As we approach Valentine’s Day, seeking an expert to provide insight on how couples can cope with relationship difficultly and financial stress? Mariana Falconier, associate professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program located in the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center, offers tips for building long-lasting relationships.

1. Be Understanding, Empathic, and SupportiveYour ability to listen, understand, and support your partner will probably encourage your partner’s ability to do the same. Being able to see what your partner is seeing and connect with what your partner is feeling will allow you to understand and validate him/her in genuine, powerful ways. It will help you be less critical and judgmental and more empathic and compassionate.

2. Make Time for Your Partner and Your RelationshipIn today’s hectic life with competing family, social, and work demands, it is very important to make time not only for yourself but also for your partner and your relationship. Spending time with your partner in positive ways is essential for staying close and connected in your relationship.

3. Manage Your Stress Together!You can do things to reduce your stress individually but also with your partner. When you and your partner deal with stress together (e.g., relaxing together, providing each other support and encouragement, engaging together in a recreational activity, finding solutions together, etc.) you strengthen your relationship and sense of closeness and intimacy.

“Having a healthy stable relationship with your partner may have positive effects on your physical health, psychological well-being, your relationships with family and friends, and your work and/or career,” says Falconier.

Falconier has developed and pilot-tested TOGETHER, which is an interdisciplinary program to help couples improve their communication, stress management, and financial management skills. Virginia Tech’s TOGETHER program, located in Falls Church, Va., is a free program to provide couples a safe place for working together to build long-lasting changes in their families. Couples are offered an educational group workshop where they learn relationship related skills (communication, problem solving), stress management, and financial education and management.

The TOGETHER program is a $7.5 million dollar five-year project funded by the Office of Family Assistance, Administration of Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to promote healthy relationships and economic stability among low-income couples in Northern Virginia and Montgomery Co. and Prince George’s Co. in Maryland. The project is conducted in partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park and is directed by Falconier and Jinhee Kim, an associate professor specialized in financial education. Participating couples receive a stipend for completing questionnaires and attending the workshop/meetings up to a total of $280. For more information, visit:

Mariana Falconier Background:Mariana Falconier is an associate professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. Her research focuses on how couples cope with stress, with special focus on economic stress and immigration stress in Latino couples. She has developed and pilot-tested TOGETHER, an interdisciplinary program to help couples improve their communication, coping, and financial management skills. She is the Principal Investigator of the project TOGETHER: A Couple's Model to Enhance Relationship and Economic Stability. She is the leading editor of the book Couples Coping with Stress: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Dr. Falconier teaches multicultural issues and postmodern approaches in family therapy. View Falconier’s full bio.

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