by Karen Shirer, Ph.D.
Each year we plan to visit our health care provider and dentist for annual checkups in order to catch problems before they become major health issues. As an Extension educator, you often encourage your participants to get preventative health checkups and screenings for health concerns. But how often do we or our participants do a check-up of our intimate relationship health?
The Relationship Checkup: Support for Military Couples, a recent webinar by the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN), described these benefits of healthy couple relationships for our physical and mental well-being. They:
- Contribute to the overall well-being and resilience of families and to their children’s positive development.
- Enable families to weather stressful transitions like having children, losing or changing jobs, moving to a new home.
- Promote physical, mental and behavioral health.
The webinar goes on to describe The Relationship Checkup, an education program designed to prevent relationship problems from growing into bigger ones. The tool identifies a relationship's strengths, weaknesses, and areas of concern. The results identify specific suggestions for improving one’s relationship. The developer, Dr. James Cordova, describes it as “the relationship health equivalent” of the annual physical health checkup.
Offering Relationship Checkups in Cooperative Extension Programs
Many of you work with families, including military families, to strengthen their health as well as their relationships. You might want to consider including a relationship checkup activity in your programs.
Utah State University Extension (USUE) offers 10 relationship checkup questions based on John Gottman’s work. Consider incorporating these in your health and relationship education programs. USUE partners with the Utah Marriage Commission. Their website includes numerous relationship resources including webinars, videos, and courses. USUE offers the RELATE assessment free to Utah residents.
Dr. Cordova also offers a checkup not specific to military couples through his website. Each partner individually completes their assessment. Once they receive their results, a one-hour meeting with a licensed therapist is held to review the results. No cost information is provided on the website.
You can also check out the online tools listed that use a similar checkup format. They include The Couple Checkup developed by Dr. David Olson, The Gottman Relationship Checkup developed by Dr. John Gottman, and . The Relate Assessment developed by the Relate Foundation.
Dr. Cordova’s and these programs are based on research-based factors that can be changed through education and counseling (i.e., communication skills, stress management and managing conflict).
Some of these assessments are only available through a licensed counselor who has been trained in the tool’s use. In addition, some assessments have costs for the tool and any required counselor meeting.
The inclusion of these assessments in this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not an endorsement by MFLN or our funder, the US Department of Defense.
Tips for Using Checkups with Couples
When using a checkup tool, be sure the tool is appropriate for your participants, including those who are unmarried, dating/engaged, LGBTQ, married, and remarried. It is recommended that you identify a list of licensed counselors or organizations offering counseling services. Sometimes couples’ problems can not be addressed with educational programs and you will want sources to which to refer.
Relationship checkups, like health checkups, can help improve intimate relationships and overall health.
A number of online programs are available for couples to assess their relationship’s health. Most have a cost and may require a licensed counselor.
Check out the resources listed in this blog post as well as the MFLN Supporting Military Couples webinar series.
Please share relationship checkup programs you have used and how you used them in your extension programming in the comments section below.
References and Resources
Cordova, J. & Smith, K. (2021) The Relationship Checkup: Support for Military Couples [Webinar]. Military Family Learning Network. https://militaryfamilieslearni...rk.org/event/111934/
MFLN Family Transitions (2021). A Close Look at Relationships: Supporting Military Couples. https://militaryfamilieslearni...org/militarycouples/
Rees, C. (2020, June 24). 10 Relationship Checkup Questions [Blog Post]. https://extension.usu.edu/stro...ip-checkup-questions
Utah State University Extension. (N.d.). Utah Marriage Commission: Help Strengthen your Relationship [Website]. https://extension.usu.edu/strongermarriage/index
Karen Shirer is a member of the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team and previously the Associate Dean with the University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Family Development. Karen is also the parent of two adult daughters, a grandmother, a spouse, and a cancer survivor.