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University of Wyoming Extension

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

LIFE - Individual Growth and Development

Learning Strategies for Couples

Informal Strategies

  • Discuss events as they come up—establish a stream of dialogue which is open and immediate. Focus on describing—rather than judging or evaluating—events and coming to a consensus on how to approach issues and challenges.
  • Compare notes with other couples, married and dating. Keep in mind that while this process may "normalize" many experiences (i.e., "they face the same challenges") that the quality of another couple’s relationship and differences in circumstances may limit generalizability (i.e., listen, but live your own life)
  • Explore parents’ approaches to conflict, commitment, money, etc. for insight on not only what to do but understanding how you and your spouse think about these issues.
  • Read novels or self-help books and discuss what you notice, how you might use the ideas, and what common denominators describe healthy relationships.
  • Do things together such as going on trips, planting a garden, building/repairing equipment, etc. and note the new things you learn and how you learn together, and what things make it easy or difficult to learn and change.
  • Tell stories about people or couples you most admire and discuss how you can use their skills to improve your own relationship.
  • Compose, paint, or sculpt something for each other that illustrates something about self, partner, or relationship.
  • Baby-sit together and discuss the experience
  • Shop with or for each other and compare tastes
  • Cook together and note style and power differences in shared efforts.
  • Worship together and talk about spiritual life and traditions
  • Interview each other’s friends and siblings to really get a feel for what your partner’s past and personality is like!
  • Share journals of thoughts and experiences through different stages and experiences.
  • Care for each other in sickness or distress
  • Do community service together and use your experience to set goals to help others and discuss values beyond and within your marriage.
    Show love through non-sexual physical contact. See how many ways you can find to touch the heart of your partner.

Formal Strategies

  • Seek out a mentor couple and schedule shared events and times for discussing relationship issues, alone and together. Mentor couples should be persons whose character and relationship you respect, who are willing to spend time without always offering advice (or money), who are able to maintain confidentiality and practice honesty with empathy.
  • Locate an marriage preparation provider and discuss issues in an unstructured, as-you-encounter-issues way, and/or learn knowledge or skills in a more structured way. Seek help in designing a marriage agreement or wedding ceremony which gives purpose and spells out goals for your relationship.
  • Find good books and tapes which are research-based and easy to understand. Focus especially on skill-building/practice books which emphasize "how to."
  • Join a (pre)marriage enrichment group where you can enjoy activities, share experiences and learn together from other couples interested in building their relationships.
  • Seek individual or couple counseling as a means of working through past or present troubles as well as for structured problem solving in making decisions and preventing future conflicts through learning decision-making skills. Marital counseling is most effective, in fact, when couples come ready to learn and without traumatic hurts to heal before effective learning takes place. Like financial advising, realtor assistance, or job preparation, marriage counseling and education says more about a couple’s priorities and planfulness than about their problems.
  • Write and regularly revise a couple mission statement and plan activities at work, with friends, or with children accordingly. In the business of marriage, the "bottom line" is purpose, fulfillment, and benefiting the lives of those who depend upon you. There is no greater profit to individuals or society in any other work.

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