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College of Human Ecology

K-State specialist offers tips to keep happy couples . . . happy

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Released: May 23, 2008

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Couples typically radiate happiness on their wedding day, but not all will have a happy ever after, a Kansas State University specialist said.

"Patterns in relationships get real after marriage," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, a K-State Research and Extension family systems specialist.

Would-be spouses often are on their best behavior while dating, but the realities of day-to-day life - laundry, grocery shopping and stress at work - add pressures that may erode relationships, Olsen said.

Knowing each other well, as good friends do, can´t ensure a successful marriage, but it helps, she said.

"Successful long-term relationships often begin as a friendship that grows gradually into a romantic relationship," said Olsen, who offered tips for couples to increase their chances for a happy ever after:

* Talk to each other. Ask your spouse how he or she is doing to keep in touch with what is going on in his or her life. It´s normal for couples to talk about basic tasks - what´s for supper, who will pick up a gallon of milk or carpool the kids to soccer practice - but it´s important that spouses not lose sight of the special person with whom they have chosen to share their life.

* Practice listening skills, and try to listen without making a judgment. A person´s background and past experiences will influence how he or she communicates. So, if a spouse does not seem understanding of what is being said, back up and calmly say: "No, that is not what I meant." Then, re-visit key points to keep misunderstandings from growing into issues.

* Be respectful during conflicts. That means no hostile shouting, name-calling, or disrespectful body language. Can´t agree? Take time out, and agree when to re-visit the topic. Think positive, and put a lid on self-talk.

* Establish daily rituals, like taking the time to walk the dog together without talking about problems, sharing morning - or evening - coffee, or never parting without a hug or kiss when sending a spouse on his or her way. Though seemingly simple, such rituals can help couples weather ups and downs that are inevitable in any relationship.

* Life happens, and while spouses will typically share some disappointments and heartaches, such as a child's illness, each may also struggle with the death of a parent, difficult situations at work or other unexpected life events. Supporting a spouse during his or her time of need can strengthen the spouse and the relationship.

* Set aside time for each other - and time apart. Olsen recommends date night, but encourages couples to vary the date by not always going to the same restaurant or choosing a movie. Marriage should not, however, require setting aside other friendships. A spouse who spends time with other friends can nurture new interests to later share with his or her spouse.

Spending time with another couple or couples group also can be beneficial.

* Take care of yourself by striving to be physically, mentally and spiritually fit.

* Focus on positives, rather than negatives.

* Take responsibility for your own actions, and don´t be quick to blame the other person.

"Even the happiest, well-matched couples will face stressful - and disappointing - times during the course of their marriage," said Olsen, who advises couples who are disappointed in their relationship or otherwise struggling to think about what they most value about their relationship.

"Don´t give up too soon," she said. "Couples who separate or divorce without first trying to repair their relationship may later regret making a hasty decision."

More information on managing successful marriage and family relationships is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Extension Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson, K-State Research and Extension News, www.oznet.ksu.edu/news

For more information, contact:
Charlotte Shoup Olsen is at 785-532-5773 or colsen@ksu.edu.

This article was posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.