Published on 02/10/22

Better than chocolate? Free couples workshops help relationships thrive

By Cal Powell
Participants from a fall 2021 ELEVATE workshop in Henry County celebrate completing the program.
Participants from a fall 2021 ELEVATE workshop in Henry County, Georgia, celebrate completing the program.

A 12-hour workshop may not sound like the most romantic gift for Valentine’s Day, but hundreds of Georgia couples testify to the benefits of free relationship education offered by the University of Georgia.

The free ELEVATE training, open to all Georgia couples in committed relationships, will help couples better manage stress, strengthen their relationship with each other and deal with differences in healthy ways, said Ted Futris, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences and UGA Cooperative Extension family life specialist.

“These workshops create opportunities to grow as a couple,” Futris said. “Couples are going to come out of the workshops with some tangible skills that will help their relationships.”

The training is available in both virtual and in-person formats, led by facilitators trained in the ELEVATE curriculum, an evidence-informed and fun program that teaches practical skills that couples can use to “take their relationship to the next level,” Futris said.

“I wasn’t aware before the program how much of a rut we were in,” one participant wrote in a testimonial after completing the workshop this fall. “The program helped to bring our relationship to the forefront of our minds and start using the techniques ELEVATE taught.”

“All relationships are work,” Futris said, “and if you really want to make it last, you’ve got to put some effort into it. Participation in the ELEVATE program makes it fun work.”

The workshops are spread out over an eight-week span, and couples can receive up to $350 after completing both the workshop and a series of surveys.

Nearly 1,000 couples have completed the workshops in the last six years.

“This was such an awesome opportunity,” another participant wrote. “We gained the ability to communicate better, recognize each other’s stressors and handle conflict in a more positive manner.”

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“It’s not just for couples who might be struggling,” Futris said. “The workshops are good for couples who are celebrating their relationship and just looking to make it even stronger. It’s a great way to tell your partner ‘I love you.’”

Cal Powell is the director of communications for the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.