Tag Archives: intentional-relationship.com

Stress levels of Australian couples impacting physical health: Top 5 Stressors for Couples 

In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. Stressors being external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction can be handled in 2 basic ways:

  1. Eliminate the stressor or
  2. Change one’s reaction to stress.

When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

Top 5 Stressors for Couples 

Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete the PREPARE/ENRICH Customised Version, the top 5 stressors for each relationship stage are listed below. Overall, married couples report higher stress levels than dating or engaged couples.

    Dating Couples
  1. Your job
  2. Feeling emotionally upset
  3. Inadequate income
  4. Your partner
  5. Too much to do around the home
    Engaged Couples: 
  1. Your job
  2. Financial concerns
  3. Cost of wedding
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Lack of sleep
    Married Couples: 
  1. Your spouse
  2. Your job
  3. Feeling emotionally upset
  4. Inadequate income
  5. Too much to do around the home

Married Couples and Stress 

Note the item rated as the number one stressor by married couples is Your spouse. This was the number one stressor cited by both men and women.

Married couples who take PREPARE/ENRICH are often being seen in a counselling situation. It is not uncommon for individuals experiencing relational conflict to believe their problems would be solved if their partner would only change. Not only do they believe this, they often express it. Experienced counsellors are used to the finger pointing which often accompanies the initial sessions of marital therapy.

Unfortunately, one partner cannot change the other and this approach leaves individuals totally disempowered in the relationship. In fact, the more one individual focuses on the other person’s behavior, the more resentment, anger, and resistance they typically receive in return.

It is much more productive to help these couples work on things that are in their control including the way they speak to one another, the way they resolve conflict, and the way each individual chooses to react to their daily stressors and interactions with their spouse.

Tune in for part 3 next week – Wedding planning and stress levels.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

    Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

    More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

    Take the Couple Checkup

    Take the Couple Checkup

    Simply click on the Register button below relevant to your relationship – it couldn’t be easier. Once you have finished the questions you should receive your comprehensive personalised report in about 30 seconds.

    Take the Couple Checkup

    The Couple Checkup generates deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations restore insight and understanding about one another. The Couple Checkup can help to revive a relationship and increase intimacy. 

    The Couple Checkup is an online couple assessment based on the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventories. The Checkup assessment and Checkup report are designed to go directly to couples at any stage of their relationship (dating, engaged or married). The online system allows for dynamic customization of the assessment to each couple based on how the couple answers background questions. The goal is for the Couple Checkup to reach a more diverse group of couples, to empower couples to deal with issues on their own and to emphasize prevention over remediation.

    For more information on the use and analysis of the Couple Checkup or to simply use the tool, please contact: www.couplecheckup.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #couplecheckup #relationship

    Stress levels of Australian couples is impacting physical health: 2 basic ways to cope with stress

    In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. A recent survey of Australian adults found that 1 in 4 respondents reported moderate to severe levels of stress, highest amongst 18-25 and 26-35 age groups. Almost 1 in 5 (17%) reported that current stress levels are having a strong to very strong impact on physical health (Australian Psychological Society, 2014).

    Stressors are external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction. The impact of the event depends on whether one views the event as positive or negative. When stress levels are high or chronic, it is common for physical symptoms (headaches, backaches), psychological symptoms (anxiety, anger) and relational issues (conflict, disconnection) to emerge.

    There are 2 basic ways to cope with stress:

      1. Eliminate the stressor. Some stressors represent things that are controllable (working too many hours). In some cases, it is possible to make choices that actually eliminate the stressor (change jobs).
      2. Change one’s reaction to stress. When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

    Stress and Couples 

    A recent study of 82 couples demonstrates how high stress levels can negatively impact marriages (Neff & Karney, 2009).
    The greater the stress levels, the more strongly partners react to the normal ups and downs of life. In other words, when stress levels are high, we experience perceived stress more intensely.

    The study also suggests high stress levels make it more difficult to effectively use one’s positive relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution abilities.

    Finally, couples are more likely to evaluate their relationship negatively when they are experiencing prolonged exposure to stress. High stress negatively colors a couple’s perceptions of their marriage.

    References:

    • Australian Psychologicsl Society (2014): www.psychology.org.au
    • Neff, L.A., and Karney, B.R., (2009). Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97 (3), 435-450.

    Tune in next week for part 2.

    More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

    Take the Couple Checkup

    Take the Couple Checkup

    Simply click on the Register button below relevant to your relationship – it couldn’t be easier. Once you have finished the questions you should receive your comprehensive personalised report in about 30 seconds.

    Take the Couple Checkup

    The Couple Checkup generates deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations restore insight and understanding about one another. The Couple Checkup can help to revive a relationship and increase intimacy. 

    The Couple Checkup is an online couple assessment based on the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventories. The Checkup assessment and Checkup report are designed to go directly to couples at any stage of their relationship (dating, engaged or married). The online system allows for dynamic customization of the assessment to each couple based on how the couple answers background questions. The goal is for the Couple Checkup to reach a more diverse group of couples, to empower couples to deal with issues on their own and to emphasize prevention over remediation.

    For more information on the use and analysis of the Couple Checkup or to simply use the tool, please contact: www.couplecheckup.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #couplecheckup #relationship

    Couple Assessment can help identify couple strengths as well as growth areas

    Often a huge surprised for couples is when they learn what strengths they have and what impact this has on their relationship.

    Following on from last weeks post, the following are ten ways that couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program:

    3. Assessment can help identify couple strengths as well as growth areas.

    A major component of the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment is that it identifies couple strengths in addition to specific relationship issues for the couple. One goal of the program is to not only identify strengths, but to help build couple strengths. Couples are often surprised to learn what strengths have been identified by the assessment.

    Tune in next week… Read about the 10 ways Couple Assessment can improve your relationship education program.

    Contract PREPARE/ENRICH Australia at: prepare-enrich.com.au or call us today (02) 9520 4049

    PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    Reach out to someone today and day thank you or ask… RU OK?

    It’s time to say thanks to all the people who are there for us!

    By celebrating their contribution to creating a more connected world, you’re letting them – and others – know that conversations DO make a big difference. 

    Encourage more people to trust their gut instinct and start a conversation with anyone they’re worried about.

    Staying connected and having meaningful conversations is something we can all do. You don’t need to be an expert – just a great mate and a good listener. So, if you notice someone who might be struggling – start a conversation.

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    Reference: www.ruok.org.au

    Couple Assessment provides a Comprehensive Picture of the Couple Relationship

    Assessment provides a comprehensive picture and a wealth of information about a couples relationship. Assessment is a critical component of most professions but professionals working with couples or families have often failed to take advantage of these assessments.

    Physicians typically run a variety of diagnostic tests before they make their final decision on treatment. Teachers use examinations to determine a students achievement level. Police Officers use radar to determine the speed a car is driving. Engineers use stress tests to determine whether a structure will be functional for the task.

    Following on from last weeks post, the following are ten ways that couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program:

    2. Assessment provides a comprehensive picture of the couple relationship.

    A good couple assessment will provide a wealth of information about a couples relationship. As an example, the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment includes over 30 scales that tap into the most relevant aspects of a couples relationship. There are 10 core scales that include the following:

    1. Communication
    2. conflict resolution
    3. financial management
    4. leisure activities
    5. sexual relationships
    6. role relationship
    7. spiritual beliefs
    8. personality issues
    9. parenting and
    10. family and friends.

    There is assessment of the couple system and family system (based on cohesion and flexibility), a major stress scale and six scope personality scales.

    Tune in next week… Read about the 10 ways Couple Assessment can improve your relationship education program.

    Contract PREPARE/ENRICH Australia at: prepare-enrich.com.au or call us today (02) 9520 4049

    PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For more tips and reminders, tune in next week… Read about the 10 ways Couple Assessment can improve your relationship education program.

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com

    References: 

    Knutson, L. & Olson, D. H. (2003) Effectiveness of PREPARE Program with premarital couples in community settings. Marriage & Family Journal, 6, (4), 529-546.

    Larson, J.H, Vatter, R.S., Galbraith, R.C., Holman, T.B. & Stahmann, R.F. (2007). The relationship evaluation (RELATE) with therapist-assisted interpretation: Short-term effecets on premarital relationships, Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33, (4), 364-374.

    Worthington, E.L., McCullough, M.E., Shortz, J.L., Mindes, E.J., Sandage, S.J. & Chartrand, J.M. (1995) Can couple assessment and feedback improve relationships? Assessment as a brief relationship enrichment procedure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, (4), 466-475.

    Couple assessment can improve the impact of a couple or family program by 30%: 10 Ways Couple Assessments can Improve any Relationship Education Program

    Assessment is a critical component of most professions but professionals working with couples or families. We often fail to take full advantage of these assessments. Physicians typically run a variety of diagnostic tests before they make their final decision on treatment. Teachers use examinations to determine a students achievement level. Police Officers use radar to determine the speed a car is driving. Engineers use stress tests to determine whether a structure will be functional for the task.

    Over the next ten (10) weeks, I will present ten ways that couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program. Taken from the work of those who have researched the effectiveness of couple assessment (including David Olson of PREPARE/ENRICH), the following points explain the ways couple assessment can improve your any relationship education program.

    1. Couples assessment can improve the impact of a couple or family program by 30%.

    Several independent studies have found that taking a couple assessment at the beginning of your program can improve that impact of a relationship education program by 30%.

    One of the first studies to demonstrate the power of couple assessment was done by Worthington and colleagues (1995) who studied the effect of couple assessment with and without feedback. The couple assessment included the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the PAIR Inventory and a Commitment scale. The main group received 3 sessions of assessment and feedback and the other group did the assessment without feedback.

    The assessment and feedback group improved in couple satisfaction and commitment more than just the couples who took the assessment without feedback. Based on the findings, they concluded that 30% of the total intervention size for relationship education programs was based on the couple assessment. They stated that: “Assessment interviews, questionnaires and feedback may not only help couples understand their relationship better but may also stimulate couples to act to improve their relationship… (and) assessment of the relationship may be an ideal, cost-effective way to stimulate the reflection of partners concerning their relationship” (p.473).

    A second study by Larson (2007) and colleagues demonstrated the value of the RELATE couple assessment and the additional benefits when a therapist gave feedback. This study involved three groups: assessment and feedback from a therapist, assessment and self-directed feedback and a control group. The control showed no significant change (mean difference of .61) and the self-directed feedback (mean difference was 5.8) groups had significant change across a variety of outcome scales.

    The third study by Knutson and Olson (2003) used the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory. This study also clearly demonstrated that just taking the couple assessment without feedback accounted for 30% of the improvement on the outcome measures. This study had three groups. Two groups took PREPARE/ENRICH, one received four feedback sessions and the other group simply took the inventory and there was a control group. On the marital satisfaction scale, both PREPARE/ENRICH groups improved significantly, while there was no significant change in the control group. Of the 13 outcome scales, the PREPARE/ENRICH group with feedback changed on 10 scales (77%) and the no feedback group changed on 4 scales (30%).

    In summary, these three studies all found that taking a comprehensive couple assessment accounted for 30% of the improvement in the couples scores. Adding a couple assessment can increase the impact of any marriage or family education program.

    For more tips and reminders, tune in next week… Read about the 10 ways Couple Assessment can improve your relationship education program.

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com
    References: Knutson, L. & Olson, D. H. (2003) Effectiveness of PREPARE Program with premarital couples in community settings. Marriage & Family Journal, 6, (4), 529-546.

    Larson, J.H, Vatter, R.S., Galbraith, R.C., Holman, T.B. & Stahmann, R.F. (2007). The relationship evaluation (RELATE) with therapist-assisted interpretation: Short-term effecets on premarital relationships, Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33, (4), 364-374.

    Worthington, E.L., McCullough, M.E., Shortz, J.L., Mindes, E.J., Sandage, S.J. & Chartrand, J.M. (1995) Can couple assessment and feedback improve relationships? Assessment as a brief relationship enrichment procedure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, (4), 466-475.

    Relational Aggression: Notice the warning signs and help couples to find better ways of understanding, managing and meeting one another’s relational needs.

    Sadly, some romantic relationships involve regular aggressive episodes and premarital couples are no exception to this possibility. Indeed, some premarital couples’ idealism and preoccupation with marriage plans may mask concerns about aggression. Many couples in this situation simply think that things will improve after they are married.

    Premarital educators need to be vigilant about relational aggression in particular. It is distinct from verbal (eg. insults) and physical aggression (eg. hitting) that targets an individual and produces harm to that person. Relational aggression impacts on and primarily damages the relationship. Examples include actions designed to arouse jealousy (eg. flirting with others), using passive aggression when angry (eg. silent treatment) and threatening to break up to gain compliance. Relational aggression is sometimes far more subtle and hard to detect relative to verbal and physical aggression that initially targets and damages an individual.

    A study of young adults’ romantic relationships has revealed some interesting trends that may help us to understand why some individuals might be more prone to use relational aggression (Linder, Crick & Collins, 2002). The researchers found that, regardless of gender, those that employed relational aggression were:

    1. Low on being able to trust
    2. High on being frustrated, jealous and clingy

    The authors commented that individuals who use relational aggression in their relationships have a desire for high levels of closeness and exclusivity in their relationships. They perhaps cope with these feelings by using relational aggression in an attempt to control their partner and bring them closer.

    Another finding was that, regardless of gender, those who were victims of relational aggression were:

    1. High on self-reliance
    2. Low in relationship security and sense of relationship quality

    The authors suggested that victims of relational aggression are less likely to turn to their partner in times of need, and instead deal with their needs on their own. Additionally, individuals who are victimized by their romantic partners are less secure in these relationships and therefore are more likely to express low levels of trust and higher levels of qualities such as jealousy. This comment points to a profound paradox: The user of relational aggression lacks a strong sense of trust in their partner and needs more closeness with that partner, but their actions actually create lack of trust in the partner and the aggression repels them to the very opposite of what the user is seeking.

    These results suggest a pattern that is worth identifying when it presents in any of our premarital couples. Look especially at the responses within the Communication and Conflict Resolution categories and be prepared to encourage couples to go beyond the specific questions and their answers, to open up and to share their underlying concerns and issues.

    For example, within the Communication category, questions relevant to refusal to talk (the silent treatment) and the idea that a problem such as this will simply fade after marriage can be discussed when responses to questions in the Marriage Expectations category are explored. This kind of discussion may lead into a broader discussion of concerns and issues that involve aspects of relational aggression. In turn that exploration may lead to an awareness of the futility and damage associated with relational aggression and the need to find better ways of understanding, managing and meeting one another’s relational needs.

    Reference: Linder, J., Crick, N., & Collins, W. (2002). Relational aggression and victimization in young adults’ romantic relationships: Associations with perception of parent, peer and romantic relationship quality. Social Development, 11, 69-86.

    Need more information, email me now shane@intentional-relationship.com

    Tune in next week for more relationship tips @ Intentional-Relationship.com