Do Relationship Education Classes Work?

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Have you ever thought about taking a relationship education class? There are plenty of reasons why you might have. Maybe your religious tradition suggests or requires one before you marry. Perhaps you want to take advantage of the discount Florida offers to engaged couples who take such a course. Or maybe you’ve been married or coupled for a while, and have come to see that there are a few issues you need to work on.

Even so, maybe you may have some hesitations or a few questions. Will it be awkward? Will I like the counselors or teachers? Most of all…Will it work?

Over 100 Studies Conclude: Relationship Education is Effective

If you’ve wondered in particular about that last question, we have some good news for you. A recent paper that brought together the results of more than 100 studies looking at this issue found that overall, relationship education classes and programs definitely do work for the couples who enroll in them.

On average, the thousands of men and women who participated in these programs said they had improved their communication skills and that their relationship quality was higher. These improvements also weren’t just temporary. When the couples were followed over time, the changes for the better generally held up pretty well.

Doesn’t Have to Take a Long Time

If you’re worried that you’ll have to spend a lot of time and money to see these results, don’t be. Researchers concluded that programs and classes providing between 9 and 20 hours of class time were the most effective of all those they considered. Those that provided fewer hours or more hours didn’t seem to work as well.

From this evidence, we can conclude that even just 4-5 two-hour classes could make a noticeable difference in your relationship. Great news for those of us with busy schedules! 

What Happens in Relationship Education Classes?

What are marriage and relationship education classes like? You may practice problem-solving skills using role play. You’ll likely discuss common areas of conflict, like money, in-laws, leisure time, parenting, and sex. You’ll probably learn to talk to each other more constructively, without blaming, criticism, or contempt, while also allowing each person to make his or her concerns heard. You may discuss financial management and healthy living. And you’ll probably talk about the basic needs we typically have in relationships and how to get those met in a healthy way. By the way, you’re also likely to have some fun!

So, now you know that relationship skills classes work, work quickly, and are productive and fun. Ready to try one out? Check out our Classes and Events page to learn more about in-person classes and events that may be available in your area, as well as free online classes.

By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida

References

Hawkins, A.J., Blanchard, V. L., Baldwin, S. A., & Fawcett, E. B. (2008). Does marriage and relationship education work? A meta-analytic study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (76) 5, 723-734.