Please share!

Last week, we discussed the basics of Relationship Education (RE)–what it is, the concepts that define the field, and how HRC fits into the wider RE picture. This week, we want to focus on why RE matters, and how it can help you in your relationships!

There is a good amount of research backing up the positive impact of RE in the lives of individuals and families, and even more suggesting that the field contains greater potential. This research spans many different countries, languages, demographics, and relationship structures, suggesting that the relationship skills taught in RE programs are valuable for everyone. In this article, we will share with you some of that research to illustrate why investing time into RE is a good idea for you as an individual, and how doing so also will help your family, your community, and society as a whole.

How can RE help me?

Humans are hired-wired to connect, which means that relating to others in a healthy way is a survival skill. Without connection, we cannot develop physically, emotionally, or mentally! Because of this, we are constantly observing and taking in information about relationships from the time that we are babies. But living in a world full of imperfect people and relationships means that we are bound to pick up unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms along the way. 

This is not to blame those that model imperfect relationship skills (although we may have a bone to pick with Nicholas Sparks and other romance authors!); relationships are difficult to navigate, and everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. Instead, understanding that our development is directly connected to both lived experience and observation gives us the opportunity to reflect on the relationships that surround us, our own relationship history, and where there may be gaps in our skills related to healthy connection. 

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Untitled Design 7

One of the main points of RE is to help fill those gaps in our skills. Do you struggle with any of these things?

  • Communicating your needs with others;
  • Expressing vulnerability with your partner;
  • Talking with your kids in a deeper, more meaningful way;
  • Shying away from commitment in relationships;
  • Teaching your kids about emotions and how to manage their big feelings;
  • Learning to trust again after divorce;
  • Setting healthy boundaries;
  • Addressing difficult topics with your kids (sex, suicide, social media, etc.)
  • Maintaining a healthy relationship with your in-laws;
  • Avoiding shouting matches with your spouse or kids.

It is totally normal to find these aspects of couple and family relationships challenging. Many of us have never been taught explicitly how to navigate these and other common relationship woes. The good news is, if it’s related to relationships—whether at home, at work, with friends, or with family—RE can help! Based on research identifying what makes healthy relationships work, these programs teach principles and skills that can help you take charge of your relationships and more successfully navigate the challenges that are part of being human. 

And the research has shown that working on our relationships has all sorts of incredible personal benefits including better mental and physical health, higher relationship satisfaction and overall happiness, and even better financial well-being. The fact is, when we strengthen our relationships, it makes life better! And this isn’t true only for us as individuals, it’s also true for our families.

How can RE help my family?

Like was mentioned before, we begin learning about relationships from the time we are born. This means that as we build our own relationships and families, we become the models that teach our children and future generations what healthy relationships look like. This can be an intimidating thought, especially if we didn’t grow up with the healthiest relationship models ourselves.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Untitled Design 44

The good news is, we have the power to be different for our kids. When we equip ourselves with the tools to navigate our relationships in a positive way, we empower our children to do so as well. We break negative cycles, and are able to provide nurturing environments for our kids to grow, thrive, and develop healthy relationships of their own. To borrow from Ghandi, we can “Be the change we want to see in our families!”

Research shows that when we invest in our family relationships, it results in better outcomes for children including more success in school, healthier friendships, less risky behavior, and better emotional and mental health. Strengthening our relationships provides our kids with the foundation they need to springboard themselves and their own progeny into a better future.

How can RE help our communities and society as a whole?

RE helps society as a whole.

In spite of the many changes that have taken place in our world over the centuries, the family is still considered to be the basic building block of society. Ultimately, when we are strengthening families, we are strengthening both our communities and our society as a whole. Family breakdown and relationship distress are associated with public health issues such as domestic abuse, alcohol misuse, child poverty, poor mental health, and even obesity. Not to mention the fact that the financial and psychological costs of family breakdown are very high

Investing in families (especially those who are at a higher risk for breakdown) by teaching the skills that will help them navigate challenges can help us in our human efforts to fight inequality, mental illness, abuse, loneliness, poverty, and other significant societal issues that will require innovative solutions rooted in connection and relationship. In other words, working to heal our families is also working to heal our world.

Action Step: Sign up for RE!

So, how can you take advantage of RE? Believe it or not, it is widely available (click here, here, here, or here, for some examples), and you can find courses, workshops, trainings, and one-on-one coaching for just about any need. Many RE programs are available for free or at a low cost to you because of Federal funding dedicated to strengthening marriages and families. For example, HRC’s R3 Academy workshops are completely free for Californians!

You’ll also find RE available in a number of formats, both in-person and online, in real time or pre-recorded. So why wouldn’t you invest in something that can make such a positive difference for you, your family, and the world? Try an Internet search for  Relationship Education classes near you, and get started expanding your healthy relationship toolbox today.

Want to learn more? Check out this report written by Patty Howell (long-time HRC President and developer of our R3 Academy Curricula) to read about the research supporting RE.