FOCUS for Couples

By Kirsten Woodward, director of FOCUS and Family Programs Division

We celebrated Valentine’s day earlier this month. It is a holiday in which couples express their romantic thoughts for each other. The holiday celebrates love and is observed by exchanging candy & gifts. It’s a holiday where couples can share their feelings of adoration toward one another and small tokens of affection.

But what if you and your loved one are having challenges? What if communication is a challenge? What if your significant other is not willing to connect?  Perhaps stressors from multiple deployments and separations are also at play and possibly even compounded by combat stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?  For these couples, any day can be a struggle just to converse let alone feel connected and whole as a healthy loving couple.

In our program FOCUS (Families Over Coming Under Stress) we are addressing these very issues through the core components of the program, known as FOCUS for Couples. One of the key components in FOCUS for Couples is the application of the program’s tool — the “narrative timeline”. The narrative timeline is a verbal and visual tool that allows couples to describe challenges and stressors individually and within the relationship. Each partner identifies from the same point in time their perspective of the relationship issues and how this is impacting the functioning of the relationship. The visual ability to see each other’s perspective allows for the couple to make meaning out of adversity; normalize distress; clarify confusion and misunderstanding; promote perspective taking and support expression of individual experiences.

Sharing experiences in systematic manner helps partners to make sense of what has been happening to each person and to their relationship. By the application of a narrative timeline allows the couple to improve communication and provide support to one another.

If you and significant other are experiencing relationship challenges, don’t hesitate to contact your local FOCUS office at