Frequently Asked Questions and Common Concerns
Selecting the best method or program to improve your relationship is really important, so it’s not surprising if you have some concerns or questions about the program you want answered before beginning.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this program, you’ll develop a deeper and more accurate understanding of a relationship problem. Based on this new understanding, the two of you will work together to develop solutions around the problem. The program is centered around three separate conversations with your partner– a conversation to clarify the problem or problems you want to work on, a conversation to share what each of you think causes the problem, and a final conversation to share what you’d like to do to solve that problem. To prepare for each of those conversations, you and your spouse will work separately viewing tailored information and feedback. You can read more about the programs by clicking on “Programs” in the menu above.
The OurRelationship program, which has helped many couples feel happier and more confidence in their relationship, was developed by Drs. Andrew Christensen and Brian Doss. PREP Online was adapted from the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP) program, which was developed by Drs. Howard Markman and Scott Stanley. PREP Online- developed by Drs. Scott Braithwaite and Frank Fincham- has helped many couples feel happier in their relationship and have better communication.
You can learn more about the developers of the programs by clicking on “About Us” in the menu above.
We know from talking to more than 1,000 people that couples living together (compared to married or dating couples) have both extra strengths and problems. The most common problems reported by couples who lived together are communication, partner’s personality or traits, arguments, and lack of emotional closeness. Additionally, compared to married couples, couples living together face additional challenges with commitment concerns and problems caused by previous relationships. On the other hand, couples living together reported fewer problems with sex and emotional intimacy.
Of course, your relationship may be different. Therefore, we have designed this program so that you can focus on any problem or issue you want. Additionally, you can use this program to strengthen an already strong relationship or tackle a more serious problem.
If you or your partner is pretty unhappy in your relationship, it may be helpful to know that research shows that couples who are pretty unhappy are unlikely to get better by just hoping things will improve with time. Instead, couples usually have to make active, focused efforts to improve their relationship – this typically involves starting to act and think differently.
If you’re like most couples who do these programs, you can expect to see the following benefits: a) developing a more accurate understanding of common relationship conflict dynamics; b) learning to talk in a non-blaming and productive way about relationship problems; and c) working together and individually to make changes that help improve the problem. If you have difficulty talking about your problems or taking constructive action, we think these programs could be a big help for you and your relationship.
Some couples worry that talking about their relationship problems will make those problems worse. We’re pretty convinced that’s unlikely to happen. How do we know? First, we’ve been careful to identify which problems will most likely be helped by these programs and which problems won’t likely be helped. Second, in a large-scale trial of couple therapy, more than 70% of couples showed meaningful improvements and less than 10% got worse (the rest didn’t change). Keep in mind that many of those couples had experienced recent affairs, tried therapy as a last-ditch effort before divorce, or had other really serious difficulties that made them very unhappy with their relationship. Thus, working on your relationship and talking about problems helps the majority of couples! Finally, based on a large body of longitudinal research, we know that withdraw and avoidance of problems predicts relationship deterioration. So, “wait-and-see” generally isn’t an effective approach when it comes to relationship problems. Although it may be uncomfortable at times, facing those problems and dealing with them constructively is the best way to go.
However, for most problems, our programs can be a big help. This is true for problems that you may be unsure how to deal with or that seem to be getting worse. Plus, if something in the program you are assigned to doesn’t feel relevant, you can always skip it.
First, we’ve made every effort to keep these programs short. We’ve condensed material from proven in-person relationship interventions – which typically involve a large time commitment – into about 7-8 hours. That means you can complete the program you are assigned to in less than an hour per week if you spread it over two month (or in a weekend if that would work better). Secondly, if you and your partner do decide to seek couple therapy in the future, having completed our programs first will give you a head start on that therapy.
However, couple therapy isn’t for everyone – in fact, we know that most couples don’t seek couple therapy at all (most couples who divorce don’t ever see a therapist) and those that do seek therapy wait more than six years after serious problems develop. So, this project can be helpful in two ways. First, we hope that you’ll be able to use the program you are assigned to tackle problems that you (or your partner) might not want to go to therapy for. By participating in this project, you may never need to go to therapy. Second, if you end up seeking therapy, we also expect that completing a program before starting therapy will make that therapy more helpful. Our programs can help you and your partner develop a deeper understanding of your problems so that therapy can begin to make changes more quickly.
Because we want to give you and your partner a voice on the future of your relationship, we’ve designed the program in two very specific way. First, couples work separately throughout a majority of each of the programs which can help both members apply the material without having to worry about their partner’s continued pushing. This approach gives individuals a chance to better recognize and understand relationship conflict and makes sure each member has an equal voice. Second, we’ve designed the program so – if you’d like – you can BOTH pick something you’d like to change about your relationship. After all, most people can think of something in their relationship that they’d like to change.
However, rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to ensure that your privacy is protected (see details under the concern ‘I’m worried that my information won’t be kept private’). Also, other than your partner, you’re not required to talk about your relationship with anyone after starting the program – although, we highly recommend it and most couples benefit more from participation when they work with a coach (see concern ‘Our relationship is private – I don’t want to talk to an outsider’). Additionally, we’re confident that participating in this project is one of the most helpful things that you can do for your relationship short of intensive, in-person couple therapy (see concern ‘I want to do something that has been shown to be effective’). Finally, everyone who participates in this study will receive one of the programs, although you may be placed on a waitlist first. If you have other concerns about the research study, feel free to contact our office – we’d be happy to talk to you about the study and answer any questions you have anonymously.
You can read more about the evidence supporting each program by clicking on “Programs” from the menu at the top of the page – then click on each program to learn more about the research that’s been done on both programs.