Prevention programs key to healthy relationships

  • Published
  • By Paula Tracy
  • Family advocacy outreach manager
While any time is a great opportunity to talk about healthy relationships, October is an ideal time.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It also represents cooler weather, football and the approaching holiday season. It's a time often spent with family and friends, celebrating life's joys or lamenting the loss of our favorite team. We may choose to mix in our favorite foods and beverages. If these beverages happen to contain alcohol and emotions are running high, interesting outcomes can occur.

Let's talk about facts.

First, let's assume that you are in a dating or married relationship. Did you know that the primary determining factor of the quality of your relationship isn't a matter of whether you will disagree with your beloved, but how you handle the disagreement? According to Howard Markman, co-chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver and president of Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program Inc., all couples argue. Healthy couples simply learn how to identify their danger signs and keep them from threatening a loving, strong future together. All couples can make a decision at any time to halt destructive patterns and replace them with healthier ones.

Second, minor disagreements that would normally blow over become intensified when they occur against the backdrop of alcohol and stress. In family advocacy, we understand that, while alcohol doesn't cause violence, it does seem to add a lot of fuel to a fire that might otherwise simply die out on its own. Alcohol reduces inhibitions; we say things we otherwise would not, make poorer choices, have a harder time taking that much needed "time out" from an escalating situation and lash out in ways we may very much regret. Alcohol renders a potentially dicey situation far more volatile.

However, there's plenty of support out there. Anyone concerned about excessive or out-of-control substance use can call and talk to one of the specialists with the alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment program. Family advocacy has a selection of relationship enhancement programs that reinforce the three key components to a long-lasting, healthy and fun relationship: safety, trust and communication. All are prevention programs designed to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors in couples. Since they're classes, not therapy, no clinical records are kept on attendees but very positive changes can and do happen. Like any class, you take out of it what you put into it. Some examples:

PREP for Strong Bonds -- This class was developed specifically for military couples. It reinforces the three main concepts of "Do Your Part," "Decide -- Don't Slide" and "Make it Safe to Connect," but ties in commitment, forgiveness and the importance of supporting each other.

Got Your Back -- For divorced or single participants, this one focuses on how to pick healthy partners and to be a partner worth picking. It's humorous and practical, but right on the money. Learn how to take responsibility for your own current and future relationships.

Within Our Reach
-- Similar to Strong Bonds, this PREP class extracts and reinforces its three main concepts. Communication danger signs, the speaker-listener technique and problem-solving skills are also taught. Learn why unspoken expectations usually set us up for failure in a relationship.

The Five Love Languages for Couples -- If you've ever thought that you and your beloved were simply speaking two different dialects when it came to meeting each other's emotional needs, this one just might be for you. Learn how to identify your partner's love language and continually keep that "love tank" full.

Family advocacy is always pleased and excited to offer educational classes to Team Keesler. We encourage active duty, retired, reserve/guard, family members, civilians, contract personnel and members of all other military branches to take advantage of the prevention classes that we offer offers. In addition, we urge everyone to remember that all family members have a right to safety in their own homes. If you or someone you know is being harmed, please call.

For more information on programs and reporting, call (228)376-3457 or 3479. For more information on ADAPT services, call (228)376-3452.