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Avoid passive or aggressive communication: Seek win-win and your relationship will grow (Part 3: The Passive-Aggressive Style)

No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when you or your partner succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens, make amends and vow to make this the exception rather than the norm, and your relationship will grow!

tin_can_telephone Communication styles

What is your communication style? Generally, there are four common styles:

  1. Passive
  2. Aggressive
  3. Passive aggressive
  4. Assertive

Following on from last weeks post, it is important to recognise your primary communication style and that any combination of passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to your relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. 

3. Passive-Aggressive

Passive-aggressive communicators will often behave passively to a person’s face, but display aggression when that person is not around. On the surface the communicator’s goal is to avoid conflict (like passive communicators), but they will often convey anger or seek vengeance later.

An example of this would be a stay-at-home-dad who feels resentful of his spouse for always working late and not helping out with any of the housework. Instead of actually talking to his partner about his feelings, he complains to his parents and brothers that she is underachieving as a wife and mother; meanwhile, his wife has no idea that there is any issue at all!

Any combination of the passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to a relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. If only one person is assertive and the other is passive or aggressive, the relationship may still suffer. 

The chart below shows that there is really only one “win-win” combination:

communication_styles_graph

Consider your communication style and notice when you slip into dysfunctional patterns and turn your relationship towards win-win!

Always consider your limitations in terms of time, experience, and professional expertise when working with abusive couples. Consult or refer to other mental health professionals including marriage and family therapists and psychologists trained to work with abusive couples. Create connections with local domestic violence counsellors and agencies and utilise their expertise and support groups or contact us.

Source: The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths. By David Olson Ph.D

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Avoid passive or aggressive communication: Seek win-win and your relationship will grow (Part 2: The Aggressive Style)

No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when you or your partner succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens, make amends and vow to make this the exception rather than the norm, and your relationship will grow!

What is your communication style? Generally, there are four common styles:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Assertive

Following on from last weeks post, it is important to recognise your primary communication style and that any combination of passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to your relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. 

2. Aggressive

On the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive communicator, often blaming and making accusations, as well as making over-generalisations such as “You always put me down in front of our friends!” or “You never want to spend time with me!” This style is generally used when one person is feeling threatened or having negative thoughts/feelings; it often focuses on the negative characteristics of the person, rather than the situation. 

tin_can_telephone communication styles

Any combination of the passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to a relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. If only one person is assertive and the other is passive or aggressive, the relationship may still suffer. The chart below shows that there is really only one “win-win” combination:
communication_styles_graph

Consider your communication style and notice when you slip into dysfunctional patterns and turn your relationship towards win-win!

Always consider your limitations in terms of time, experience, and professional expertise when working with abusive couples. Consult or refer to other mental health professionals including marriage and family therapists and psychologists trained to work with abusive couples. Create connections with local domestic violence counsellors and agencies and utilise their expertise and support groups or contact us.

Source: The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths. By David Olson Ph.D

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email: president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Avoid passive or aggressive communication: Seek win-win and your relationship can grow

No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when you or your partner succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens, make amends and vow to make this the exception rather than the norm, and your relationship will grow!

What is your communication style? Generally, there are four common styles:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive aggressive
  • Assertive

1. Passive

Passive communicators are often unwilling to share thoughts, feelings, or desires in an honest way. This tendency may stem from low self-esteem, but it is also used to avoid criticism or hurting others’ feelings. Being the recipient of passive communicators tend to leave their partner feeling angry, confused, and mistrustful.

tin_can_telephone Communication styles.
Consider your communication style and notice when you slip into dysfunctional patterns and turn your relationship towards win-win!
Tune in next week for part 2.

Always consider your limitations in terms of time, experience, and professional expertise when working with abusive couples. Consult or refer to other mental health professionals including marriage and family therapists and psychologists trained to work with abusive couples. Create connections with local domestic violence counsellors and agencies and utilise their expertise and support groups or contact us.

Source: The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths. By David Olson Ph.D

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Consider your couples communication style and notice when they slip into dysfunctional patterns

No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when couples succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens and guide couples towards making this the exception rather than the rule, and their relationship will surely grow!

What are their communication styles? Generally, there are four common styles:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive aggressive
  • Assertive

1. Passive

Passive communicators are often unwilling to share thoughts, feelings, or desires in an honest way. This tendency may stem from low self-esteem, but it is also used to avoid criticism or hurting others’ feelings. Being the recipient of passive communicators tend to leave their partner feeling angry, confused, and mistrustful.

2. Aggressive

On the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive communicator, often blaming and making accusations, as well as making over-generalisations such as “You always put me down in front of our friends!” or “You never want to spend time with me!” This style is generally used when one person is feeling threatened or having negative thoughts/feelings; it often focuses on the negative characteristics of the person, rather than the situation.

3. Passive-Aggressive

Passive-aggressive communicators will often behave passively to a person’s face, but display aggression when that person is not around. On the surface the communicator’s goal is to avoid conflict (like passive communicators), but they will often convey anger or seek vengeance later.

An example of this would be a stay-at-home-dad who feels resentful of his spouse for always working late and not helping out with any of the housework. Instead of actually talking to his partner about his feelings, he complains to his parents and brothers that she is underachieving as a wife and mother; meanwhile, his wife has no idea that there is any issue at all!

4. Assertive

Assertive communicators are able to express themselves in a healthy, non-defensive, and non-insistent way. They can ask for what they want while remaining positive and respectful. Exercising assertive communication encourages the other person to respond assertively as well, creating a positive cycle in relationships.

Any combination of the passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to a relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. If only one person is assertive and the other is passive or aggressive, the relationship may still suffer.

Always consider your limitations in terms of time, experience, and professional expertise when working with abusive couples. Consult or refer to other mental health professionals including marriage and family therapists and psychologists trained to work with abusive couples. Create connections with local domestic violence counsellors and agencies and utilise their expertise and support groups or contact us.

Shane Smith
Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Taking a long-term perspective can create a sense of hope and purpose and facilitate growth

With the stresses of the day, COVID, elections, uncertainty… it is impossible for couples to avoid stress in their lives.

Suggesting couples take a long-term perspective, where they can see above and beyond their day-to-day activities is vital. By being intentional and making an effort to start with a clear understanding of the destination and where the couple is going, they can create a sense of hope and purpose and facilitate growth.

Through careful planning and constant assessment and re-evaluation of plans, couples get a better sense of where they are going, and can plan where they are heading and can take time to see the bigger picture. This leads to a clear understanding of goals, dreams and their vision as a couple.

Just as the stagnant pond breeds disease, the flowing stream is always fresh and cool. Taking a long-term perspective, determining a plan and assessing/reassessing the plan regularly brings a sense of hope and purpose.

Shane Smith
Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Don’t put your partner in a box: 3 Ways to be a Lifelong Learner in Your Relationship

When you graduated from school or university, did you say to yourself, “Well, that’s it! I now know everything I need to know. My days of learning are over!” Probably not. In fact, you’ve probably continued to learn about new topics, acquire new skills, and seek out random tidbits of information, even if your days of formal education are over. It’s not only fun and fulfilling, but also keeps your mind open and your heart young, among other tangible and intangible benefits.

Interestingly, in long-term relationships, we often get to a certain point and feel as if we know “everything” about our partner. But whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30+, there’s a good chance that there are still new things to learn about each other – it just might require more digging than it did when you were first getting to know each other.

In the beginning, everything was a new discovery: favourite foods, pet peeves, embarrassing childhood memories, irrational fears. We’d converse for hours about everything and nothing, soaking up information about this new person in your life.

Time passes, and we become familiar with each other’s quirks and see new facets of each other across different situations. Somewhere along the way, the curiosity-driven questions start to wane. We begin to make predictions and assumptions about each other, without even realising it. It is comforting to know each other so well, knowing exactly how the other likes their coffee or whether they’ll feel like being social or staying in on a Friday night after long week. We no longer need to wonder, worry, or stress about each other’s preferences – we’re comfortable

But over time, we also change as individuals, which makes knowing everything about each other somewhat of a moving target. And that’s why we should strive to be lifelong learners about each other!

Here are some tips on how you can be a lifelong learner in your relationship.

Don’t put your partner in a box:

  • Let’s say you go out to eat at your favourite Italian restaurant. When the waiter takes your order of seafood ravioli, your partner exclaims, “Really? But you always have the chicken marsala!” Feels a little weird, right? A bit like a shirt that’s too tight across the shoulders—restrictive. There is probably no ill intent behind the comment, but if this keeps recurring, you might be a bit hesitant to venture out of your comfort zone in the future. You could start to feel a subconscious obligation to be the person they’ve always known. But you both need space and positive reinforcement to grow.
  • Let your partner surprise you now and then, and respond in a way that says, “That’s not what I expected from you, but I love you for it.”

Lifelong educational learning benefits your mind and well-being in a myriad of ways. Lifelong learning about your partner does the same for your relationship in the form of increased connection and positive growth as individuals and as a couple. It acts as a foil to complacency as it requires continuous communication.

After all, lifelong really is lifelong. The catch to lifelong learning is that the more you already know (whether it’s about car repairs, gardening, or your partner), the more effort you’ll need to put in to learn something new. But in the end, it will only enhance your journey together, and we think you’ll find it’s worth the effort.

Reference: https://blog.prepare-enrich.com/2017/12/3-ways-to-be-a-lifelong-learner-in-your-relationship/

Used with permission of PREPARE/ENRICH.

Shane Smith
Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and Mediator
President, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia
Email president@mareaa.asn.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Four Questions for Friendship Talk: How are you affected by COVID-19?

I have found in my small bubble that people want to talk COVID-19, restrictions, health and economic issues and I understand the reason why… but it feels like the same conversation with a different slant because everyone has their opinion or subjective reality and this often depends on how adversely affected they are.

I started asking people to be real and asked the following questions, so I could really see how people (friends, family and work colleagues) were really managing instead of them saying “we are fine”… I have shared the four friendship questions I am asking of people:

Four Questions for Friendship Talk:

  1. What have you found the hardest in this crisis?
  2. What have you found as a positive in the current climate?
  3. Have you learnt something about yourself that surprised you?
  4. What are you most looking forward to once restrictions are lifted?

We have asked our children the same questions… and the responses were heartwarming as they are really looking forward to family get togethers and our next Australian family holiday together – we thought they would say seeing their friends or sport!

So how are you? If you are too busy to answer no pressure, but we’re here to listen to your responses if you can…

Take care and be safe, and be kind to those closest to you.

Robyn Donnelly
Coordinator – Marriage and Relationship Education CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning
MAREAA Membership Coordinator, NSW State Representative
Email Robyn.Donnelly@mn.catholic.org.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Relationship Education: Learning practical skills that focus on commitment, communication and good conflict

Clear commitment, good communication and good conflict resolution are the foundations of a successful relationship (Fincham et al 2007; Rhoades & Stanley 2014), the good news is that all of these factors can be translated into practical skills that can be easily taught (Markman & Rhoades 2012).

It is increasingly accepted that commitment comes in two main forms: “dedication” – the inner bond that makes a couple want to be with each other – and “constraints” – the added layers of a relationship that make it harder to leave, should either partner choose to do so (Stanley et al 2006).

  • “Dedication” is the key to a successful relationship, centring on the mutual decision to be a couple with a future.
  • “Constraints” increase in a relationship every time couples pass through a transition, such as moving in together, having a baby, or getting married.

In practice:

If we take a long-term perspective of our relationship, we can see above and beyond our day-to-day activities. By being intentional and making an effort to start with a clear understanding of our destination and where we are going, we create a sense of hope and purpose and we never stop growing – and we demonstrate our commitment.

Through careful planning and constant assessment and re-evaluation of our plans, we know where we are going, we can plan where we are heading and we can take time to see the bigger picture. This leads to a clear understanding of goals, dreams and your vision as a couple.

Just as the stagnant pond breeds disease, the flowing stream is always fresh and cool. Take a long-term perspective, determine a plan and assess/reassess your plan regularly.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the new video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM

Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Helping Couples in Isolation: Focus on how they resolve conflict, react to daily stressors and interact with each other

Couples in isolation are likely facing pressure from all angles and may find it impossible to avoid conflict. Stressors from work and home are all wrapped up in the same household, causing emotional or physical reactions. Working with couples, facilitators can help identify stress and work through this is 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.

Married Couples and Stress 

Note the item rated as the number one stressor by married couples was 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 behaviour, 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.

In practice:

Good communication and productive ways of handling conflict depend on couples carefully listening to one another. Active listening involves listening attentively without interruption and then restating what was heard. Acknowledge content AND the feelings of the speaker. The active listening process lets the sender know whether or not the message they sent was clearly understood by having the listener restate what they heard.

Examples of Active Listening:

“I heard you say you are feeling ‘out of balance’, and enjoyed the time we spend together but that you also need more time to be with your friends… and you want to plan a time to talk about this.”

“If I understand what you said, you are concerned because you want to go skiing next winter. But you think I would rather to go to the beach. Is that correct?”

When each person knows what the other person feels and wants (assertiveness) and when each knows they have been heard and understood (active listening), intimacy is increased. These two communication skills can help you grow closer as a couple.

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How are you affected by COVID-19? Four Questions for Friendship Talk

I have found in my small bubble that people want to talk about COVID-19 restrictions, health and economic issues and I understand the reason why… but it feels like the same conversation with a different slant because everyone has their opinion or subjective reality and it depends on how adversely affected they are.

So I started asking people to be real and asked the following questions, so I could see how people (friends, family and work colleagues) were really managing instead of them saying “we are fine, or just good”… Here I share the four friendship talk questions I am asking of people:

Four Questions for Friendship Talk:

  • What have you found the hardest in this crisis?
  • What have you found as a positive in the current climate?
  • Have you learnt something about yourself that surprised you?
  • What are you most looking forward to once restrictions are lifted?

We asked our children the same questions… and the responses were heartwarming. They were looking forward to our family reunion and our next Australian family holiday together – when we thought they would say, seeing their mates at the pub or sport!

If you are too busy to answer no pressure, but I’m here to listen to your responses if you can…

Robyn Donnelly
Coordinator – Marriage and Relationship Education CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning
MAREAA Membership Coordinator, NSW State Representative
Email  Robyn.Donnelly@mn.catholic.org.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

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Welcome to our new world and lifestyle of living with restrictions due to COVID-19

I am sure you are finding your personal and work life has changed considerably. I must admit and share that it is a lifestyle I am not enjoying for many reasons – I’m an extrovert, I love people and relationships, I love coffee catch-ups, dinner parties, boot camp and fitness, book club, dining out and travel.

Life has changed. I am missing my face-to-face sessions and workshops, and for the first time in my career of 24 years, I’m now working from home to plan how to work without my clients in the room. We are currently caring for our elderly parents and we miss our boys who are separated from us, and due to the health crisis, our bubble has shrunk considerably.

Recently I reflected on how I was managing and how we were going. My relationship with my husband is based on my work, we use all possible relationship research day in-day out (we try to talk the talk and walk the walk), so I thought about what were we using and relying on most to stay connected with each other especially since we are living in each other’s pockets. Here are my top three and one that I need to work on:

  1. Appreciation: We are really trying to appreciate and thank each other verbally for the little things we notice. It’s easy to get frustrated and highlight what we are doing wrong when we are stressed (Gottman’s level 2 Sound Relationship House [SRH] – Fondness and Appreciation);
  2. Be Grateful: When I get anxious or overwhelmed by negativity and media hype, I write a list of all the things we have and are grateful for and re-read it or read it to each other (Gottman Level 4 SRH – Positive Perspective). We recall all the great times we have had in our relationship and what we are looking forward to post the restrictions;
  3.  Repair and Dialogue: We use more use of Repair & Dialogue (explaining our position – Gottman Level 5 SRH), so you hear a lot more of “I’m so sorry”, “I didn’t mean to say it like that”, or “that came out all wrong way”; and
  4. Subjective Reality: There are also many things I could be doing better, so I need to improve on thinking that my opinion or position is “subjective”  (Gottman’s SRH Level 5 – Subjective Reality). I’m not great at this at present as I’m out of my comfort zone and anxious about where this will end up.

If you are interested in sharing:

  • What are you currently doing or using in your relationships that you present or share with your clients in session? and;
  • What is something you present to your clients, that you are not currently doing yourself, that you could work on?

Take care and be safe, and be kind to those closest to you.

Robyn Donnelly
Coordinator – Marriage and Relationship Education CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning
MAREAA Membership Coordinator, NSW State Representative
Email Robyn.Donnelly@mn.catholic.org.au

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

Join us at www.mareaa.asn.au or sign up to our Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRigGf

Suggested Ground Rules for Online Group Sessions
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Suggested Ground Rules for Online Group Sessions

The need for relationship education is escalating, service access is becoming more limited because of the increased lock-down and social isolation. Providers of support services must adjust to the conditions and search for innovative ways of working, to help those facing adversity – from the comfort of their own homes.

Group Programs lends themselves well to an online format, as they allow for a combination of teaching, demonstrating and discussion. Facilitated via Teleconference, couples can still learn from each other, however because much of the information is personal to each couple, the online experience can create positive tension. This sharing and learning together can help build a sense of community… even while online.

The following guide can help you work with couples online:

  1. Setting up the Meeting: Teleconferencing and videoconferencing are easy and effective tools, but there are often issues. Ensure you test your audio and visual technology prior to meeting and dial in early and be ready to deal confidently with issues the couples may have with their technology.

    Body language is important. Ensure you can see both couples. If they are in the same location, you need to be able to view both couples from waist up. Ask the couple to adjust their camera to assist with this. If they are both remote, same story, you want to be able to see them from their waist up – they can then also see each other clearly and their body language.

    Ask if they have removed distractions in their home. If possible, other family members, children, pets. Tell them that it is important that you have their full attention for the duration of the call. If another time is better, rescheduling to a time when they are both ready is important.
  2. Environment – safe, confidentiality (limits to confidentiality): As you would normally do, explain that the discussion is confidential and discuss the limits to confidentiality, such as if there is disclosure that someone is at risk of harm. Ensure the couple feel comfortable and safe, establishing an environment where topics can be discussed openly.
  3. Build rapport with couples – establish a relationship: Building rapport with couples online can be hard, but it is important to speak to each couple and to share that focus equally. Introduce yourself and start to get to know each couple. For example, ask the couple how they met; how long they have been together; what drew them to each other; what they hope to get out of the session.
  4. Share relevant information and praise feedback: Give each couple praise for taking intentional time out to focus on their relationship. Always seek to identify and always emphasise the positive aspects of their relationship throughout the discussion.
     
  5. Do they have any questions? Any reservations? Explore these and use examples of where the process will assist to explore these issues. Use an ice-breaker exercise to emphasise this.
  6. Explain the process: Summarise the process and topics that will be discussed. Explain that you are keen to understand each couple and where the ‘edges’ are between them as a couple. Emphasise that the process is one of developing awareness and learning new skills.

With online facilitation, most of the same rules apply but it can often be harder to build rapport and really connect with couples. From setting up your technology (and the couples) through to developing awareness, learning new skills and working through exercises.

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you plan to deliver your services in these challenging times. 

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xyuUl-JnIhM.

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

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