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UF relationship workshops now available online

The coronavirus crisis has put a strain on many relationships. Couples are stressed — from being cooped up at home, juggling work and childcare, and economic hardships, not to mention the general sense of uncertainty now pervading much of daily life.

But there are things couples can do, not just to get through this time, but to emerge stronger, according to the UF/IFAS SMART Couples program, which is launching free, online relationship workshops taught live and open to residents in Alachua, Duval, Palm Beach and Santa Rosa counties. Anyone can access several pre-recorded courses online as well.

The live weekly workshops will help couples improve their relationships through better communication, conflict resolution, stress management and more, said Jaime Haynes, instructor for the program. The program is led by Victor Harris, associate professor of family, youth and community sciences at UF/IFAS.

“The current COVID-19 crisis has had a profound effect on couples and families, increasing their overall stress,” Haynes said. “Couples may find that their level of anxiety or worry about the crisis is not shared by their partner. Couples who were already struggling with conflict may find themselves less capable of coping with the added stress of COVID-19.”

Couples and singles alike can benefit from the program. The ELEVATE Workshop is geared toward couples, while the Before You Tie the Knot workshop is for couples and singles. Registration is online. The program is being offered in June, July and August.

For the past five years, the SMART Couples program has delivered in-person workshops to hundreds of couples in several counties across Florida. However, with the many changes brought on by the coronavirus, the program had to change, too.

“The biggest change in our program is that it will now be offered online so those interested in learning relationship skills will be able to do so in the comfort of their own homes,” Haynes said. “The online class will be similar to the in-person version, with lots of engagement from participants, including activities to practice new skills.”

One new skill is what’s called “turning toward” one’s partner, Haynes explained.

“Turning toward your partner in small ways consistently through the day will help you feel connected. When conflict arises, be gentle when bringing up your complaint, and try to see the deeper issue behind the complaint,” she said.

For more information and relationship resources, visit the UF/IFAS SMART Couples website.

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