Tag Archives: marriage education

Marriage Education Shows 55% Increase in Marital Satisfaction

In the nation’s largest study on the immediate and long-term impact of marriage education, surprisingly strong improvements in marital satisfaction have been shown.

Healthy Relationships California studied more than 17,000 marriage participants who took a skills-based marriage education course. Before the course, only 44 percent of the married individuals considered themselves happy with their relationship, and 56 percent were moderately or highly distressed in their marriage.

Six months following the course, 32 percent were distressed, and more than 68 percent were satisfied in their relationship. This equates to a 55 percent increase in the number of people who were satisfied in their marriage.

I believe this should convey to the average couple that learning marriage skills can be dramatically helpful in their marriage. Skills like conflict management, communication, financial skills, or any area that is difficult for you can be learned and improved. Learning how to appropriately communicate your concerns, your desires, your dreams and wishes in a way that doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive—these are important skills that can be learned even if it seems like much of your communication is filled with conflict.

You don’t have to succumb to the popular belief that all marriages decline, and that it’s all but impossible to have a successful long-term marriage. Nearly every state offers marriage education courses. Many churches and other organizations also offer classes or retreats. What skill would you and your spouse benefit from improving?

You can read more of the details here at Healthy Relationships California’s web site by Jason Krafsky.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

5 Marriage Skills That Can Also Help in the Workplace

The following is a guest post by Naomi Grunditz with Power of Two, an online marriage education program that teaches the skills couples need to have a healthy, loving, and joyous partnership.

After working with the PO2 curriculum and watching how my coworkers interact using the skills we teach, I’ve realized that marriage counseling doesn’t just teach you how to save a marriage, it’s useful for your interactions in all sorts of relationships, including business. That’s because running a business is a bit like running a family, but with more people. Here are the top five marriage skills we teach at Power of Two that can really help you succeed in the workplace:

1. Just Say It. No matter how well you know someone, it’s safe to conclude that they cannot read your mind. If you want to improve communication in marriage, we recommend you just say it instead of insinuating and hoping your spouse will pick up on your hints. Same goes for the office. Confused about something? Just ask! Think you deserve a raise? Say it! Be clear and concise (but tactful) about what you want and feel.

2. Use “I” statements. Power of Two teaches that while a marriage is the blending of two people, you still remain your own unique individual. Avoid invading your spouse’s space by telling him or her what to do or feel. Instead, talk about yourself and what you want, especially when you disagree (avoid “you…”). Using this skill in the office will help avoid confrontation and arguments.

3. Delete “But.” Using “but” deletes what the other person just said. This automatically sets you up for opposition. Instead, first look for what is right or useful about your partner’s statement. Then add to it by using “yes, and at the same time…” This makes room for both of your opinions and will lead to better decision-making.

4. Exit and re-enter. When an argument starts heating up, sometimes you can get so angry that it’s hard to communicate. At this point, all angry parties should exit the conversation. Take a walk, get a non-caffeinated drink, stretch. Then come back and start negotiating again. Good business is conducted when all involved are relaxed, calm and comfortable (provide food and water at meetings!).

5. Clean up thoroughly after upsets. Even with the best communication skills, there are bound to be a few upsets once and a while. When this happens, never, ever, just ignore it and move on. First, both parties should state what they regret and admit their part in the problem. Then, analyze what went wrong and what can be done differently in the future. End with a solid double apology. This will help you maintain an open and friendly work environment and move towards more constructive solutions in the future.

So why not try using the Power of Two marriage skills outside the home? Next time your boss bugs you about that report for the 10 billionth time, cool down with emotion regulation, then use some “I” statements to state your concerns and improve your professional relationship. I just wouldn’t give him a kiss and a squeeze to make things all better … not everything that works with your spouse will work in the office!

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Marriage Education Reduces Military Divorces by Two-Thirds

There’s more evidence that marriage education works to prevent divorce. Marriage education involves teaching and practicing marriage skills such as communication, conflict management, etc., and is separate from marriage counseling or therapy.

John Crouch from The Family Law News Blog reported on a randomized study recently completed in the military which had a control group of couples that did not take classes, and randomly assigned couples who did take marriage education classes. The “PREP for Strong Bonds” program was delivered by Army chaplains. One year later, 2 percent of the couples who received marriage education divorced, while 6 percent of the control group divorced.

Other studies have also confirmed that professionally developed curricula is effective at reducing divorce, whether the education is delivered in a religious, ethnic or occupational setting.

Marriage education can be effective for engaged couples and couples who have been married for decades. Just a reminder that many organizations offer marriage education, often within different states or within religious organizations. In addition, if you can’t get away for an entire weekend,
poweroftwomarriage.com offers marriage education skills online where couples can have complete privacy and can go at their own speed.

LINKS:
The Divorce Delusion from NYT gives its take on what divorce looks like in modern America.

Related to last week’s post about how reading romance novels affects women’s relationships, a new study just came out that suggests reading romance novels may be hazardous to one’s health. (Someone seems to be on a campaign against romance novels.) The gist of it is that people who read romance novels are more likely to act like the characters in the books and eschew the use of condoms, putting them at risk for STDs or AIDS.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Elliot Nevills

Make Your Own Marriage Retreat for Two

Are you interested in a marriage retreat, but either don’t want to spend the money or don’t have childcare or a whole weekend available? Power of Two has an interesting way to accomplish the same objective in a way that even busy couples on a tight budget can manage.

I introduced you to Power of Two (PO2) here; the organization provides online marriage skills training for members at a cost of $18 per month. The staff offers individualized assessments, marriage articles and fun videos in a way that is neutral (doesn’t favor one spouse), entertaining and low cost.

Abigail Hirsch, PhD, a psychologist with PO2, says some of her clients told her they had created a “make your own” marriage retreat. Here’s how:

  • Schedule an evening out with your mate at a local coffee shop (e.g. Panera/Starbucks) or anywhere that has free Wi-Fi. Ideally you would schedule time once a week for 6 weeks.
  • Schedule a sitter or swap with other friends who have children.
  • On your scheduled night, bring your lap top, and spend about 20-30 minutes watching entertaining videos or doing a marriage tip from Power of Two. Chat about it, maybe practice a new skill, then have some dinner.  Enjoy the rest of your evening together.

If you follow this timeline, you will have accomplished six hours of marriage skills training in a relaxed manner with minimal expense. It might be enough to motivate me to schedule those date nights instead of relegating them to the not-so-important list of things to do.

Dr. Hirsch says an added benefit to ongoing training is that couples are more likely to maintain positive skills in marriage with regular practice and ongoing maintenance than they are with a rare weekend retreat.  Of course, both can be beneficial.

You have a few more days to quality for one of two free lifetime memberships to Power of Two! Make a comment on last week’s post, or send me a private message (see my contact page) to qualify for the drawing.

Have you ever attended a weekend retreat? If so what was your experience? Would you be open to this kind of training experience with just the two of you and your computer? What do you think of the idea to create your own weekly mini-retreat?

Photo Credit: ©Andrey Kiselev/PhotoXpress.com

Web-Based Marriage Skills Training is Affordable & Private

Win a free lifetime membership! Power of Two will award two free lifetime memberships to this week’s winners. Read and comment to qualify.

Jesse Heitler was a computer whiz from Yale when he joined his family’s established business, Power of Two, about five years ago. It was his vision to bring interactive, web-based marriage skills training to the company that drastically changed how Power of Two would operate.

A 20-year-old organization, Power of Two (or PO2) was founded by his mother, Dr. Susan Heitler, an experienced marital therapist and author of the book, Power of Two. His sister, Dr. Abigail Hirsch had followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a psychologist and provide training and education on marriage skills; she had joined her mother’s business a few years ahead of Jesse. Their brother, Jacob, also joined the company after earning his MBA.

When Jesse explored the industry and attended a marriage education convention, he realized that most of the couples he knew getting married were of a completely different generation and mindset than the experienced clinicians giving marriage advice. He believed he and his friends would sooner turn to the Internet for marriage advice than to their church pastor or a marriage counselor. Having just sold a previous start-up, Jesse was excited to try working with his mother and sister to see if they could find a way to bring marriage education to the Internet.  The trick would be to determine how to reach couples in an affordable, fun manner. Recruiting a family friend, who was skilled at creative production and also worked as a comedian, was a big part of the solution.

A new business model was born:  a membership-based Internet marriage skills training program. At $18 per month for access to all the videos, articles and interactive programs members want, the company says it’s in the range of coffee money, especially when compared to the expense of couples’ therapy. The company currently has about 1,000 members, and services are scalable to any number.

Initially, Dr. Hirsch told me, the PO2 staff believed they would be targeting mostly women and younger couples with the online model. They have since found the age range to be much more broad than expected. They were also surprised that “a huge percentage of members are men,” and that men tend to be the most active members. Dr. Hirsch explains, “We hear all the time from men, ‘My wife and I tried counseling, and I felt the counselor was always on her side.’” Men value the privacy and neutrality of the online program. They learn the skills, practice, get feedback, can ask personal questions, and see positive changes in their marriage, adds Dr. Hirsch.

Power of Two’s goal is to provide educational resources to all couples, so they don’t get to the point where divorce is on the table, says Dr. Hirsch. The program is based on Dr. Heitler’s many years of clinical practice. The skill sets are useful in the real world, and they’re not a band-aid approach, she adds. For example, many people teach listening skills as “parroting back” what you heard your partner say. Dr. Hirsch says real people don’t talk like that, and they won’t keep that strategy going. “We teach you how to really listen, not to debate.”

The program isn’t only for couples who feel they are struggling. It’s useful for premarital education, for couples early in their marriage, soon-to-be parents, couples who want to tweak certain areas of their marriage, as well as couples who need a major overhaul. The program can be done on a flexible schedule, together or separately.

Dr. Hirsch says she uses the skills in her own marriage, and says her husband attributes the program to enhancing their marriage during the stressful period of their second child’s birth. “We were practicing the skills a ton, trying to learn how to teach them to others,” says Dr. Hirsch. “My husband said, ‘This is changing our marriage. This is what makes things fun and allows us to enjoy each other and not get stuck on the daily wrinkles.’”

Power of Two was in many ways already a company on the cutting edge before moving to the Internet. The organization prides itself on making sure that the solutions they’re advocating for others are hard at work within their company as well. In particular, they believed in work/life balance above all else. Employees’ marriages and families are as high a priority as their work responsibilities, explains Dr. Hirsch. “It’s critical that we all have rock-solid marriages if we sell marriage help. We should be a model of how you can run a business and run lives that work well,” she added. How does a balanced workplace look? Employees take real vacations. They learn how to turn off their cell phones. They sometimes telecommute or work a flexible schedule. Their employees work from offices in Berkeley, San Francisco, London and Denver. “Somehow in America we have gotten out of whack on our priorities. It will only change when someone screams for marriage and family,” she adds. Juggling three young boys of her own, she understands what is at stake. Read the team bios here.

The same principles from the book are used online, with more enhancements, marriage boosters, and quick tips. There’s also more entertainment and humor in the online program. The topics are based on:

  1. Emotion regulation—How to keep disagreements calm and supportive, how to navigate difficult conversations.
  2. Communication—How to say things in a way your partner can hear and understand, and how to listen in a way that makes your partner feel heard.
  3. Decision making—How to make win-win joint decisions.
  4. Positivity/Intimacy—How to express your love day-in and day-out.

Members receive individualized feedback on personalized assessments. They can also ask personal questions. One of the psychologists may recommend they see a professional if the problem is particularly difficult or complicated. Most couples view the membership as similar to the Netflix model; some months they use it a lot, and some months they use it less. “They appreciate knowing it’s there when they are ready or when they need to get back on track,” says Dr. Hirsch. They also receive reminders.

The program sounds unique, affordable and beneficial to a wide range of couples. As always, I receive no financial benefit for sharing this information with you, but since I was excited by the innovative approach, I knew many readers would also be. You can read testimonials, take a quiz, or get started here.

Power of Two has generously offered two free LIFETIME memberships to their program. If you would like to be entered in the drawing for a free membership, simply make a comment below, or send me a private message if you prefer. I’ll hold the drawing in about one week. Everyone else can still benefit from a free 14-day trial membership. And, Power of Two offers a money-back 100% satisfaction guarantee on its site for members. If you decide to join, I would love to hear your input on the program’s impact on your marriage.

Photo Credit: ©huaxiadragon/PhotoXpress.com

How to Practice Being a Better Partner—5 Tips

“There is nothing worth doing that doesn’t require practice, and having a good marriage is one of them,” says Harriet Lerner, PhD, bestselling author and marriage expert. “One can practice choosing happiness over the need to be right or always win an argument. One can practice playfulness, generosity, and openness. One can practice calming things down and warming them up even when the other person is being a big jerk.”

Dr. Lerner’s advice is spot on. We have the power to control our response, even when our partner is acting badly—especially when our partner is acting badly. That doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be mistreated, but we can choose to practice behaviors that bless our marriage rather than curse it.

Consider the effort you put forth to improve in your career or hobbies, or in your parenting (where we all fail every once in a while). Yet, we expect our marriages to continue humming along without much effort at improving our skills or attitudes. I know I need some fine-tuning on a regular basis, particularly on choosing to remain positive despite the normal obstacles in life.

In her essay in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love, Dr. Lerner adds to the above advice, saying you may get tired of doing more of the work in your marriage, but since you can’t control your mate, it’s up to you if you want to see improvements in your relationship. “And if you want a recipe for divorce, just wait for the other person to change first.”

Here are some concrete pointers she advises you to practice:

1.  Practice pure listening—with an open heart and with your full attention, and without becoming defensive.

2.  Stay self-focused. This means you aren’t focused on “fixing” your spouse, but rather you are open to how you can contribute to a better life together. You can change without blaming yourself or your partner.

3.  Bite your tongue. You don’t have to share everything that bothers you every minute of the day. Use timing and tact to communicate important matters.

4.  Apologize, even if you’re not fully to blame. “I’m sorry for my part of the problem,” may be a good way to move forward.

5.  Use positive feedback, praise, and compliments very liberally. Remember Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments.

Start today by focusing on just one behavior on this list that you think could help you the most. Once you have incorporated that, add another. When you respond angrily or start to act nit-picky, just start again (and apologize if necessary). Practice makes perfect.

Which of these areas is hardest for you to implement? Do you find yourself wishing you could change one thing about your spouse, or focused on trying to change yourself?

Celebrate National Marriage Week: Be a Marriage Advocate –Part II

We continue our discussion with Susan Dutton Freund, Executive Director of thinkmarriage.org, on why marriage is relevant and important in 2010…Read Part I here.

“Marriage is worth fighting for as a society and personally,” says Susan, who draws parallels to other causes that were meant to help society—anti-smoking campaigns, drunk-driving campaigns, fighting for civil rights and for the environment. She says with all the well-documented evidence for marriage, we should all advocate for healthy marriages. “When it’s not working, people suffer, especially children who are helpless to keep their own homes together. Adults become helpless, too, when the court divides assets and children.”

“In this country, we think relationships and marriage are all about adults’ happiness.  This is very short-sighted and self-centered. It’s not that adults shouldn’t be happy, but we know they can learn skills to be quite successful in marriage. They need to have patience and perseverance to pursue that, and not throw it away,” says Susan. This leads to thinkmarriage.org’s new campaign:

Go green with your relationships. Don’t throw away your marriage; recycle it. Don’t’ pollute the human environment with unhealthy interactions and poor communication.

Susan suggests we can all become marriage advocates and champions by entering the public debate, by standing up for marriage, and by educating others about why it is important. The web site thinkmarriage.org offers a free Myth Busters Guide about marriage, which can be offered to others when you hear common myths, such as “children are resilient after a divorce,” Susan says. In reality, she says research shows divorce has lifelong effects on children, “so it’s worth trying really hard before you choose that option.”

While 70% of divorces are from low-conflict marriages, Susan warns that not all marriages can or should survive. There are three cases in which a marriage needs professional intervention, such as medical/psychological help, or therapy, for a chance at survival:

  1. Physical abuse—as well as serious verbal or emotional abuse
  2. Mental health issues—true mental health issues make it very difficult to have a healthy relationship
  3. An active, ongoing addiction—to a substance, pornography or sexual addiction, or gambling—addictive behaviors make an individual unable to sustain a healthy relationship

 However, she adds, “The vast majority of divorces are not as a result of these difficult circumstances, and 40 percent of children are now born outside of marriage, so we are out of balance.” Where’s the solution? “We all need to take part in a movement to restore marriage to the centerpiece of American life,” she says.

What do you think? Is advocating for marriage is difficult in today’s society? Do you feel like you’re forcing your viewpoints on others when you speak highly of marriage? Is it possible to support single parents and children/families who have experienced divorce, while also raising awareness about healthy marriages?

Celebrate National Marriage Week: Be a Marriage Advocate –Part I

In honor of National Marriage Week, which is celebrated this year from Feb. 7th to Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share a recent interview I had with Susan Dutton Freund, Executive Director of thinkmarriage.org. Her organization, based in Wisconsin, provides education, online tools and local programs to build healthier relationships. Susan is also part of a national movement to support healthy marriages.

Susan believes marriage education is “more important than ever.” She should know, after growing up in a high-conflict marriage, marrying and divorcing at a young age and raising two children on her own, and finally building a healthy and stable marriage in which to raise a family the second time around. She says our society isn’t preparing individuals for relationships as it did a century ago, when manners were taught in tight-knit communities by positive role models. “Today we live in a mobile society and are loosely networked,” Susan says. “There’s less emphasis on social mores, a do-your-own-thing mentality, separation from extended family, and an easy exit from marriage.”

Despite these challenges, a couple who works on their relationship can be successful, she says. “With a little time, thought, and effort, you can see really great things happen in your relationships.” Susan says a love letter is a tiny example of what should be in a good marriage—“pouring yourself and your affirmation, love and encouragement into another person.” She adds that a love letter not only makes your mate feel good, it also reminds you of your partner’s great attributes. That’s why her organization is offering interactive love letter kits for a nominal donation of $1.99. What a great idea for Valentine’s Day!

Susan says her organization teaches three positive messages, which she says have resonated within her community, and on a broader scale:

  1. Marriage is a public good that is beneficial to both adults and children. Research has shown married adults have more wealth, greater happiness and psychological wellbeing, lower rates of chemical abuse/addictions, less physical violence, better sex life, longer life, and better health. Children within intact families have greater academic achievement, greater lifetime earnings, lower rates of drug use, lower rates of teen pregnancy, higher physical health, emotional health, and fewer problematic behaviors.
  2. Divorce is preventable when you learn skills. Susan says two truly critical marriage skills are positive communication and conflict resolution. If a couple has these, they can manage other areas of conflict, such as finances, sex, housework and childcare. She adds that marriage retreats, seminars and courses are offered around the country to help couples improve these two skills.
  3. Children need both of their parents in their home to do their best. “As long as humanity keeps producing children, marriage will always be relevant,” says Susan. “Family is the building block of society, and when the family fractures, society fractures.”

 Stay tuned for Part II of our discussion tomorrow.

 How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day and National Marriage Week?