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 Feel the joy of healthy relationships.

Find relationship resources for teens, couples, parents, co-workers & all combinations.

Who We Are

First Things First (FTF) is a non-profit organization that provides healthy relationship skills through classes, events and multimedia outlets. 

We aim to be a community resource for the Chattanooga area and beyond by providing the most up-to-date research, content and educational experiences to all.

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Classes & Events

First Things First holds a number of events and classes throughout the year on topics ranging from dating to marriage to co-workers and everything in-between. Check back frequently for newly added classes and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Stories

Providing real tools for real relationships means we hear a ton of really amazing stories. Here are a few people who chose to connect with First Things First and feel the joy of healthy relationships.

  • Justin Washington, Work Smart, Live Well and OH Baby! Participant

    - Justin Washington, Work Smart, Live Well and OH Baby! Participant

    "I am a HUGE fan of First Things First because when I first moved to Chattanooga in 2014, I had a lot of struggles, but First Things First helped me get on the right track. I attended a Work Smart, Live Well workshop and learned a lot of skills that helped me have confidence and better communication on the job.

    I also gained a deeper knowledge of how your personal life can affect your work life and vice versa. If you’re in toxic relationships with friends or loved ones, they can take a toll on your overall mood, attitude and focus which will inevitably interfere with your motivation and performance on the job.

    Also, when my wife and I found out we were pregnant a few months ago, we realized we needed to work out a few things to keep our marriage prioritized and our careers focused in order to bring our baby into a healthy, thriving home. We went to the First Things First website and signed up for OH, Baby! It was a great date night for us and it was great insight for what to expect when we bring home our first child.

    First Things First gives the community hope. When someone wants to make a change in their life, but they don’t know what they don’t know, First Things First is there to help."

  • Tiffany Cantrell, Teacher at Ridgeland High School

    - Tiffany Cantrell, Teacher at Ridgeland High School

    "I have been an educator at Ridgeland High School for two years and in that short time I have seen tremendous, positive changes in my students as a result of their participation in the First Things First’s healthy relationship skills classes.

    The students of Ridgeland are exposed to a number of wonderful programs in our community but none of those programs reaches our students the way First Things First does.

    My students get so much more out of the classes than healthy relationship skills and helpful tips for being successful after high school. They learn about themselves and gain an appreciation for the unique characteristics that make them who they are. I have seen a huge boost in their confidence and self-esteem, which is evident in both their school and personal lives.

    First Things First has not only helped to foster relationships among classmates, it has brought me closer to my students. I have had special opportunities to get to know each of them on a more personal level which has helped me to more effectively teach them. First Things First has made a huge impact on Ridgeland and the students, and I look forward to their visits each year. I hope that they can continue to develop and offer these beneficial classes for teens for many years to come."

  • Felicia and Eundra Porter, Maximize Your Marriage Participants

    - Felicia and Eundra Porter, Maximize Your Marriage Participants

    "My husband and I were having major problems. Our marriage was in crisis. I saw an advertisement for a First Things First class on a bus, so I encouraged him to call and see what we could do.

    We went to Maximize Your Marriage, and it was eye-opening to me. Or really, for both of us. There were some things in my mind that I thought were happening in our marriage, but after attending that class I realized our problems were all about a lack of communication. Until that point, I didn’t know if I was really going to stay or walk away.

    Without First Things First, I believe, we honestly would not be married today. Or, at the very least, not as happily married."

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First Things First Presents a Short Film About the Importance of Family

Latest Posts

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    Does Divorce Lead to Happiness?

    It was a turning point in the fictional marriage of Katie and Ben in the movie The Story of Us, starring Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Katie tells Ben that she doesn’t want to end their marriage.

    “…You always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly,” she says to him. “That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up.”

    Many couples in America today find themselves at the same turning point in their marriage. Many who choose to separate often find out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Research has shown that if a person is unhappy, divorce is not necessarily the road to happiness.

    A national study in 2002 of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). The couples were interviewed twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years.

    Following this study, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wanted to know what makes marriages miserable and discover how they can become happy.

    “We often talk about marriage like a piece of fruit – it went bad, as if it is out of our control,” says Waite. “I was interested in determining if the couples who divorced were happier following the divorce than those who chose to stay together in spite of their unhappiness.”

    Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as "life in hell." Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

    Waite interviewed couples, asking them to tell their stories about how their bad marriage got better.

    Alcoholism, infidelity, overly-critical spouses, chronic miscommunication, irrational jealousy, and emotional neglect all fit into the equation, but the four most common issues that made marriages unhappy were: bad things happening to good spouses, job reversals, the kids and illness. Examples included: a spouse losing their job creating financial strain in the marriage, the challenges of raising children which left no time to be together as a couple, or a spouse making a poor decision during a weak moment.

    In response to the question, “How did things get better?” couples described what Waite calls the “marital endurance ethic.”

    “Couples shared something like, ‘Mostly we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and things began to get better,’” Waite says. “Many of them were influenced by friends’ advice to hang in there, that they were headed in the right direction.”

    A passage of time often has a positive effect on problems, according to Waite. Just because couples are unhappy now doesn’t mean they will be unhappy forever.

    Katie and Ben understood that fact. “There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight,” Katie said.

    Katie was able to see past their present moment and look at the big picture. She realized that her husband was a good friend, and good friends are hard to find.

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    A Practical Guide for Empty-Nesters

    You walk through the door after dropping your baby off at college. The silence is deafening. Who knew that one more person could add so much noise to the house?

    Trying to hold back the tears, you wonder what they are up to. Will they miss you? How long will it take them to call? Will they pay attention to a thing you taught them?

    Even if the past few months have been challenging, there is something about an empty nest that jolts you into a new reality. Life will never be the same. Ready or not, the next season of life has arrived.

    Experts say that couples who find themselves “alone again” often find it hard to adjust. For years - schedules, meals, activities - everything - revolved around the kids. This moment in time can feel like an identity crisis, but you never really stop being a parent. You just parent in a different way when they head off to college. Instead of directing, you now move into a supporting role.

    Right now, you may feel like you will never be the parents on television who sadly said goodbye to their college-bound child and then joyfully headed to Disney World.

    Take a deep breath and try some of these suggestions. They might make the transition a bit easier:

    • Acknowledge the change. This time offers you a great opportunity to redefine yourselves and your marriage.

    • Get some rest. Since you aren’t coordinating meals, after-school activities and other things, you can actually go to bed at 8PM if you want. Allow yourself to slow down, settle in and rejuvenate!

    • Allow yourself to grieve. It's common to feel a sense of loss or regret during this time. And, FYI: The empty nest hits men just as hard as women.

    • Resist the temptation to fill up your schedule. While you may feel a huge void in your life, instead of filling up the time and space with new commitments, enjoy your newfound freedom.

    • Ask for help if you need it. If your empty nest marriage is showing signs of withdrawal, alienation or negativity, seek professional counseling. It can help you process all that is going on.

    • Keep your sense of humor. It will definitely help you get through the tough times.

    • Stay connected. Care packages, real cards in the mail, emails and the occasional phone call are great ways to stay connected to your teen without coming across as overbearing, miserable or desperate.

    • Enjoy the silence. Remember the times you would have killed for just five minutes of complete quiet? Instead of fearing the silence, embrace it.

    • Reconnect with your spouse. You can now plan romantic dates, schedule gatherings with friends, take up something new like skydiving; AND, you can even walk around the house naked if you want!

    • Finally, CELEBRATE! 

    Parenting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Launching your child into the next phase of life is quite an accomplishment. It is important to acknowledge where you have come from and where you want your relationship to go in the future. This is your time…enjoy!

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    Singles and the "I Don't" Mindset

    According to the Pew Research Center, the number of never-married Americans is at an all-time high. CDC data shows that in 2012, 1 in 5 adults age 25 or older had never been married. That's compared to 1 in 10 in 1960.

    Researchers attribute the dramatic rise of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap to several factors.

    • Adults are marrying later in life, and there's a significant increase in adults who are living together and raising children outside of marriage.

    • The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.

    • About 24 percent of never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 live with a partner. This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups, but it is more pronounced among blacks.

    • Among black adults ages 25 and older, the never-married share has quadrupled over the past half century - from 9 percent in 1960 to 36 percent in 2012. For whites, the share doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent.

    • Fully 36 percent of blacks ages 25 and older remained single in 2012, up from 9 percent in 1960.

    • For whites and Hispanics, the share of never-married adults has roughly doubled over that same period. In 2012, 16 percent of whites and 26 percent of Hispanics had never married.

    Why is this happening?

    There are a variety of circumstances contributing to this "I Don't" mindset.

    • Many adult children of divorce are gun-shy about marriage. Many who watched their parents' marriage fall apart doubt their own ability to choose a good partner. They also doubt their ability to make it last.

    • Women in subsidized housing can lose their benefits when a man is in the home. Celebrity marriages are unstable. Many young people question their own chances for marital success when those they admire can't make it work.

    • Still others see marriage as a mere piece of paper with no real value.

    Survey data found a deep division in public perception of marriage's role in society.

    • Approximately 46 percent of respondents believes that making marriage and having children a priority is better for society. But, 50 percent believes society is just as well off if marriage and children are not top priorities.

    • Taking age into account, two-thirds of 18 to 29 year olds believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.

    • Interestingly, most Americans (68 percent) still believe marriage is important if couples plan to spend the rest of their lives together.

    • One in five adults 25 and up have never married, yet 53 percent would like to marry some day. And, there is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts adults, children and society.

    Perhaps millennials don't need to be convinced to invest in marriage. They may need more confidence that they can make it work - and that it's worth the effort for the success of generations to come.