Relationships Need CARE

It was a half hour after four and the sun was battling the clouds for a chance to shine. Five couples stood between the mist and the mountain at Aliso Creek. The hike up was a short but a direct ascent, so two couples were relaxing on the lone bench while others stood, hands and arms intertwined.

Courtesy of Mandy Mount

Courtesy of Mandy Mount

Scattered between the couples, taking pictures and offering points of references into the foggy ocean below was director of the CARE office Dr. Mandy Mount and VIP’s (Violence Intervention Program) Zabie Khorakiwala with her two Shiba Inus, Kita and Jack.

Campus Recreation’s Team UP! coordinator, Drew McCrary, led the hike. The Palo Verde Community Programming Coordinator, Kerri Sherwood, helped organize and implement the 2013-2014 first UCI Partner Retreat: Laguna Hike and Beach Bonfire.

Three hours before the group wound their way up the side of Aliso Creek, everyone convened in the Palo Verde community center where they were greeted by Zabie’s warm smile and positive energy. After filling out a survey and four questions based on each person’s idea of love and relationships —questions most of us have never thought about or been asked to think about, Dr. Mount started her presentation.

To Dr. Mandy Mount, it is important to discuss matters such as, ‘How would you describe what love should be like in a relationship?’ and ‘What makes you and your partner great together?’

“It is easy to get swept up in the demands of academics and not prioritize other areas of our lives, such as our relationships,”  Dr. Mount said.

The questions were an introduction to the topic of discussion based around Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages.”  The five languages are the ways in which each person recognizes and expresses love in the form of ‘Words of Affirmation,’ ‘Quality Time,’ ‘Receiving Gifts,’ ‘Acts of Service’ and ‘Physical Touch.’

To determine each partner’s language, everyone took “The Love Language Quiz” and was then asked to share the results with our partners. (The quiz is available online if anyone is interested in learning their love language!) Some of the partners have been together for seven or more years, while others have been in a relationship for much less, but regardless of length in relationship, almost every couple was surprised at the results of their partners.

The reason for taking the “Love Languages Quiz” is to understand that not every person receives or thinks to show love in a certain way. By understanding how each partner views love, we can actively and more effectively express the love our partners want and deserve. This is part of prevention education on how to develop and maintain healthy relationships because, as Dr. Mount explains, “If we wait until the unhealthy or abusive patterns have already developed, we have waited too long.”

This is where the CARE office and Campus Recreation developed the idea to host partner retreats “that would support students in developing healthier and more positive interactions with one another,”  Dr. Mount said.

The communication and listening skills learned during Dr. Mount’s interactive presentation about love languages help those graduate and undergraduate students to foster fulfilling and lasting relationships built from every interaction, not just intimate partners.

However, since most partners’ love language, including myself, was quality time, the emphasis of the retreat was to allow all the couples to board up life’s distractions and turn their focus on themselves and their partners. Hiking in Aliso Creek put all the couples into the refreshing and loving arms of nature and for each to practice overcoming challenges together.

After the hike, the partners zig-zagged down Aliso Creek and through the beachy, bohemian neighborhoods of South Laguna to reach Aliso Beach. Down at the beach, the wind-chill was met by a fierce bonfire the couples gathered around to roast hot dogs and drink hot chocolate. The sun finally won the battle over the sky and smeared its red, orange and purple rays across the sky as each partner relaxed comfortably on their newly acquired blankets.

As the retreat came to a close, everyone was busy enjoying the last minutes of an amazingly introspective day spent growing closer to our partners, something that, in the haste of life, we don’t often set aside time for.

“Our intimate relationships have an enormous impact on every aspect of our lives,” Dr. Mount explained. “When our relationships are not well, we are unable to feel fully productive, centered and happy.”

There are so few people reminding us students to pay deep attention to relationships with our lovers and friends. The CARE office and Campus Recreation must be recognized for seeing the importance of holding these programs and retreats. If you missed the first UCI Partner Retreat of the year, don’t worry because Dr. Mandy Mount, the CARE staff and Campus Rec are planning more retreats for the year including activities on the high ropes course at the ARC, kayaking in the Back Bay and couples yoga administered by yogi guru herself, Khorakiwala.

As Dr. Mount exclaimed, “It’s a unique opportunity at an incredible price!”

Join the CARE listserv or visit their website for updates on partner retreats and other activities that promote healthy relationships.