or she returns.
To have a healthy, long-term romantic relationship, you might find that you need to cool it with old patterns. Use these ICED tips to make sure your relationship holds up over time.
Identity: It’s easy to lose yourself in relationships. You may feel subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressure to be more like the other person and enjoy the same activities or share the same goals. But if you give in to these pressures, you can lose track of your own identity. While it’s good to adapt some over time, you also want to keep a clear sense of your own identity. Solid relationships consist of two people with solid identities.
Calm: It can feel difficult to remain calm when fear of losing your partner pops up. While it's normal to experience some concern, the key to a relationship without harmful pressure is learning to calm yourself. If you look to your partner instead to make you feel better, perhaps acting a bit “clingy,” your efforts could backfire. The pressure that your partner feels can lead him or her to feel withdrawn rather than closer. If your partner’s presence feels like a “bonus” instead of a “need,” you’re on the right track.
Engage: When you see your partner upset, slow down and engage with him or her in a way that empowers both of you. Engage with empathy andboundaries. For example, “I know you feel anxious about me going out with the boys. I feel a bit guilty, and I think I need to deal with that guilt, but do you think you can cope with your own feelings too? It’s important for me to keep these other friendships."
Deal: Whether you or your partner (or both) feel uncomfortable, it’s best to cope with how you feel rather than looking for quick fixes. Dealing with discomfort is key to growing individually and together. And it’s crucial to hang on to your own identity, learn how to self-calm, and engage with your partner in a way that makes sense.