Practicing What We Preach by Rachel Savasuk

Rachel and Ray

When I first started here at Auburn University I wrote a blog about long distance relationships – I had just moved 7 hours away from my boyfriend and it was tough. In my blog I busted some typical myths and beliefs about long distance relationships and offered tips to keep your relationship strong despite the distance. Well, guess what? Two and a half years later we are not only living together, but are just a little over a month away from our wedding!

We’ve checked off a lot of things on our “wedding to-do” list and have finally hit the point of applying for our marriage license. When we were reading all of the rules and regulations for filling out your application, one thing stood out to me – a premarital prep course. It’s not required in the state of Florida (that is where we are getting married) and, in all honesty, my first thought was “I teach and study this stuff, so do we really need to do something like this?” After reading a little bit more about our different options, I figured, “Why not? It’s time to practice what I preach!” and that night we signed ourselves up for an online course.

wedding to do list

There are many benefits of premarital education. One of the perks, in my opinion, is the quality time you get to spend with your partner and learning more about their beliefs and expectations about your relationship. These programs typically cover a lot of valuable material and provide you with skills and tools to help couples communicate effectively and have a happy, healthy relationship. Also, research shows that couples who have participated in premarital education report higher relationship satisfaction, more commitment, less conflict, and more effective communication and conflict management skills compared to individuals who did not participate in premarital education – sounds like an easy choice to me!

We’re still working through our program, but so far it has been a blast. I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted on how things are going with us, but in the meantime keep your eyes and ears peeled for our upcoming classes that are offered all around the state of Alabama! In fact, we have a listserv that will inform you of the classes in the Lee county area. Check it out here:




Carroll, J.S., & Doherty, W.J. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research. Family Relations, 52, 105-118.

Stanley, S.M., Amato, P.R., Johnson, C.A., & Markman, H.J. (2006). Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: Findings from a large, random household survey. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 117-126. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.20.1.117.

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How “You” “We” and “I” Can Affect Managing Problems in Your Relationship by Brianna Williams

We always hear that “communication is key” to having a good relationship. No doubt, communicating with your partner definitely is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship, but speaking with someone and expressing yourself is sometimes frustrating or difficult. For instance, have you ever had a conversation with your partner and they misinterpret what you meant? Just as it’s not uncommon that things get lost in communication, it’s also not uncommon that this happened because of how you say things.


The truth is, there are effective and not-so effective ways of communicating your problems with your partner that will influence how they receive your message. In fact, little things like saying “You,” “I,” and “We” can have differing results in how your partner responds and interprets your messages. But what’s the difference between them?

  • You-statements focus on a thought, feeling, problem, or experience in someone else rather than the person making the statement. For example, “You don’t do anything around the house.”
  • I-Statements declare what you as the individual think or feel. For example, “I’m upset that I am doing a lot of work around the house.”
  • We-statements would focus on the tendencies, problems, thoughts, feelings, or other experiences in your relationship rather than point the finger at one particular person (like your partner). For example, “We need to change how much work each of us do around the house.”

You may have used all of these statements at some point in your relationship, but research has found that using “We” and “I” statements are more effective than You-statements. You-statements can make your partner defensive and emotionally upset because they may feel attacked or blamed and suggest that one person is more responsible than the other for starting or resolving the problem.

angry cartoon

On the other hand, when you use we– or I– statements your partner will be less inclined to respond in that way. Although both are better than you-statements, there are important differences between them. Using we-statements suggest that you both share a problem and are equally responsible for solving the problem. It’s not always best to assume that you both have the same problem.  Your partner may not agree with you saying, “We should pack the kids’ lunches for school more” if they have been packing the lunches themselves. So ask your partner if the problem you have is one they have as well.

i statements

Alternatively, I-statements should be specific and focus on a problem so you can let your partner know you have a problem. When they are listening they know you are not blaming them, but rather you are bringing up something you need to discuss. Ultimately, using I-statements promote honesty and openness between you both, which is a goal worth striving for in any healthy romantic relationship.

So the next time you want to resolve a problem within your relationship, take a moment to think about how you want to address it with your partner. Is it something that is just bothering you? Or is it something that is frustrating you both? It is also important to think about how you’d like your partner to receive your message; using we- and I-statements can be an effective way of communicating. Using these tips will help you resolve problems together in the future.



Burr, W. R. (1990). Beyond I-statements in family communication. Family Relations, 266-273.

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The Not so Newlywed Game by Julianne McGill

not so newlywed game

A few years ago my husband Tyler was a professional swimmer. When he was still swimming professionally we used to talk about what he would do once that chapter in his life closed. His college degree was in economics, so he had a lot of options. We also talked about him staying connected to the sport in some way. I asked him several times, “Would you ever be a coach?” He would reply, “No, definitely not!”

Friends and family would ask me what he was going to do after swimming, and I would say, “We aren’t sure, we will cross that bridge once we get there.” And they would ask, “Do you think he would ever coach?” I would say, “No. He really doesn’t want to do that.”


Well, about three years ago Tyler hung up the swimsuit for the final time and retired. So what do you think he is doing now? Tyler is a… swim coach!!! We laugh about it a lot, but I tell him, “People must think I don’t know my husband! I always told people you would never be a coach.” Circumstances change and amazing opportunities open up. He is an outstanding coach and he loves his job, but who would have known?

The quiz

So, how well do you think you know your partner? Take a moment to answer these questions. Have your partner take the quiz too.

  1. Who is your partner’s best friend?
  2. What is your partner’s favorite movie?
  3. What is currently stressing your partner out the most?
  4. If your partner could do anything in the world and money wasn’t an issue, what would your partner do?
  5. What is your partner’s most embarrassing moment?
  6. If your partner could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  7. What is your partner’s biggest pet peeve?
  8. What is your partner’s favorite childhood memory?
  9. What would your partner do if they won the lottery?
  10. If your partner could meet anyone alive or dead, who would it be?

Compare notes. How did you guys do?

Knowing your partner is an important foundation for strong, lasting relationships. This process never ends because everyone changes and new experiences help shape us as individuals and couples. So, it is important to stay up to date with each other’s everyday happenings as well as likes, dislikes, and backgrounds. Getting to really know someone helps you build connection and intimacy. As you get to know each other better you can grow stronger in your relationship and better support one another.

For more fun “quizzes” to help you talk about your relationship check out our Alabama Healthy Marriage Handbook at

Pollman, M. M. H., & Finkenauer, C. (2009). Investigating the role of two types of understanding in relationship well-being:Understanding is more important than knowledge. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1512-1527.



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Going beyond Saying “I’m Sorry” by Carlie Cave

sorry bubbles

You might have had an experience where you were having an argument and all of a sudden you blurt out, “I’m sorry” in an attempt to end the conflict quickly. Or, maybe you were on the other side of the conflict and when you heard “I’m sorry,” you realized the other person just wanted the conversation to end and you felt like your feelings hadn’t been heard.

We know that conflicts in relationships are unavoidable. It is important to realize that when there is conflict, however, there is an opportunity for a resolution. In many instances, the end of a conflict between relationship partners begins with an apology, but the act of apologizing is not always easy.

If you are a partner offering an apology you may wonder, “when is the best time to apologize, and how should I apologize?” It’s a common belief that it’s best to apologize as soon as possible. The sooner the apology is made, the sooner the conflict is resolved, right? However, you might know from experience that this isn’t always true.

the art of apologizing

It’s important to give your partner time to explain how they feel before you apologize. Your partner will appreciate the opportunity to be heard. Also, going beyond “I’m sorry” by explaining what you are apologizing for and acknowledging your partner’s feelings makes the apology more sincere. Asking for forgiveness is a great way to close an apology.

If you are receiving an apology, give your partner your full attention. Whether or not you choose to accept the apology and forgive your partner is your choice, but communicate to your partner that you appreciate their act of apologizing. If you choose to accept the apology, take time to inform your partner about your decision and thank them again for the gesture. apology accepted

Apologizing may seem like a small part of a relationship, but research shows that it can have an impact on how satisfied partners are with the communication in their relationship. The more understood partners feel about a conflict and the more sincere they believe an apology to be, the more satisfied they are with communication and discussions about conflict.

Whether you are giving an apology or receiving one, learning to go beyond “I’m sorry” and showing gratitude for apologies can benefit you and your relationship partner in future conflicts.




Ebesu Hubbard, A. S., Hendrickson, B., Fehrenbach, K. S., & Sur, J. (2013). Effects of timing and sincerity of an apology on satisfaction and changes in negative feelings during conflicts. Western Journal of Communication, 77(3), 305-322.

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Dropping Your Guard: Tips for Avoiding Defensive Communication by Ania Evans

communication breakdown

Defensive communication is a common issue that can have devastating effects for individuals and their relationship. It occurs when someone is sensitive to a flaw that they view within themselves or their loved ones, but refuses to admit it to their partner. When that flaw is addressed by the partner, the individual often views it as an attack, and focuses their energy on defending themselves instead of addressing the issue. Unfortunately, when one partner senses defensiveness, they often respond by becoming defensive as well – which can, and often does, lead to a breakdown in communication.

One way to combat defensive communication in your relationship is to know what triggers it. Research shows that a lack of supportive communication can lead to a defensive reaction from your partner. When you’re addressing a concern with your partner, remember to be kind to them and be aware of their feelings. Try not to be critical – especially if you know that you’re going to be addressing a sensitive topic. When you’re warm and empathetic with your partner it might be easier for them to accept what you’re telling them. Instead of saying, “You never help out around the house anymore” you might try, “I know that you’re tired from work during the week, so I would really appreciate it if you’d help me with the chores on the weekend.”


It’s also important to have open communication with your partner. Try to address problems in your relationship when they happen. Don’t bottle up your feelings or avoid an issue until it grows into something larger. Open communication isn’t limited to issues in your relationship. Tell your partner about plans that you have when you make them, not the day that they’re expected to participate in those plans with you. Involve your partner in your life and be open with your feelings and wishes. No one wants to feel distant or disconnected from their partner. Remember to treat your partner with the same consideration and respect that you would want for yourself.

 It can be difficult to discuss sensitive issues, and everyone struggles with communication sometimes. However, if you and your partner are stuck in a cycle of arguments and defensive communication, you may be able to make some of these small changes to help repair your relationship. Remember that the goal is not to win the argument, it’s to have a happy and healthy relationship.



Becker, J. H., Ellevold, B., & Stamp, G. H. (2008). The Creation of Defensiveness in Social Interaction II: A Model of Defensive Communication among Romantic Couples. Communication Monographs75(1), 86-110. doi:10.1080/03637750701885415



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