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Taking steps to build healthy domestic relationships

Improving adult couple relationships can be one of the key strategies for decreasing and potentially eradicating interpersonal violence.

At first glance, Chilliwack’s Ann Davis Transition Services (ADTS) and Building Healthy Relationships (BHR) are odd bedfellows. However, on closer inspection, the relationship between these two organizations is a perfect match. BHR is advertised in this paper occasionally as “Boot Camp for Couples,” whereas ADTS is dedicated to sheltering women and ending domestic violence.

This domestic violence mission is often thought to be in conflict with marriage. This is because of the sad reality for some intimate couple relationships. At their most dysfunctional, some unions become headlines about wives battered or murdered, which is why the women’s domestic shelter movement has been necessary. Unfortunately many more relationships never fulfill their potential.

Contrary to fears about dangers in society, violence happens most often in marriages and intimate partner relationships. My criminology professor often said, “The closer someone is to you, the more likely they are to kill you.”  I suspect current statistics would bear this out.

Rather than view relationships as the enemy, ADTS has, for 18 years of the BHR’s existence, recognized that most marriages can be improved. Improving adult couple relationships can be one of the key strategies for decreasing and potentially eradicating interpersonal violence.

It seems odd that romantic notions of relationships continue to flourish.  Healthy romantic relationships follow rules of science that are better understood now than ever before. In an era where we embrace all that computing and medical science can provide, we continue to be luddites in the love department.

We know, for instance, that we can teach people how to communicate. We can teach them to identify and express their deepest needs. We can teach them how to negotiate their own needs while responding with care to the needs of others. We also know that frustration and anger result when people either don’t know what they need, don’t how to express their needs, or don’t know how to respond empathetically to the needs of others.  It is strange that we continue to form couple relationships and have children, for the most part believing that this knowledge and these skills will come naturally.

Somehow, we managed to go from a society where smoking happened everywhere, to one where it is now no longer socially acceptable. Fortunately, the harms from tobacco are decreasing. Sadly, the harms from poor relationships are not. The effects of poor relationships play a role in depression and anxiety, and in more extreme cases, trauma. These, in turn, affect children growing up in the midst of these relationships.

Hopefully 2015 will be a year when Chilliwack couples take advantage of programs like those offered by Ann Davis and Building Healthy Relationships. For more information, go to


Dr. Robert Lees, R.Psych, is the Community Psychologist for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in Chilliwack