Don’t be a jerk! Relationship skills group open to Soldiers, civilians

By Jensen JenningsSeptember 1, 2023

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. – As people continue their return to normalcy following the previous three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new course, which aims to help people with their relationship skills, is available for free to anyone with post access.

The eight-week course, How to Avoid Being a Jerk, which began on August 24, is hosted by Chaplain (Maj.) Brandon Johnson, family life chaplain, and Ronni Madden, counselor at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center (RWBAHC) Counselor Ronni Madden, every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. at Behavioral Health Clinic inside RWBAHC.

“The course is open to anyone with post access,” Johnson said. “The primary people who would benefit the most are people who would like to be in a relationship that aren’t yet in one, or maybe someone who is early on in a relationship and would like to strengthen those skills of being in a relationship.”

Course attendees will learn how to ask the right questions, analyze their partner’s level of conscientiousness, resolve emotional baggage, be aware of problems in the relationship and to stop giving a “jerk” too many chances, as well as identify and break destructive dating patterns that prevent finding a life partner.

“There’s always a need for relationship skills classes,” Johnson said. “Beyond myself and Ronni teaching a curriculum, there’s also a benefit of getting the experience of people from the group.”

The course is structured similarly to a support group where attendees share their experiences and talk with each other while Johnson and Madden lead the instruction portion of the sessions.

In late spring, Johnson said they hosted a few couples group therapy sessions and what they discovered was it can be challenging for people to sync up their schedules for eight weeks and realized there might be some people who want to have desirable relationship skills who feel like they don’t have them yet.

One of the driving factors behind setting up the group, were the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The effects of COVID are still here with us,” Johnson said. “When we consider people, like younger Soldiers, who finished their final year of high school or college in a virtual environment, we’re talking about a pretty significant part of our population that was isolated for a while, and they lost the opportunity to have those repetitions in connections with people in person.”

Johnson and Madden realized there was a need for people to develop these skills further who might’ve missed out on opportunities to further their communication skillset or feel like they don’t have any of the skills and are looking for a way to improve.

Each week, attendees will learn a different relationship skill topic. Members of the group will be encouraged to bring up past or present issues they’ve dealt with in hopes of being able to discuss the situation with the other attendees and hear different perspectives on how to handle certain situations.

“The neat thing about group interactions, is that it helps people realize that they really do have these skills,” Johnson said. “They can hear someone else who went through a similar situation and gain the confidence that someone else was able to overcome a similar situation and achieve the type of relationship they are looking to get into.”

The goal of the course is for people to feel confident being connected to other people. With the course being held in a group setting, it encourages attendees to be vulnerable with each other and bring the walls down in hopes of building meaningful connections and having powerful conversations.

“I’m convinced that if you’re making positive and healthy connections with the people in your home, then that spills over into every other aspect of life,” Johnson said. “Someone who’s secure at home is going to be better prepared to face the challenges that we face as Soldiers, [Department of Army] Civilians and others on a daily basis.”

If you are interested in attending the course or would like more information call 520.533.5161 or 520.533.2388.

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Fort Huachuca is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command and more than 48 supported tenants representing a diverse, multiservice population. Our unique environment encompasses 946 square miles of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles of protected electronic ranges, key components to the national defense mission.

Located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles north of the border with Mexico, Fort Huachuca is an Army installation with a rich frontier history. Established in 1877, the Fort was declared a national landmark in 1976.

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