Chocolates are fattening and flowers wilt, but effective communication skills can last a lifetime.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the University of Central Florida’s Marriage and Family Research Institute is offering a free marriage workshop on Saturday, Feb. 5, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The workshop at UCF’s main campus is for married couples who have at least one child age 0-17 living at home.

Free child care will be provided for children of registered couples, but it will be limited based on availability. Couples can register by calling the institute at 407-823-1748. Free lunch and snacks also will be provided to workshop participants.

Two trained facilitators will lead the workshop, covering a variety of topics such as expressing negative feelings, listening skills and resolving conflict. Throughout the day, couples will practice the techniques in breakout sessions. Individuals will learn to recognize their spouse’s coping style, how to communicate their needs, how to become better listeners and how to better express love and appreciation.

As couples learn the techniques, the goal is that they will build a closer, stronger connection to each other.

Children will also reap the rewards of the workshop. Research shows that children whose parents have healthy relationships will develop more effective coping skills, attend school more often and achieve better grades.

The workshop is a program of The Together Project, a UCF study led by Associate Professor Andrew Daire of UCF’s College of Education. Daire is the executive director of the UCF Marriage and Family Research Institute. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance.

By registering, workshop participants will be enrolled in The Together Project study. Couples will be asked to complete questionnaires before and after the workshop. They also will be invited to a relationship booster workshop in May, when they will complete follow-up questionnaires.

Daire emphasized that the workshop is not marriage counseling where couples share intimate details of their lives with a private counselor. In the workshop, individuals can share as much or as little information as they want in a group setting.

The workshop is offered throughout the year in multi-day formats, in evenings and on weekends.

The UCF Marriage and Family Research Institute offers a variety of free services and resources for married and unmarried couples, including individual and couples’ counseling, education workshops and research opportunities. For more information, visit the institute’s Web site at