The Mechanics of Marriage - 7/04
Smart Marriages ®
Wed Jul 21 22:38:47 EDT 2004
subject: The Mechanics of Marriage - 7/04
Here is one more article on the conference. I'm still searching for the one
in the Ft Worth Star on the Van Epp "Avoid Marrying a Jerk" course. Send it
if you've got it. - diane
- THE MECHANICS OF MARRIAGE
Keeping the 'till death do us part' vow takes hard work, conferees learn
Saturday, July 17, 2004
By KAREN M. THOMAS / The Dallas Morning News
The hard work of marriage is played out mostly in the privacy of the
bedrooms or living rooms of our homes. No one tells us how issues from small
-- he always squeezes the toothpaste from the middle -- to large -- she's
cheating with a co-worker -- will affect us and make us wonder whether we
can keep that "till death do us part" pledge.
Marriage educators want to change that. Armed with research, programs and
statistics on topics including communication, sex and commitment, they spent
last weekend at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Dallas at the Smart Marriages/Happy
Some are pastors. Others are in the military. Some are therapists. They are
drawn together by the conference. It was sponsored by the Coalition for
Marriage and Family Education, an organization based in Washington, D.C.,
and at the heart of a national marriage movement, formed to strengthen an
institution that has rapidly changed over the past four decades.
During the conference, The Dallas Morning News asked several attendees what
they thought about what they learned. They include a recent high school
graduate, a newly engaged woman, a couple married for two years and a single
Maybe we can't totally unravel the mystery of one of the world's oldest
social institutions, but we can share what we saw. Here's what each had to
The married couple
On the final day of the conference, Sarah and Minor Baker described how
they put into action some of the things they had just learned.
The Austin elementary school teachers attended the conference in part
because Minor's mother is director of a marriage and therapy program in
Springfield, Mo. She presented her work at the conference.
But the couple, married for less than three years, also hoped to take
something home for their students and their own young marriage.
"I'm interested in just how we relate to each other in marriage,
particularly on the biological level," Minor, 26, says. "There are reasons
that we do the things that we do. I like to understand that."
Sarah, 24, teaches kindergarten. Often, part of her job is helping her
children's parents learn, too.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm a family educator," she says. "I'm helping
parents with the struggles they're having with their kids."
The couple attended such workshops as "Hot Monogamy: The Biology of Love,"
"The Marriage Scholar Wars" and "The Power of Play." They soaked up ideas,
they say, that they think will improve their communication skills with each
other and with others.
Here's what happened, then, on Sunday morning. Sarah was busy packing to
return home. Minor went to get breakfast. He returned with two bagels.
"We had a fight -- no, wait -- an adult discussion , about the likes and
dislikes over cream cheese on a bagel," Minor explains.
"No, that's fragmented. That's not what happened," Sarah interrupts. "When
he came back, both bagels had cream cheese all over them and you know I
don't like cream cheese."
"I didn't know that," Minor says.
"Then, you began to tell me how particular I am and how I don't like
anything, and, well, now I know it's not about the cream cheese. That was
just the surface," Sarah says.
"We had to stop and say, 'What's our goal here?' " says Minor, showing off
one of the new skills from a workshop.
"We want to have a good day, enjoy the end of the conference and see my mom
make her presentation. But we're fighting over cream cheese. That's not our
goal," he said.
Minor now knows Sarah doesn't like cream cheese. Sarah, who didn't eat the
offending bagel, thanked her husband for getting breakfast anyway. They
enjoyed the end of the conference.
And maybe on the long drive back to Austin, out of earshot of a reporter,
the couple finished their "adult discussion" of cream cheese.
The keynote address
John Gray, one of the most famous relationship authors, is at the podium,
digging through a woman's purse. He's known for his work describing the
differences between men and women: particularly his book
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (Harper Collins, 1992). The purse is
helping illustrate his point.
Earlier, he pulled out his wallet. He has two credit cards, a driver's
license and some cash.
Women, he says, carry around much more. To demonstrate, he pulls out of the
huge purse a cellphone, a planner, a makeup bag and a smaller pocketbook.
The audience bursts into laughter.
It's an effective metaphor. The different ways men and women respond to
situations can cause relationships and marriages to unravel.
Instead, Dr. Gray thinks they should be reasons for relationships to
succeed. But first, we must understand them. For example, take stress.
When men have a stressful day at work, they want to go home and retreat "to
Maybe the cave is sitting in front of the television. Maybe it's behind the
newspaper. The thing is: They don't want to talk. They want to forget.
Women, on the other hand, come home from a stressful day and want their
husbands to notice. They want to talk. They want a hug.
And what do men do?
"I'm going to be a really loving husband," Dr. Gray says. "I'm going to
There was laughter again. The audience gets it. That's what the man wants.
Not what his wife needs.
Clint Montgomery is 18. His brother Wyatt is 11. They are two of many
children milling about the conference. Like the others, the boys have a
parent attending the event.
Their mom, Cheryl McClary of Asheville, N.C., a college professor, has
written a book called The Commitment Chronicles: How You Can Stay Happily
Married (Top Shelf Press, $14.95.)
Dr. McClary's book is based, in part, on what she went through to fix her
own marriage. Her husband, a radiologist, once was "clueless," she says. She
focused solely on pleasing him and was miserable. Then she learned to ask
directly for what she needed. Their marriage blossomed.
The boys now watch their parents negotiate, try to understand each other's
needs and compromise over things as simple as what movie to see.
"Actually, we think it's kind of corny," Clint says, playfully rolling his
Dr. McClary brought the boys to the conference to see that others shared
her commitment to her work. But without badges, the Clint and Wyatt couldn't
attend most of the workshops or main sessions.
Marriage educators say that more should be done to help youngsters develop
relationship skills. Many want to bring programs into high schools and other
places where teens gather. That way, young adults will have more realistic
expectations of love, marriage and relationships.
But Clint thinks if teachers emphasize relationships too much at the high
school level, it could backfire.
"I would say in high school, relationships are taken way too seriously,"
Clint, a recent high school graduate, says. "Kids try to make the
relationships last when they shouldn't. So I would be careful if you bring
stuff in like this because it may reinforce for some that it's OK to take
these relationships too seriously."
Wyatt is less talkative than his big brother. What did he do during the
"Being a kid, I like to swim in the pool and stuff," he says.
The hot issue
Leaders of the marriage movement have carefully avoided taking sides in the
gay marriage debate. Some believe it's too divisive an issue. Others think
it detracts from the larger goals of the movement.
The movement, after all, is made up of conservatives and liberals, the
religious and the secular, and many in between.
This year, though, William Doherty, director of the Marriage and Family
Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota, asked conference attendees
to help the coalition define the movement's goals, including a stance on gay
He later conducted a workshop with Maggie Gallagher, formerly of the
conservative Institute for American Values and founder of the Institute of
Marriage and Public Policy and its Web site, MarriageDebate.com.
The conversation started politely. By the end, it was heated. A black
pastor was offended that the issue is compared to civil rights movements of
the '50s and '60s. A lesbian proudly announced her marriage and intentions
to become a parent.
Then Dr. Doherty and Ms. Gallagher made their opinions known. Ms. Gallagher
thinks same-sex marriage guts the institution of marriage and isn't in the
best interest of children.
Dr. Doherty thinks there is much more to learn, but so far he's leaning in
favor of legalization. Research, he said, doesn't show that children raised
in gay homes are any worse off than their counterparts raised by straight
In the end, there is no decision regarding an official stand on gay
marriages. But there is a realization that much more public dialogue ought
to take place. What is the purpose of the contemporary marriage and whom
should it include?
In the middle of the conference, Shannon Reed, 25, of Allen, text-messaged
her fianc?. Her friend, Amy Reeves of Grand Prairie, also text-messaged her
"Next year, we're bringing the boys," Amy says.
Both women recently completed master's degrees in counseling and plan to
become marriage and family therapists. Both also are interested in building
their relationships with their mates.
They learned that while they have a leg up on most Americans because they
have studied relationship skills, it might be hard to stay focused in the
heat of an argument.
"I think I have some extra tools to take into the marriage," Shannon says.
"I look forward to teaching him some of the stuff, particularly conflict
Shannon attended workshops aimed at building relationship skills, resolving
conflict and even one called "Sacred Sex." She liked the playful spin one
speaker gave to communication skills: "You can talk, but don't forget to
have fun, too," she says.
At the "Marriage Scholar Wars" workshop, two leading researchers tried to
help the audience decipher some of the latest studies of marriage.
What's the best age to get married? When is the highest risk of divorce?
And why does living with someone before marriage raise the risk of divorce?
David Popenoe is co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers
University. Each year the project puts out a report that examines a subject
relating to marriage.
Scott Stanley is a senior program consultant for the Oklahoma Marriage
Initiative and helped develop the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement
Program, a widely used marriage education program.
They say that if we marry before the age of 21, we are at high risk for
divorce. The average age for marriage now is 25 for women and 27 for men.
Risk again increases if we wait too long to tie the knot.
"If you marry after the age 30, marriage happiness drops a lot," said Dr.
Popenoe. Why? We have more personal baggage and higher independence at that
age, he said.
And why does living together sometimes lead to risky marriages?
It's a complicated issue, but here's one additional nugget from the
research: Couples who are engaged before moving in together face little
extra risk of divorce. But some couples who live together before becoming
engaged face a higher risk of divorce, possibly because they feel obliged to
Four years ago, Tannia Benefield, 30, attended a Smart Marriages
conference. It was inspiring but overwhelming. There was so much information
and so much work she wanted to do -- for herself and for others. She left
Now, at the end of her second conference, Tannia feels powerful. "This is
something I really want to do," the Colorado Springs, Colo., resident says.
As a single black mother who never wed, she really wants to get married. As
a recent graduate with a degree in counseling, the former social worker
wants to help kids like those on her caseload.
Tannia knows what is at risk in the black community. Many of the kids she
worked with had distorted views of relationships. She witnessed her own
parents' divorce. And she has had her own relationship struggles.
During the past four decades, cultural changes affected American marriages,
resulting in a rising divorce rate, for example. Black marriages, in
particular, have been hard-hit. Tannia heard Linda Malone-Colon, a
researcher and professor at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., cite some of
these effects in a workshop called "Strengthening Marriage in the Black
More black men are in prison than in college; black women are earning more
college and graduate degrees than their male counterparts; and historically,
blacks remain overrepresented at the lower end of the economic ladder, the
presenters said. If there's no economic stability, it's hard for marriage to
happen in the first place, let alone last.
Throughout the conference, Tannia listened intently to what others are
doing regarding marriage. It didn't matter what community they came from or
what color they were. People are making a difference.
There's the pastor who started marriage education classes at his own small
church, moved them out into the Oakland, Calif., community, and is now
working on a statewide initiative to encourage and support marriage.
There's the workshop where a presenter combed the audience for ideas for
his own program -- but Tannia thought she could use some of those ideas,
too. Why couldn't she start a women's group to talk about healthy
relationships or form her own nonprofit organization to teach relationship
skills so other kids wouldn't repeat her mistakes?
"A year from now, I want to come back and say, 'This is how I took this
information and used it,' " Tannia says. The conference will return to
Dallas next summer.
Most important, there's her 6-year-old son. She wants him to grow up
understanding that marriage and children should go hand in hand.
"He's a blessing, but I regret every day how things happened. I wouldn't
put him or me through that again," she says. "I believe in marriage."
E-mail kthomas at dallasnews.com
For more information about the conference, go to
www.smartmarriages.com or contact the Coalition for Marriage, Family and
Couples Education at 5310 Belt Road, NW, Washington DC, 20015-1961
1999-April 1999-April.txt 1999-April.txt.gz 1999-August 1999-August.txt 1999-August.txt.gz 1999-December 1999-December.txt 1999-December.txt.gz 1999-February 1999-February.txt 1999-February.txt.gz 1999-January 1999-January.txt 1999-January.txt.gz 1999-July 1999-July.txt 1999-July.txt.gz 1999-June 1999-June.txt 1999-June.txt.gz 1999-March 1999-March.txt 1999-March.txt.gz 1999-May 1999-May.txt 1999-May.txt.gz 1999-November 1999-November.txt 1999-November.txt.gz 1999-October 1999-October.txt 1999-October.txt.gz 1999-September 1999-September.txt 1999-September.txt.gz 2000-April 2000-April.txt 2000-April.txt.gz 2000-August 2000-August.txt 2000-August.txt.gz 2000-December 2000-December.txt 2000-December.txt.gz 2000-February 2000-February.txt 2000-February.txt.gz 2000-January 2000-January.txt 2000-January.txt.gz 2000-July 2000-July.txt 2000-July.txt.gz 2000-June 2000-June.txt 2000-June.txt.gz 2000-March 2000-March.txt 2000-March.txt.gz 2000-May 2000-May.txt 2000-May.txt.gz 2000-November 2000-November.txt 2000-November.txt.gz 2000-October 2000-October.txt 2000-October.txt.gz 2000-September 2000-September.txt 2000-September.txt.gz 2001-April 2001-April.txt 2001-April.txt.gz 2001-August 2001-August.txt 2001-August.txt.gz 2001-December 2001-December.txt 2001-December.txt.gz 2001-February 2001-February.txt 2001-February.txt.gz 2001-January 2001-January.txt 2001-January.txt.gz 2001-July 2001-July.txt 2001-July.txt.gz 2001-June 2001-June.txt 2001-June.txt.gz 2001-March 2001-March.txt 2001-March.txt.gz 2001-May 2001-May.txt 2001-May.txt.gz 2001-November 2001-November.txt 2001-November.txt.gz 2001-October 2001-October.txt 2001-October.txt.gz 2001-September 2001-September.txt 2001-September.txt.gz 2002-April 2002-April.txt 2002-April.txt.gz 2002-August 2002-August.txt 2002-August.txt.gz 2002-December 2002-December.txt 2002-December.txt.gz 2002-February 2002-February.txt 2002-February.txt.gz 2002-January 2002-January.txt 2002-January.txt.gz 2002-July 2002-July.txt 2002-July.txt.gz 2002-June 2002-June.txt 2002-June.txt.gz 2002-March 2002-March.txt 2002-March.txt.gz 2002-May 2002-May.txt 2002-May.txt.gz 2002-November 2002-November.txt 2002-November.txt.gz 2002-October 2002-October.txt 2002-October.txt.gz 2002-September 2002-September.txt 2002-September.txt.gz 2003-April 2003-April.txt 2003-April.txt.gz 2003-August 2003-August.txt 2003-August.txt.gz 2003-December 2003-December.txt 2003-December.txt.gz 2003-February 2003-February.txt 2003-February.txt.gz 2003-January 2003-January.txt 2003-January.txt.gz 2003-July 2003-July.txt 2003-July.txt.gz 2003-June 2003-June.txt 2003-June.txt.gz 2003-March 2003-March.txt 2003-March.txt.gz 2003-May 2003-May.txt 2003-May.txt.gz 2003-November 2003-November.txt 2003-November.txt.gz 2003-October 2003-October.txt 2003-October.txt.gz 2003-September 2003-September.txt 2003-September.txt.gz 2004-April 2004-April.txt 2004-April.txt.gz 2004-August 2004-August.txt 2004-August.txt.gz 2004-December 2004-December.txt 2004-December.txt.gz 2004-February 2004-February.txt 2004-February.txt.gz 2004-January 2004-January.txt 2004-January.txt.gz 2004-July 2004-July.txt 2004-July.txt.gz 2004-June 2004-June.txt 2004-June.txt.gz 2004-March 2004-March.txt 2004-March.txt.gz 2004-May 2004-May.txt 2004-May.txt.gz 2004-November 2004-November.txt 2004-November.txt.gz 2004-October 2004-October.txt 2004-October.txt.gz 2004-September 2004-September.txt 2004-September.txt.gz attachments database index.html pipermail.pck x x.sh
To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE, or Change your subscription address,
use the form on our website (http://www.smartmarriages.com). Click
Newsletter - right under the puzzle piece.
This newslist shares information on marriage, divorce and educational
approaches. Opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by members of the
This is a moderated list. Replies are read by Diane Sollee, editor. Please
indicate if your response is NOT to be shared with the list. PLEASE include
your email address in with your signature.
To read ALL past posts to the newsletter, visit the Archive at:
9th Annual Smart Marriages Conference, Adam's Mark Dallas June 23 - 26, 2005
Pre and Post Conference Training Institutes June 21 - 29, 2005
Subscribe to the free e-newslist at www.smartmarriages.com
List your program in the Directory of Classes at www.smartmarriages.com
Order conference audio and video tapes at 800-241-7785 or at playbacknow.com
Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE)
Diane Sollee, Director
5310 Belt Rd NW, Washington, DC 20015-1961
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
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 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: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. 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