Have Fun! The Importance of Play in Couple Relationships.
Naomi Brower, Extension Assistant Professor
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Weber County
Tips for Strengthening your Family Relationships
- each family member is precious.
- forgiveness is readily available.
- priorities must be established.
- some sacrifices must be made.
- common goals must be shared.
- traditions are established and maintained.
- looking for positive attributes instead of negative.
- showing love in small ways every day.
- saying, “I Love You” every day.
- praising the accomplishments of other family members.
- expressing a lot of appropriate affection.
- remembering and celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
- being open, honest, and kind.
- listening carefully, without distraction.
- trusting one another.
- avoiding criticism, judgment, and acting superior.
- showing empathy.
- having an understanding attitude.
- helps family members maintain a positive outlook on life.
- provides guidelines for living.
- offers support from people who share in a belief system.
- provides meaningful traditions and rituals.
- helps families cope during hard times.
- finding something positive in the situation and focusing on it.
- uniting and sharing the responsibility of solving the conflict or crisis.
- seeking help from outside sources when needed.
- keeping the lines of communication open.
- drawing on shared spiritual beliefs.
- being flexible and adaptable during crisis situations.
- sharing mealtimes as a family.
- completing house and yard chores together.
- taking a hike and packing a picnic lunch.
- going camping and playing outdoor sports.
- having a game or puzzle night.
- going bowling or seeing a movie.
- attending religious services.
- participating in scouting or 4-H activities.
- attending school activities.
- celebrating holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Sanpete County
Finance and Romance: Building Successful Investment Portfolios
In order to achieve financial goals such as retirement, owning a house, or providing college/vocational education for yourself or your children, you need to know what you want, where you are now, and how to get to your end point. Many dream of these things, but unless you write down your dreams and make them concrete, realistic, and measurable, they will likely go unfulfilled. In order to create a tangible goal, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What do I dream of accomplishing for myself or my family? Write down at least one thing you want to accomplish within one year, one thing you want to accomplish within five years, and one year you want to accomplish in ten years or longer. For example, I would like to get a new-to-me car within two years.
2) How much do I need to obtain this dream? Write down next to each dream the approximate amount you think it will take to get there within your anticipated time-frame. For example, I expect I will need about $6,000 to cover the cost of the down-payment so I will have affordable monthly payments.
3) How much do you already have saved toward this dream? It may be nothing, but maybe you have already been saving for this dream for a while. For example, I already have $2,000 saved up to go toward a new car. This means that I need to obtain $4,000 more by my deadline.
4) When do I want to accomplish this dream? Identify a specific target date (or month) in which to reach your dream. For example, I need to save $4,000 for a new-to-me car within 24 months.
5) How much can I contribute toward this dream each month? Using the target date, and considering if you are paid on a monthly, weekly or bi-weekly basis, calculate how much you need to save each paycheck in order to accomplish your dream by your target date. For example, I would need to save about $170 every month in order to buy a new-to-me car by my target month.
6) Is your monthly contribution toward this goal manageable with your income and other expenses? Determine if you can afford to put this much away every month. In some cases, you may need to adjust your timeline, or you may realize that you can reach your dream earlier than you had planned. For example, I can only afford to put away $125 every month toward my new car dream. This means that it will take me a little longer to reach my goal, but I think my current car can last a few more months until I can get my down-payment together.
When it comes to your relationship with your spouse, you also want to set “Romance” goals. Baxter (2012) defines romance as “making your partner feel loved and cared for…. Romance is not defined by your actions; it’s defined by what your actions produce in your partner” (p. 9). Baxter recommends a portfolio-stretching exercise for your relationship. He suggests deciding on an area with your relationship that you and your partner decide together needs improvement. Some examples might be: spending time together more often, being more affectionate, or making sex exciting again. Whatever you decide, WRITE IT DOWN. Consider what obstacles have stalled your progress in the past and make notes of those.
Getting Rid of Debt
Being in debt financially creates a barrier to reaching your dreams because you are unable to fully invest and save for your future. For example, if you have a 23 percent interest rate on your Visa or Mastercard with a $100 balance, and you have $100 in a high-interest savings account where you make 5 percent annually, you are still losing ground every month – in this case $18! If, instead, you use the $100 in the bank to pay off the credit card, you won’t make anything on interest, but you also won’t pay anything on interest. This is better than losing $18 in the first scenario. In order to reap the benefits of saving, you need to clear out as much debt as possible.
PowerPay.org is a fantastic program to help you get out of debt faster. You can set up a free, password-protected account where you can enter information on your debts – from credit cards to student loan payments. PowerPay.org will help you calculate monthly payments for each of your bills so you can save time and interest in paying off your debts. In order to be successful while using PowerPay.org, you commit to spend the same amount of money every month paying down debt until it is ALL paid off, and you commit to not accumulate any further debt while paying off your current debts. Even though you aren’t “saving” for the dreams you’ve set, you will become a more effective saver – and can fulfill your dreams much faster – once your debts have been paid.
In relationships, debt is anything that keeps you from fully investing in the relationship. If the negative outweighs the positive, you will be losing ground every month. It can be difficult to pay off your relationship debts, especially when building a romance portfolio is more fun. However, you need to deal with the elephants in the room or you’ll continue the same patterns of frustration, guilt, and anger. Communicating with your spouse about difficult topics, especially trust or infidelity can be very challenging. Baxter suggests the following Relationship Portfolio-Building Exercise:
2) Next to each obstacle you’ve listed, write down the feelings/emotions you associate with it. These could include anger, bitterness, confusion, resentment, numbness, frustration, guilt, jealousy, hurt, etc.
3) Take a separate sheet of paper for each obstacle you’ve written down. Write the obstacle at the top and then write down everything you want to say to your partner about this. This is an opportunity to get those feelings and emotions out of your system. Write down everything you’ve ever wanted to say about this topic to your spouse, even those things you’ve been afraid to say. Don’t worry about spelling or structure or hurting your partner’s feelings. Just focus on getting your thoughts and emotions out as you write. After you’ve written it out, put it aside for 20 to 30 minutes so you can cool down, let your body relax from the tension and allow your emotions to balance again.
4) Review what you’ve written and rephrase the obstacle using an “I” statement. The purpose of this part of the exercise is to write down what you are feeling without attacking your partner. Include the emotions you wrote down and use this template: I feel __(emotion)__ when you __(obstacle)__, because _______. I want _______. For example: I feel hurt and alone when you spend all day at work and then go out with friends at night because it seems like you care more about these other things than you do about me. I want to spend more time with you so we can be close like we used to be. Once you have created your I-statements for each obstacle, burn the “rant” papers you created in Step 3. You’ve gotten those emotions out of your system and by destroying it, you can move forward in communicating about the issue in a healthy way.
5) As a couple, come together prepared to listen, accept responsibility, to apologize and put yourself in your partner’s shoes. It’s time to communicate, not yell or interrupt each other about an issue. One person reads their “I” statement and stops. There isn’t a need for further explanation. The other partner then repeats the “I” statement and stops. Now that both of you have spoken, continue to discuss the issue using phrases like: “I know you didn’t mean to, but…” and “You’re right, I didn’t understand that…” End the topic by creating a goal and a plan together. Write it down with measurable specifics that you will help you accomplish the goal.
6) If you can’t come up with a plan that is agreeable to both, consider utilizing a professional to help you negotiate and learn to compromise on a plan.
Maintaining Good Credit
Good credit is an important part of society, but for some people, credit can become a trap rather than a tool. When used wisely, credit can be valuable to help build assets. Good credit allows you to get a loan for a home, or a car, or for education. The decision to loan you money, and the rate at which you will be charged interest, is based on your history of repaying debts and proof of your financial responsibility. For many, credit becomes a trap because it can be easy to overspend when using credit regularly. If you are constantly tying up future income with high credit card spending, lenders won’t see you as a good investment. The hard truth is that the time, plus the interest it takes, can increase your cost two to three times the amount you originally charged on the card for the item. When deciding whether or not to charge an item, as yourself the following questions.
· Do I really need this item now? Sometimes you do, but usually you will survive if you don’t get this item here and now. Consider the cost of buying a new television. If the TV costs $400, but you charge it to a credit card with a 21% APR and carry the balance for more than one month, you will end up paying $500 or more for a $400 television set. Instead, consider saving $50 per month until you’ve saved up to buy the TV with cash. By that time, it will likely be on sale for $340 and you’ll have saved yourself an extra $60, plus the interest you’ve saved if you had charged it.
· What are the extra costs? Nearly everything we buy has an extra cost to it. For example, I buy that new $400 television set. Now, I also need to spend close to $50 to buy new cables and connectors so my equipment works with the new TV. What else will you need to buy in order to make that item work?
· Is the item worth the extra costs? Again, sometimes it is. You have to carefully consider whether or not you have that extra money. It’s easy to give in to temptation and just buy the item. But if you don’t have the extra money to make it work, it won’t do you any good sitting around your house and taking up space.
· Can I make the monthly payments? In some cases, you may be buying a piece of furniture on credit. Before you decide that it’s worth it, consider your current income and expense load. Can you afford paying $75 a month for 8 months? Would it be better to save up for that chair and buy it with cash?
· What will I have to give up in the future? Every time we charge an item to our credit card, we are obligating ourselves to use future income and resources to pay back the amount charged. If you put a TV or a recliner on your credit card, will you be able to afford groceries during the next few months? Will you have to work more hours in order to meet all your obligations, thereby giving up time with family and friends? Sometimes it helps to ask the question: How many hours do I have to work in order to pay for this item? When put in concrete terms, I may realize that it isn’t worth my time to spend three work days just to pay for that item.
· What if an emergency comes up? If you have committed all your income to your monthly expenses, plus you’ve committed future income to paying back your credit card bills, you will be unable to cope with the added expense if your furnace dies, or you need new tires on your car, or you or your child fall and break their arm.
By regularly spending less than you earn and paying bills in full and on time, you will increase your credit score and let lenders know that you are a good financial investment.
Baxter (2012) explains that credit in relationships is built with loving interactions and faithfulness to your partner. If you have “good credit,” chances are that when you mess up, such as forgetting a birthday or anniversary, coming home late without calling, or inviting friends and family over without warning, you’ll be able to take out a “relationship loan” with a good interest rate. Interest in this case is the length of time it takes for you to be forgiven; essentially, how long you are in “the doghouse” for your mistake. Using the similar questions to the one above, ask yourself if it is worthwhile to follow through on the action that may send your relationship credit score plunging. What are the extra costs and are you willing to pay them? What if an emergency comes up? Will you partner be able to trust you and rely on you? If you’ve already made many mistakes, it may not be easy for your partner to do this. It is important to maintain open and honest communication as you work through building and maintaining good relationship credit.
Just like creating a solid financial portfolio takes time, effort, dedication, and sacrifice, building a successful relationship investment portfolio means that you are willing to devote the necessary time, effort, dedication, work and sacrifice to your relationship with your spouse. Doing so will lead to a solid and healthy relationship that will last through major and minor challenges.
Jana Darrington, M.S., Extension Assistant Professor
Family and Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Utah County
Baxter, L. S. (2012). The finance of romance: Investing in your relationship portfolio. Sweetwater Books: Springville, UT.
Tips to Reconnect and Build a Stronger Marriage
Our closest relationships can bring both joy and challenges. In fact, most relationships have approximately 12 things both parties disagree on at any given time. But what is more important than the struggles is what the couple does to build the relationship and reconnect. When we focus on the things that are going right in our relationships, we can more easily conquer the struggles we may face as a team. Consider these tips to reconnect and build a stronger marital relationship.
- Listen to your partner every day. Sometimes we think we are being good listeners, but in reality, we are more rejecting than receiving. Listening is often about seeking connection with someone rather than giving advice or solving problems. Even if we ask for advice, we are often just seeking to be understood and validated. So, the next time your partner is sharing his or her thoughts with you, listen carefully to what is being said, not just to the words but to what is important to him or her and why.
- Laugh with your partner. When we were kids, we laughed 200 to 300 times a day, but the average adult laughs only12 to 14 times per day. When we lose humor in our relationship, we may get too wound up and lose sight of the bigger picture. It is important to see humor in one another and in challenging moments. For good mental health, we are told to have five belly laughs a day. It’s not only good for our health, but it also strengthens relationships.
- Look at your partner. You see the ones you love almost every day but when was the last time you looked at them deep in their eyes and really connected? Look in your partner’s eyes for about 30 seconds, be in the moment and pay close attention to his or her facial expressions. Look at the person as a whole, for who they really are, and not for what frustrates or hurts you. When you really connect with someone, you feel it deep inside and it also literally stimulates the brain, not to mention it helps you feel closer.
- Touch daily. Physical touch is good for your health. Shoot for five hugs a day. Many of these will probably be from your partner, but they can also be from kids or others who are close. Touch could also be in the form of holding your partner’s hand while watching TV, giving them a kiss hello or goodbye or touching them on the shoulder or hair while walking by to acknowledge them. When we touch someone, we let them know they are important to us and it builds our relationship.
By practicing these simple tips on a daily basis, we exercise our relationship muscles so that we continue to grow together rather than letting our relationship atrophy. Reconnecting doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money, but making investments every day can make a huge difference in the marital relationship and also in general happiness and satisfaction in life.
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Weber County
*With information from Doug Nielsen, psychotherapist and speaker.