What British Christians are Doing to Improve Relationships
Thu Feb 17 13:45:32 EST 2000
from: Smart Marriages
McManus - Ethics & Religion
Feb. 16, 2000
Advance for Feb. 18, 2000
WHAT BRITISH CHRISTIANS ARE DOING TO IMPROVE RELATIONSHIPS
By Mike McManus
TOTNES, ENGLAND In this small town, 200 miles southwest of London,
a retired vet,
Chris Grimshaw, has persuaded the clergy, the schools, the medical
profession and town
government - "the whole community to work together to increase the health
of relationships," as
he puts it.
"While stepfamilies and single parenthood can be made to work,
neither has quite as good
a chance - or gives children quite a good a chance - as enduring
Marriage is disintegrating in Great Britain, as it is in America.
While British divorces
soared six-fold from 26,000 in 1961 to 171,000 in 1997, the nation's
number of couples getting
married has plunged by a third, from 459,000 to 308,000.
To put it differently, Britain now has one divorce for every two
marriages, just like the
United States. That gives it one of the highest divorce rates in
Europe, double that of France or
Germany. Further, Britain's cohabitation and out-of-wedlock rates are
even higher than the U.S.
British research reveals that a child living with unmarried parents
is 20 times more likely to
be physically or sexually abused than one with married parents, and 37
times more at risk if the
mother is living with a boy friend.
Chris Grimshaw is committed to turn these trends around. Several
years ago, he and
Claire, his vivacious wife of 27 years, attended a marriage enrichment
weekend "with fear and
trepidation" along with several other Christian couples from different
churches. "We all came
back with our marriages greatly strengthened," he told 110 people in his
home town last weekend.
They came back determined to do what they could to revive marriage
He was invited to attend a free weekend for pastors run by Americans
David and Teresa
Ferguson of Intimate Life Ministries. They taught how clergy and lay
leaders can recognize the
emotional needs of one's spouse, and then, how to fulfill them.
Intimate Life identifies ten emotional needs, which if unfulfilled,
lead to relational
problems: Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, Attention,
Respect, Security, Support. One exercise you might try: identify your
own top three needs, and
those of your spouse. Few husbands know their wive's core needs.
The Grimshaws own a small farm resort in Totnes that is completely
rented out in season.
But in the winter it is unused. So they began running marriage enrichment
very small fees to encourage a maximum number of couples to attend. So
far 350 couples have
done so. They take eight couples at a time, using either Intimate Life
materials, or Marriage
Review, a form of Marriage Encounter.
Two years ago, from the Website of Marriage Savers, Chris heard of
Marriage Policies being organized by clergy in the United States. He told
Totnes leaders: "Whole
towns have had their divorce rates drop by rates of 25 percent or more.
This was done with very
ordinary people working together across a community. I thought, `That's
what. I want to do
He invited the mayor and 13 other leading citizens in Totnes to a
dinner with fine wine,
and made a proposal far broader than Community Marriage Policies, which
are focused on how
clergy can cooperate to prepare, strengthen and save troubled marriages.
"What I am proposing
is to teach relationship skills to every adult and child in this
community of 20,000 people." Four
elements are in place:
1. When women give birth to children, health workers teach both
mother and father
relationship skills. Tania West, who is training midwives, says, "Martial
are high at the beginning, but take a dip when the first baby comes. A
crying baby takes a lot of
time. Couple communication becomes small talk about nappies (diapers).
Deeper sharing tends
not to happen We teach the ten emotional needs, and how to meet them."
2. Elementary school principals are very concerned about the
of five-year-olds. Children don't want to go out for recess because they
don't know how to make
friends. Those skills are now being taught.
3. In secondary schools and community colleges, students are
and conflict resolution skills. Grimshaw says, "I want every child
leaving secondary schools be as
emotionally literate as they are computer literate."
4. The clergy have agreed to require serious marriage preparation.
The Totnes model has attracted national attention. Last week my
wife and I traveled with
Chris Grimshaw to meet with a Committee of Parliament and local religious
leaders in London, York, and four smaller towns to help them launch
America and Britain have much to learn from each other.
END TXT Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus
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