marriage course and couples to list or not to list feedback-1/02

Smartmarriages ® cmfce at
Wed Jan 23 23:37:08 EST 2002

subject: marriage course and couples to list or not to list feedback-1/02

from: Smart Marriages

Diane, FYI.  I was going to contact you asking for Bill Pinsof's email to
see a copy of his syllabus for the Marriage course.  However, I just found
it on the internet:
Wanted to pass it on if that's helpful. Dennis Lowe
- - - - -  - -
Diane, interesting what gets published.  I started teaching Marriage and
Family (mostly marriage) in 1965 at a community college in Georgia.  I
continued when I came to Baylor in 1969, all the time thinking it was
strange a man teaching about marriage to mostly women (not only that but
most of the textbooks were by men).  I started having my wife, Genie, join
me occasionally to talk about sex, communication, and conflict resolution
and realized how much richer class was when she was there.  She got her
Ph.D. in family studies in 1990 and we talked our dean in to letting us team
teach the class. Since then we have taught 2 section every semester (about
six hundred students a year.  We both knew the class needed a male and
female voice, but did not consider the emergence of a third voice-- the
voice of the marriage (now 41 years).  Our student often say in their
evaluations that they learn as much from our behavior as they do from what
we say.  
The class in spite of its size is very experiential and we do a lot of small
group activities. As is mentioned in the article it is also an academically
challenging class to the dismay of many students who think it should be all
"feel good."  We draw a lot on our 25 years as ACME style marriage
enrichment leaders and leader trainers and my 40 years as a clinical social
worker specializing in premarital and marital therapy.

We would like to know if you know of other university marriage courses
taught by a married couple.  We know of some team taught by a man and women
who are not married, but none by a married couple team.

Keep up the good work.
Preston Dyer
- - - - - - - 
I know there are a lot of you out there teaching these courses - tell us
about them. - diane
 - - - - - - -  -

This morning I woke up wishing Mark Twain were still around to comment on
this discussion. He might have suggested that we just start with a list of
our own marriages - the ones that are perfect.  Those of you who saw the
Twain PBS documentary this week know that his marriage seems to have been a
truly romantic and enduring love match - till death. And they certainly
faced all the lows from death of their first son at 18 months to bankruptcy
and all the temptations of being rich, famous, rich and adored. Seems they
were faithful through it all.  Frank Pittman would say that that is the main
challenge: not succumbing to an affair when the marriage is at one of its
low point - and also not when one of the partners is at a high point,
feeling quite full of beans.

Here are some of your thoughts.
- diane
- - - - - - - -  
Dear Diane,
Thanks for a wonderful "teachable moment."  If <> readers
were to assign grades to the marriages on your list, I'm sure they'd be all
over the map for very justifiable reasons, and obviously consensus would be
impossible.  But what a great conversation to have.  For starters, what
would be the criteria for making the list?  Would any couple measure up if
their lives were an open book?  Forget about perfect, how do you determine
good enough and better?  You've added another activity to LOVING WELL
Nancy McLaren
Loving Well Program (which she'll be presenting at Smart Marriages)

- - - - - - - - - 
It sounds like the lesson from this might be that marriage is truly a
difficult and challenging endeavor, and what makes one a marriage success is
just hanging in there through all the inevitable challenges.  I don't know
who said it first, but choosing a marital partner is choosing a particular
set of unresolvable dilemmas. The feedback about your list simply
articulates the challenges that each of those couples agreed to deal with.
Vicki Loyer-Carlson, Ph.D.  (She'll be presenting her work on the new
Couples RELATE program at Smart Marraiges.)
- - - - - - - - 
Dear Diane, 
I've learned through the years that no one can know about other people's

When you get really close and know a LOT about any particular marriage, you
find it's "not the way it appears to the world." (Unfortunately, of all the
marriages I've seen REALLY close, I would only vouch for about 2 of them
that I believe are actually the way they appear on the surface.)

P.S. As for the list, there are even more problems than the ones listed. One
example: (although I love Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward), their marriage
took place only after they had an affair on the set of one of their early
movies, leading him to divorce his first wife.

Peggy Vaughan
peggy at
author of The Monogamy Myth
- - - - - - - - -  - -
Bert and Ernie??
- - - - - - - -  - - -
You don't know this couple, but they've been married 32 years
through thick and thin, They are 57 and 51, respectively.  It's Bradley and
Hazel Teal.  That's me and my baby.
- - - - - - - - 
You may have said "uncle" to the idea of the romantic couples list, but
personally we loved your idea and your effort. We NEED icons of marriage. We
as a nation need to know that it can be done. That's what mentoring is all
about--showing couples an example that others have walked the road
successfully. Without them to be our icons, our beacons, our lights, we
might lose hope. Sure, some of them will be revealed to be hypocrites.
Hypocrisy exists in every belief system and institution, but personally we
like having role models who have journeyed on the sea of marriage and not
yet capsized. Thanks for your great effort. As for us we'll just keep
God Bless,
Bev and Tom Rodgers
(Bev and Tom, both children of divorce and long married to each other, have
a new book coming out in March, Adult Childen of Divorced Parents: Making
Your Marriage Work, which they'll present on at Smart Marriages.)
- - - - - -  -

Jimmy Cagney and his wife were married for 58 years or so.

Also, Paul and Linda McCartney, they were separated one night throughout his
entire career until she passed away.
Michael Musante
And, how about Jimmy Stewart?
- - - -  - - - 
Hmmmm, seems that some of the readership prefer "living in glass houses AND
throwing stones".  My husband and I achieve 18 years of marriage in 2
months.  Cohabitation, affairs, 3 kids and 1 miscarriage  we have "endured"
together.  We both consider our marriage to be the best we see around but
there were MANY times it wasn't.  Given the "pristene" status some of your
readers think marriage should be held up to, I don't think ours would make
it.  But I'll continue to prefer it to some of their values.  After all we
are human and have learned how to LOVE one another.  We are Catholic we have
come to understand both the "vocation" aspect and the sacramental so at the
low points we didn't trade it in for the racier, shinier model.  We
continued to polish its bumps and patch its cracks.  After these many years
the old adages are coming true, "it just gets better and better" and "the
best is yet to come".
- - - - -  -- 
Dear Diane
Just because you got a few clinkers in your list doesn't mean that you
should give up.
Go ahead and keep it pure--it sets a standard.
The deal is to keep going, the best you can, with the mate you choose.
Having a great second marriage is nice, but in the end, you did "trade
off for a new model," and it's not unlike getting a different auto or house,
with considerably more emotional trauma.
We need to get over the idea that only perfect couples count - to overcome
and transcend our personal and marital vicissitudes is really
what this site is about.  It does have a spiritual aspect of forgiveness.
It's just not going to work if my minor and major transgressions are held
against me forever, nor if I also display this lack of forgiveness for hers.
Keep up the good work
Roger in Wichita
- - - - - - - -  - - -
> Diane, John and Abigail Adams are a great example. The letters between the two
> show a relationship that was full of affection and romance - and respect. They
> are sometimes poetic in nature describing the discomfort at being separated
> due to his career.
> I've been thinking about whether there is value to the list. And I think
> there is. But perhaps we need not focus on the number of marriage but of the
> length, characteristics and quality of the relationship.
> What may be more important is not whether people have been married more than
> once but that they have worked hard to keep their current relationship.
> Derek
- - - - - - -  -
I'm sure someone must have told you that F. Scott Fitzgerald either divorced
or left his mentally ill wife Zelda and took up with journalist Sheila
Graham, who wrote a book about their affair.
Jack Rosenblum 
- - - - -- --- - - -

Martha Washington was a widow when she married George. She brought a stack
of inherited land to the union including from her first husband and from her
Add Bob Hope and his wife to the list of lasting - and I presume - happy
- - - - - - 

Regarding your idea on developing a list of couples in long-term marriages,
I'd like to share my "two-yen" for what it's worth. (Not much at the present
yen/dollar rate, I've afraid!)

I just wanted to say that I'm not sure you should give up on your idea
because of the comments that came pouring in on how this marriage or that
one was not perfect because of one reason or another, mostly infidelity. I
think we all agree that no marriage is going to be without bumps and
discouragements--the point is to learn some coping techniques and to try to
weather conflicts as they arise. In George Washington's day, of course,
there was not pre-marital counseling nor marriage counseling available to
them. (And Frank Pittman hadn't written his book yet!) For decades people
who stayed in long term relationships for whatever reason probably had one
partner who bore the dissatisfaction in some fashion.

Even when marital therapy came into existence, the cost was prohibitive for
most couples. Now marriage education has come on the horizon to show the way
for a reasonable cost, and for the first time in history couples have the
opportunity to learn how to survive the "whatevers" that they bump up
against in their marriage. Hopefully, we are going to have more long term
marriages with both parties feeling satisfaction as they work it out
together. But I think it is all right to applaud people who stayed with it,
whether it was a perfect marriage or not.

Re the article that came today on Marriage 101:  As women gained more
economical power they began to have less patience with an unsatisfactory
marriage, and divorces surged. We are seeing this happen now in Japan. Older
women are getting divorces, and young women are now refusing to get married
if they see they can survive on their own efforts. The time is ripe for
marriage education here as more and more young men are  beginning to
understand they cannot act like their fathers did toward their mothers and
expect their wives to endure it. I would love to see universities offering
Marriage 101 here; it is truly needed.

I admire your efforts and the work of all the other people involved in the
marriage education movement. I say "Smart Marriage--Banzai!!!!

June Seat, Fukuoka, Japan

- - - - - -  -
diane - all this hullabaloo over "the list" intrigues me - the bottom line
is, what gives any of us the right to judge or criticize any other marital
relationship other than our own? So what if some of the couples on "the
list" are known to have fallen from grace along the way, what matters is how
they recovered and whether or not they think (or thought) their marriage is
(was) happy!

I personnally have a great deal of respect for M. Scott Peck (physician,
psychiatrist, and renowned contemporary philosopher and "thinker" - for
those who may not be familiar with his work - author of "A Road Less
Traveled"). I am currently reading his book, "A World Waiting To Be Born:
Civility Rediscovered." In it he is very candid about his own marriage and
why marriages get into trouble. I'd like to share a few quotes which I think
relate to the current discussion and give all of us some food for thought.

"The problem of unmet expectations in marriage is primarily a problem of
sterotyping. Each and every human being on this planet is a unique person.
Since marriage is inevitably a relationship between two unique people, no
one marriage is going to be exactly like any other. Yet we tend to wed with
explicit visions of what a 'good' marriage ought to be like. Then we suffer
enormously from trying to force the relationship to fit the stereotype and
from the neurotic guilt and anger we experience when we fail to pull it

"The absence of any overall formula for marriage would be obvious if we were
educated about organizations. Read any textbook on organization theory, for
instance, and if you do not get lost in the details, you will realize that
the whole book is basically an elaboration of what is called 'contingency
theory.' Contingency theory states simply that there is no one best
structure for an organization--that the best type of structure will be
contingent upon the particular organization's size and product or funtion. .
.Like everything else, a marriage is a system. White it consists of merely
two component parts--usually a husband and a wife--its varieties are
innumerable. The nature of a marriage will vary not only according to the
unique personalities of the two partners involved but also according to the
functions it serves and the conditions under which it operates. . ."

"Lily and I (the Pecks) have been fortunate. Our marriage has not merely
survived; it has been and continues to be a gradually evolving adventure.
But it has been a painful one, particularly in its early days. Some of that
pain was the result of our natural ignorance of each other as individuals,
but more was the result of our ignorance of the institution of marriage. .
.No one ever taught us marriage as an organization cannot be expected to
meet all of the partners' needs or conform to their stereotypes."

Until we (as professional providers and as a society) get away from thinking
we know what a "good marriage" is, we'll continue to stereotype and
basically contribute to the problem.

The book is extremely interesting and thought-provoking. My intuition tells
me I'll learn a lot more about "marriage as an organization" and contingency
theory as I continue reading. Maybe we should all read it and then discuss
Peck's theories as they relate to smart marriages!

How about asking him discuss it himself at one of the Smart Marriage

thanks for listening,

Jeanne Meyer Caverly, M.Ed.
jean at

Copyright © 2001 CMFCE. All rights reserved. See below.

To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE, or change your address,
visit  Click Newsletter. Enter your
address in the appropriate box and proceed.

This is a moderated list. Replies are read by Diane Sollee. Please
indicate if your response is NOT to be shared with the list.

This newslist shares information on marriage, divorce and  educational
approaches.  Opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by members of the

Newsletter archive - to read ALL posts to the newsletter:

6th annual Smart Marriages conference/Washington, DC
July 9 - 16, 2002

List your program in the Directory of Classes at

Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE)
Diane Sollee, Director
5310 Belt Rd NW,   Washington, DC 20015-1961  202-362-3332
cmfce at

FAIR USE NOTICE: This e-newsletter contains copyrighted material the use of
which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We
make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
marriage, family, couples, divorce, legislation, family breakdown, etc. We
understand this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such material as provided
for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit
to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information go
to: If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond
'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

More information about the SmartMarriages mailing list