Engage: Helping Couples Become Stronger by Engaging with Others

Seventh in a series of virtual meetings from ISU Extension and Outreach

May 22, 2020, 9:45 am | David Brown, Anthony Santiago

Couple volunteers to pick up trash in public park by rh2010/stock.adobe.com.AMES, Iowa – Couples are part of a complex system of family, friends and experiences. Couples who have strong relationships with the people around them report stronger, healthier and more durable relationships. That is the premise of Engage, the seventh and final in a series of virtual meetings to help couples elevate their relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lori Hayungs, human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Mary Tuttle, county coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach Cherokee County, will lead the seventh virtual meeting Wednesday, May 27, from 12:30 to 1 p.m. CDT via Connect. During this session, they will review some tools couples can immediately use to improve their relationship. The information presented will be based on ELEVATE, a relationship education curriculum developed by the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network.

“You could say ‘it takes a village’ to make a couple stronger. Couples need to be able to ask others for help during times of need,” Hayungs said.

“Every couple is part of a bigger community. Having a network of social support helps a couple thrive through acts of receiving and giving support,” added Tuttle.

Connecting with others may be difficult when social/physical distancing is necessary. However, couples may be able to use social media connections and other technology and resources to intentionally focus on devoting effort and time to being connected to a larger community, which can provide a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

“Finding ways to serve and connect with others gives more meaning and can help strengthen your relationships,” Hayungs said.

Research has shown that helping others can positively affect a person’s belief in their ability to handle challenging situations, as well as their self-esteem. This also benefits couples as they see themselves as part of a larger community where they contribute to the well-being of others.

Simple acts of service and kindness, such as volunteering and engaging in the community, can become a source of significant strength. Couples can gain new skills and opportunities as well as increased sense of personal meaning, self-worth and control.

“Helping others outside of your close family and peer group encourages individuals to act less out of self-interest and develop qualities of altruism that in turn may flow into their close relationships,” Tuttle said.
The added uncertainties and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly create challenges for couples to engage with their community. Couples may struggle to have a sense of purpose and meaning. In this session, Hayungs and Tuttle will help couples learn ways to engage in a positive social network to support relationships.

Join Hayungs and Tuttle this Wednesday, May 27 at 12:30 p.m. CDT at https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/healthy-relationships/. Please plan to join this meeting 10 minutes prior in case the application must be downloaded. This is the last virtual meeting in this series of seven for now. Take this step to elevate your relationship.

Other resources

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

211 is a free, comprehensive information and referral line linking Iowa residents to health and human service programs, community services, disaster services and governmental programs. This service is collaborating with the Iowa Department of Public Health to provide confidential assistance, stress counseling, education and referral services related to COVID-19 concerns.

Photo credit: rh2010/stock.adobe.com

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