NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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Making Healthy Relationship Choices

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The front-page picture and Paige Cary’s story of Maurice and Pat Orn’s celebration of a lifetime of love in the February 13 edition of the Sargent County Teller caught my eye. What an inspiring story!  Maurice and Pat said they got to know each other by going to dances and movies together, and by writing letters back and forth.

Probably without even knowing it, they were doing  exactly what current literature recommends in preparation for making a lifetime commitment.

To know as much about yourself and the person you will possibly spend your life with, and whether or not you will be compatible for a lifetime, is important. Current literature advises learning about the person by talking with them and observing his or her behavior and interactions with other people.  It may be especially enlightening to observe his or her behavior around or toward people who are disadvantaged, elderly, handicapped, or socially marginalized.  It may also be valuable to observe his or her behavior toward animals that may or may not be his or her own pets. Through all of this, you can learn a great deal.  Dr, John Van Epp, founder of Love Thinks, LLC, urges people to uses “F.A.C.E.S.” to get to know themselves and others and make healthy relationship choices.

First of all, “F” suggests we get to know and be aware of “family dynamics and background.” Our family experiences have a strong influence on our attitudes, behaviors, gender role expectations, communication patterns, and ways of dealing with stress and conflicts, and the same is true for the other person. Observe how family members treat each other. Compare how similar or dissimilar your families are to each other.

“A” reminds us to evaluate “attitudes and actions” of ourselves and the other person. What level of maturity do we observe? What sense is there of right and wrong? Are choices made in wise and kind ways, or by being self-focused? Is there consideration of how words and actions affect others?

“Compatibility potential” is the idea behind the “C.” This is where we carefully consider what we have in common with the other person in terms of interests, personality, skills, values, goals, beliefs, and attitudes about life. These are the basis for a friendship that will serve as the foundation for a long-lasting marriage.

With “E,” we are looking for “examples of previous friendship or relationship patterns.” Past performance is usually a pretty good indicator of future behavior.

Finally, “S” reminds us to assess our “skills for relationship.” Communication is one of the keys, so we want to look at how well and comfortable we are being open and honest with each other, and how well we listen and understand each other. Another key to healthy, long-lasting relationships is being able to handle conflict in positive ways, so it is worthwhile to evaluate how we do that, and how the other person does it, too.

The National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network (NERMEN) has additional information on relationships and dating, and resources for teens, families, singles, premarital couples, married couples, remarried and step-couples available at http://www.fcs.uga.edu/nermen/extension-resources-publications

Adapted from: Marriage Matters: Are We Compatible? http://spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/chfd/HDFS-E-118.pdf

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