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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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    5 Ways to Overcome Loneliness in America

    We are a nation of millions, but Cigna Health Insurance recently released a national survey that reveals we are a lonely nation. 

    According to the survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults:

    • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.

    • One in 4 Americans rarely or never feel as though people really understand them.

    • Two in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.

    • One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.

    • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.

    • Only a little more than half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.

    • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

    • Social media use alone is not a predictor of lonelinessRespondents defined as very heavy users of social media and those who never use social media have similar loneliness scores.

    Even though there are more ways than ever before to connect with others, the struggle to feel connected is very real and can not only lead to emotional issues, but physical ones as well.

    According to David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, this lack of human connection ultimately leads to a lack of vitality. 

    The good news is that this study reinforces that we are social creatures made for relationship and that communities matter. Less-lonely people are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions and are in good overall physical and mental health. They have also achieved balance in daily activities, are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers. 

    More specifically, the survey showed that getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores. Here are some details:

    • Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.

    • Spending time with family: Those who spend more or less time than desired with their family are on par with one another when it comes to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

    • Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely

    • The workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonely; the loneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just over three points, while those who work less than desired showed a 6-point increase in loneliness

    If you are one of the millions feeling trapped by loneliness, here are five strategies for overcoming it.

    • Put down the technology. While gaming and social media make you think you are connecting with people, your brain knows otherwise. 

    • Make a move. When you are lonely, it is easy to tell yourself nobody wants to be around you anyway. If you are breathing, you are meant to be in relationship with others. Making the first move toward relationships with others can often be the most difficult. 

    • Be intentional about putting yourself in situations where you can have human interaction and create relationships. It could be a class, a recreational hiking club or something else. Think about things you enjoy doing. Find others who are doing that thing and join them.

    • Know the difference in being lonely and spending time by yourself. Quiet time to rejuvenate and get your head together is healthy. Spending all of your time alone and away from people is not.

    • Find a way to help others, minimize your time alone and utilize your talents in the community. Volunteer at a local food bank, pet shelter or other nonprofit. 

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    Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?

    Sara and Ethan* started dating in 2012. One year later, Ethan told Sara he wanted to try and figure out what he wanted to do with his life and was seriously considering an out-of-town move. 

    “I was attending a community college at the time, but knew I needed to transfer to a four-year school,” says Sara. “I felt like our relationship was strong, but trying to keep things going from a distance didn’t seem like a good idea. Since UTC was close to where Ethan would be, I decided to move as well.”

    Money was tight for Ethan and Sara. Living together made sense to them financially, but Sara was concerned about what her family and others would think.

    Ethan and Sara are among the more than 70 percent of couples who choose to live together before tying the knot. 

    “Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to even greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together or childbearing,” say researchers Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades. “In fact, Dr. Wendy Manning noted in her 2018 address to the Population Association of America that almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the U.S. since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”

    Stanley and Rhoades note that increasing cohabitation rates, as well as serial cohabitation, might be of no special consequence except for the many births that now occur in those unions. Some of these couples have a long-term commitment similar to marriage, but on average, cohabiting parents are much more likely than married parents to break up, increasing the odds of family instability for children. 

    Additionally, a Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics report found that cohabiting men and women tend to be poorer and less-educated than married ones, which creates a greater disadvantage for children. For instance:

    • 47.9% of cohabiting women had household incomes less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, compared to 25.6 percent of married women.

    • 36.1 percent of cohabiting men had incomes less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line compared to 21.2 percent of married men.

    • 25.2 percent of cohabiting women had incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty line, compared to 48.1 percent of married women.

    • 32.4 percent of cohabiting men had incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty line, compared to 52.4 percent of married men.

    • 25.3% of cohabiting women had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 43% of married women.

    • 16.2% of cohabiting men had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36.5% of married men.

    Large majorities of married, non-married and cohabiting couples believe that having and raising children without being married is fine and that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce.

    “This notion has had wide acceptance since at the mid-1990s, when three-fifths of high school students believed that, ‘It is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married in order to find out whether they really get along,’” Stanley and Rhoades say. 

    Based on their ongoing research on cohabitation however, Stanley and Rhoades have strong evidence that some patterns of living together before marriage are associated with increased risks for less successful marriages, that experiences and choices impact future outcomes, and that cohabitation is definitely linked to relationship risks.

    “What this means is that people who are already at greater risk for worse outcomes in relationships because of things like family background, disadvantage or individual vulnerabilities are also more likely to do any of the following: cohabit and not marry, cohabit before having clear, mutual plans to marry, or cohabit with a number of different partners over time,” Stanley and Rhoades assert. 

    There is significant research showing that people learn from experiences and that experiences change people’s beliefs, so it’s no surprise that the experiences of living together change people's beliefs about marriage. Consequently, Stanley and Rhoades believe that the increase in cohabitation, serial cohabitation and premarital cohabitation has led to consistent downward trends in the belief that marriage is special.

    Another concern is that cohabitation makes it harder to break up.

    “Because of the inertia of living together, some people get stuck longer than they otherwise would have in relationships they might have left or left sooner,” Stanley and Rhoades say. “We believe some people marry someone they would otherwise have left because cohabitation made it too hard to move on. While the increased risk can be modest, the prediction is consistently supported through numerous studies showing that those who cohabit before deciding to marry report lower than average marital quality and are more likely to divorce. This is compounded by the fact that most couples slide into cohabiting rather than make a clear decision about what it means and what their futures may hold.”

    Finally, since more children are being born to unmarried parents in relatively unstable relationships, studies indicate that only 1 out of 3 children born to cohabiting parents will remain in a stable family through age 12 compared to nearly 3 out of 4 children born to married parents. This means that many who cohabit are entering future relationships with the challenge of children as part of the package.

    Our society finds itself in a complicated reality where a very large portion of the population is choosing to live together before marriage. There’s a lot for all of us to consider when the research shows that emotional, financial, educational and social stability of cohabiting impacts current and future relationships, along with the communities in which we live.

    *Names have been changed.

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    Survival Plan for Parents and Teens

    Parenting a teenager can be a mind-boggling experience. 

    One minute they are yelling things like:

    “I hate you!"

    “Don’t speak to me.”

    “Nobody else’s parents do that.”

    The next minute you are holding their head while they are sick, they ask you to borrow the car or they want to snuggle up next to you on the couch. It’s enough to make your head spin and cause you to question, “Is this the same kid who said he never wanted to see me again minutes ago?”

    Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. When parents who are currently raising teens compare notes with those who have lived to tell about it, you might think there really is a universal playbook teens use to make parents question their sanity. At any given moment, you may even wish you could ground your teenager for life. BUT, that would defeat the whole purpose of adolescence.

    Adolescence is when children learn the skills and strategies of adults and that takes time and patience. But honestly, the process can be painful for the whole family.

    Consider these things:

    • Parenting experts say that one of the reasons adolescence is so challenging is that parents often don’t recognize the strongest needs of their teen.

    • Parents look into their teen’s world through adult eyes and needs. They tend to miss all of the change and internal conflict their teen is experiencing in continuing to have their needs for belonging, freedom, power and fun met.

    • Parents need to feel in control whereas their adolescent is competing for his freedom. 

    • Both parent and teen have well-developed strategies for getting their needs met. These differing needs and strategies often intensify to the point that the relationship between parent and child becomes strained.

    During adolescence, kids need adult intervention more than ever before. Adults should not assume that once teens begin to look like adults they will automatically start thinking like an adult, relating like mature adults and making responsible decisions.

    If you are leading an adolescent into mature adulthood, here are a few things to consider:

    • Remember your own teenage struggles.

    • Don’t panic. It is important not to let your fears control you.

    • Don’t overreact. Most teens say they do not open up to their parents because they tend to overreact.

    • Make sure to handle things in a way that builds your teen up versus tearing them down.

    • Take time to enter your teen’s world – spend time with them, listen to their music, get to know their friends.

    • Provide direction according to their needs… not yours.

    • Understand that teens don’t want you to fix it for them. They want you to listen to them. A teen’s self-confidence is built through learning to problem solve and come up with reasonable solutions.

    • Separate the behavior from the teen. Love your teen, but don’t be afraid to deal with unacceptable behavior.

    • Develop a support network of parents who have been there, done that.

    • Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.

    Raising teenagers is a predictable challenge for most parents. Keep perspective and recognize you will survive. After all, your parents did.