This blog post is used courtesy of Prepare-Enrich.  You can read the original post here. 

We’ve heard it before.  Relationships can, and will (if we let them), fall in a rut.  We know they take energy, we know they take effort, we’ve heard this all before.  Amongst the extensive amount of stale relationship advice we’ve heard time and time again, this one stands out as most over-used.

But what if we told you that putting in the effort in a new and exciting way can actually make you a happier couple?  Instead of dreading the rut, or putting off the effort, you can try new and fun things together to actually create a healthier relationship.  It’s work, but it’s fun work.

Studies show that the more you try stimulating activities with your partner, the more satisfied you are in your relationship.  This means couples who go outside the comfort zone of their typical date night, like the same restaurant every Friday, and try something new – something that both partners are excited about, are happier in their relationship.

Why is this?  When experiencing something new, the brain releases two different chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine.  Both of these chemicals are the same chemicals that are released during the “honeymoon” phase of a relationship, when dates are new and exhilarating.

Think movie date night: do you and your partner always watch a comedy movie on date night?  What do you think would happen if you watched a scary movie instead?  Imagine the thrill of the suspenseful music, your hearts beating at twice the speed, small gasps here and there followed by a long scream that neither of you know whose mouth it came from.   This new, shared experience recreates the feeling of when you were first dating.  Butterflies fluttering in your stomach, your heart skipping a beat, and seeking comfort in one another.  These feelings can be recreated in many different ways, which is why it’s important to try new things with one another.  It’ll keep the spark alive.

It’s time you and your partner invest in your relationship.  It’s time to have some fun.  Try something new this weekend.  Not sure where to start?  Take this quiz to spark some innovative date night ideas.  Or check out this blog for a list of unique ideas.

Want even more great advice like this?  Attend one of our free workshops for couples!  You can find upcoming workshops here.


In our busy world, taking a moment to slow down seems nearly impossible. Rest, however, is an incredible healer. Our bodies and minds long for a break and truly benefit from receiving one. Our relationships benefit from rest as well. Taking a break together can help relieve the stress your relationship may be under.

Although a long stay on some warm beach listening to the waves crashing is what many of us imagine when we hear the word “relax”, a trip to the Bahamas may not be in the cards this year, let alone this week.

Here are three  practical things you can do each week as a couple to relax together.

1) Go For A Walk

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When we think about unwinding after a long day, Netflix and the couch are often the first things that come to mind. And certainly some days call for a good show and a blanket! But taking a walk with your partner out in nature will give you the opportunity to talk with one another. Plus, nature has a way of calming the senses and restoring your mood.

2) Laugh Together

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Try out a comedy club or choose a funny movie or sitcom. Laughing reduces your stress level significantly. Laughing together also adds a bonding element that reduces you and your partner’s stress at the same time. That’s a win win!

3) Cook Together

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Even if it is just once a week, choose a recipe and make it together. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be a full meal. It could be a cake, or some cookies, or maybe a healthy smoothie! Whatever it is, working together to create a treat to share will bring lots of laughs and connection. Cooking is a creative activity, and being creative reduces stress!

There are many more ways to relax as a couple. Come up with your favorite ideas and choose at least one moment every week to unwind as a couple.

And don’t forget to take time to relax on your own as well! Listen to a podcast, take a long bath, or have a conversation with a friend. A more relaxed you is a happier, healthier you, and a happier healthier you is a better partner!

You can learn more about how to handle stress in your relationship at our free workshops! You can see what’s coming up in your area here.



New Year, new you, nice try. We all fall into the same trap of “new year’s resolutions.” This time, year after year, gym prices become “discounted,” self-help books flood our Instagram feeds, and green shakes capitalize the end caps of our local supermarket. We are overwhelmed with the idea that we can change ourselves if we try just hard enough, so let’s push ourselves to reach that yearly goal. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into this cyclical way of thinking every year. Are you focusing your energy on changing the right things?

Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Research has shown that our personality does not change. About 50% of our personality is determined by our genetic make-up. The other 50% is based on the “nurture” effect, or how you find you fit in society. People tend to seek out settings that match their personality. It’s not often you find an introvert relaxing at a networking event. We create environments for ourselves that reflect our personalities, i.e. extroverts pursue parties to unwind on the weekend.

Our research at PREPARE/ENRICH is aligned with the notion that personality doesn’t change. The personality portion of our assessment, SCOPE (which stands for social, change, organized, pleasing, and emotionally steady) is based off of the Five Factor model. For the most part, we understand that this scale stays static through couples who have taken our assessment multiple times.

However, there is a scale that you, as an individual, can change – the Relationship Dynamics scale. This scale assesses different traits you possess in a relationship and how strong or weak you are in those areas – it is not reflective of your agreement as a couple, but rather where you, as an individual, lie on these different attribute spectrums. Our Relationship Dynamic scale measures assertiveness, self-confidence, avoidance, and partner dominance, as these traits are found to change as a person intentionally grows. The more we communicate and work on those areas of ourselves, the better the outcome.

People don’t change, they grow. We grow as individuals, we grow as couples, and we grow as a society. Growth takes time and constant evaluation of yourself and your situations. The more people learn about themselves, the more they can become the best version of themselves. But this doesn’t mean that people will change the essence of who they are. Don’t expect your partner to change their personality, because that’s an unrealistic expectation to have. Our partners aren’t our projects.

However, if you have had the conversation and you both want to grow, you’re in luck – that’s healthy and realistic.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to grow as a couple. Hold each other and yourself accountable for your goals. Take the non-facilitated version of our assessment, called Couple Checkup, at the start of the year, then retake it at the end of the year to track your growth and progress. .

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that New Year’s resolution should result in a “new you.” But it’s our unique personality quirks that attracted us to our partners in the first place and those traits are unlikely to change. By focusing your time and energy on creating positive growth in yourself and your relationship, you set yourself up for future success.

Register today for one of our free workshops and you can take a Prepare-Enrich couple's assesment for free! Learn more here.

Read the original article and many more like it on the Prepare-Enrich Blog.

A couple lights sparklers


This November my wife and I will celebrate our 15th anniversary. I began to think through our time together, the great times, the average times, and believe it or not, the hard times. The most difficult time for me in our marriage was 6 months after we had our first child.

Having a child drastically changes the dynamics of a marriage. I soon began to realize, the undivided attention I once received from my spouse, was now divided between our child, the business that entailed, and myself. After 6 months of this change, I felt like I was at the bottom of the list. Supposedly my responsibility was to go to work, pay the bills, help out when I was home, and repeat the cycle. I began to ask myself a series of questions: Is this just how it has to be? Is this why people grow apart? Have we grown apart? Do I just need to learn to be happy doing my own thing?

After some time struggling with these questions, I can tell you the answer is ‘no.’ You can still have a great, strong marriage while raising kids. The key is, I have found, to be intentional in keeping quality time with your spouse.

How can you be intentional?

If Not Now When

Build quality time into your daily routine. One of the greatest things we did for our family was to solidify a routine. For the most part, we wake up the same time, eat at the same times, and go to sleep at the same times every day. That routine allows us to have quality time together daily. For us it is every evening from 9-10pm after our children are in bed. For you that may be a different time, the import thing is to have it somewhere in your routine.

Keep weekly date nights with your spouse. It’s somewhat strange that our culture has a practice of ending dating after marriage. You will never know your spouse completely. Part of the excitement of marriage is in pursuing your spouse and knowing he or she on a progressively deeper level.

Remove distractions. I am guessing as you read the first two tips on being intentional, something inside of you said, “Yeah right, who has time for that?” I would have to say that most people have that reaction, but I would propose it is largely a priority problem. How can I say that? Statistics show the average person spends just over 5 hours per day watching TV. Combine that with time on the phone or tablet and you begin to see the picture of why most people are too busy. The key to quality time is to remove these distractions. Shut off the TV, put your phone and tablet away, spend some time with the one you married.

Quality time is so crucial to the health of your marriage and your family. Wherever you are at in your marriage journey--good times or hard--I would encourage you to find and incorporate more quality time together. I think you will find the time investment is well worth it.

To get more great tips like this, get registered for one of our free workshops! Find out more here.



When I was 11 my family flew from California back to Iowa to visit family. It was the first time I had ever been on a plane. I distinctly remember the flight attendants giving my brothers and I these little wings to pin on our shirts. I remember them stopping by to see us a lot, and giving us treats. We thought we were pretty special, and they made us feel safe.Flight Attendant


I didn’t fly again until a couple of years ago. I was going along on a business trip with my husband, his two business partners, and their wives. I was really excited to get out of the winter cold and spend a few days in San Antonio with my friends. However, the thought of flying was giving me overwhelming anxiety. So much so that I was almost ready to back out of the trip.


But my mom gave me some advice that got me on the plane. She reminded me of the first flight I had taken almost 17 years before. She told me, “Keep your eyes on the flight attendants. They fly all day, everyday. They’ll help you stay calm.”


She was right. During takeoff I could see them chatting away buckled into their seats. When the plane would shake, they would keep serving Diet Coke and pretzels with smiles on their faces. They were so used to the turbulence that they spent their time calming people with their kindness. They had so much experience flying that takeoff and landing didn’t bother them at all. Once again, they made me feel safe.


My husband and I experienced something similar in our relationship. The first year of marriage can be rough. And I’ve heard that, for whatever reason, year seven is a tough one too. This was the case for us.


Sometimes it’s easygoing. Other times there’s so much turbulence you’re waiting for someone to turn on the seatbelt sign. For us, our older married friends were the equivalent of the flight attendant. Their experience with the ups and downs of marriage helped us avoid some pitfalls and encouraged us when things were tough. They also gave us advice about how to make our relationship fun, fulfilling, and rewarding. Finding a couple to mentor you is a great strategy for maintaining your relationship.


Healthy Relationships Iowa’s couple’s workshops do not assign you a mentor, however, we use a curriculum called Prepare/Enrich that is based off research of thousands of couples. HRI offers education for couples on communication, family background, conflict resolution, understanding your partner, and more. This information is based on years of studying couples and it provides proven strategies that couples can use every day.


We encourage you to find a couple to keep your eyes on to help you navigate your relationship’s flight. It’ll make a big difference. In the meantime, we’d love to give you education that you can utilize in your relationship as well. You can learn more about our free classes and register here.

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