Fireproof & Marriage Education / Divorce Study / Georgia Court Conference - 11/20/08

Smartmarriages smartmarriages at
Thu Nov 20 11:20:13 EST 2008



I clipped this review of the film, Fireproof, off the Couple Communication
Instructor's newslist.  Sherod Miller saw the review written for college
students and thought it would be of interest to Couple Communication
Instructors and then  I saw it and thought it would be of interest to all
Marriage Educators.

Fireproof is still going strong in theaters across the country. You'll also
be able to see it at Smart Marriages in Orlando where we'll feature a
Fireproof Marriage Ministries track including a luncheon where you can meet
the directors.  

Sherod and Phyllis Miller founders of Couple Communication will train and
certify instructors in Orlando, July 7th and 8th.

See both the Couple Communication and The Fireproof track here, #s 110, 117
and 908, and a list of all 25 Training Institutes.


 Movie Review of Fireproof - and its Connection to COUPLE COMMUNICATION

Many of you COUPLE COMMUNICATION (CC) Instructors have no doubt become aware
of Fireproof, a movie that quickly engages the viewer as it demonstrates the
values of committing to and working to save a marriage. Dr. Henry Virkler, a
long-time Certified CC Instructor and currently Professor of Psychology at
Palm Beach Atlantic University, has written an "opinion piece" about the
film. While Henry originally directed his ideas to his students, we believe
the lessons he takes from the film extend to any who teach and serve

Fireproof: What Is the Next Step?

In recent years there have been various movies that have encouraged couples
to strengthen their marriages rather than file for divorce.

The Story of Us (1999) was a powerfully acted movie starring Bruce Willis
and Michelle Pfeiffer as husband and wife (Ben and Katie Jordan) who have
spent 15 years together, have two children, but who separate for the summer
while their children are at summer camp. They try to get back together a
couple times, but both times get into shouting matches and eventually Katie,
the wife, decides there's no hope for the marriage.

In the last five minutes of the movie Katie engages in a powerful soliloquy
in which she reviews the history of their family and decides, despite the
problems she and Ben have, that they have too rich a history as a family to
let that all go, and recommits herself to the marriage.

Fireproof (2008) is a gripping story of a younger couple (Caleb Holt, the
fire chief in Albany, Georgia, and his wife Katherine, who is the public
relations director at the local hospital) who have become totally alienated
from each other and are on the verge of divorce.  Caleb's father shares with
him that he and his mother were also on the verge of divorce but have now
renewed their marriage and asks Caleb to commit to reading through a journal
(the Love Dare) and for 40 days commit to changing the way he treats
Katherine.  At the midpoint in those 40 days Caleb becomes discouraged that
his efforts are having no effect. His father encourages him to invite God
into his life, and let God enable him to love Katherine with a deeper love
than he can do through self-effort. He does this and it changes his life
dramatically, but Katherine (who is being wooed by a doctor at the hospital)
remains sullen and angry throughout the entire 40 days.  Only at the very
end of the movie does she realize that Caleb has really changed and does she
become willing to recommit to her marriage.

>From a Christian counseling standpoint there are many things to affirm in
these movies.  Both encourage viewers to commit to making their marriages
work.  Fireproof includes the added dimension that having God in our lives
has the potential to transform who we are and give us an ability to see our
partner and love him or her in a way that we could not do on our own.  It
also includes the behavioral dimension of being willing to practice
(incrementally over time) stopping the harmful behaviors we have been
engaging in over time and replacing those behaviors with loving ones.

However, I believe, from a mental health perspective, that there is another
component that these couples need to have a healthy marriage.  Let me draw
an analogy from Cognitive Problem-Solving and Skills Training (PSST), an
empirically substantiated approach to helping children and teens who have
difficulty getting along with peers and adults.  PSST theorizes that these
children have problems getting along for two primary reasons: (1) they
misinterpret the behavior of others (e.g., often believing others are being
offensive when they are not and as a result become angry unnecessarily), and
(2) they don't know how to be assertive, so instead act out aggressively.
PSST teaches children and teens how to "check out" their interpretations in
order to reduce unnecessary anger, and then teaches them how to respond
assertively rather than aggressively.

In watching The Story of Us and Fireproof, one can see the same two skill
deficits-both couples frequently misinterpret something their spouse says
(often something that was completely innocent), and then they quickly move
to a heated battle of words because they don't know how to communicate and
resolve problems assertively rather than becoming aggressive.

This is the component that I believe both movies are missing.  It certainly
is important that couples have a foundation of commitment to their marriage
when they face challenges and difficult times in their marriage.  It also is
important for couples to have God in their lives, providing the potential to
love their spouse in ways they could not in their own strength.  Likewise,
it is important that couples be committed to acting lovingly and refrain
from acting unlovingly each day.  However, unless they also learn the skills
of "checking out" their interpretations and learning to communicate and
resolve conflicts in healthy ways, I believe most marriages will end up
accumulating a growing number of unresolved hurts and issues.

Therefore, I think it is important for churches and counselors to be able to
provide these kinds of skills training for the couples they serve.  There
are multiple skills training packages out there: one that has some of the
strongest empirical validation is COUPLE COMMUNICATION. It can easily be
integrated into church programs or marital counseling.

So if you work with married couples and are involved in a church, I
encourage you to train couples in these skills.  For young couples who have
not developed significant problems, this often can be done in a marriage
education or enrichment group format (either in a private practice setting
or as an elective in a church setting).  For couples who have developed
serious problems, helping them learn these skills by working with them one
couple at a time may be more appropriate.

Some of you CC Instructors, who also teach the CORE COMMUNICATION Program
for individuals, will recognize that Dr. Henry Virkler is the author of the
"Theory" chapter in the CORE Instructor Manual. In that chapter, he
discusses the Awareness Wheel as it relates to historical and contemporary
psychological theories and the Listening Cycle to counseling theories.

Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc.
Toll-free: 800-328-5099
Email: icp at


Because I know you'll ask, you can read the STORY OF US closing monologue
mentioned above and access the movie study guide at:

And, click here to find out how to bring the FIREPROOF film and teaching kit
to your community:


Divorced people die early
17 November 2008

A new German study shows that people who divorce die years sooner than
others, putting them in company with smokers, the homeless, and the poorly

Divorced people on average have a life span nine years shorter than others,
according to the study by Rostock University¹s centre for demographic
research released this week.

³We assume that being divorced strongly influences lifestyle,² study
contributor Gabriele Doblhammer told daily paper Der Tagesspiegel on
Wednesday. ³Married people seem to have a more regulated lifestyle than
singles, and the divorced embody a combination of factors that can lead to
an earlier death.²

The study, which reviewed the influence of social behaviors and conditions
on the life expectancies of 50-year-old Germans, found that on average, men
can expect to reach 77-years-old, and women 82.3-years-old.

Researchers chose to study 50-year-old subjects because they have ³already
experienced a lot and adopted behaviors that have an influence on death
risks,² Doblhammer told the paper.

People found to have the highest life expectancy were non-smokers, moderate
drinkers, married, high-school educated and employed. Females from this
group also had one to two children.


By Helena Oliviero
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
November 20, 2008

In an unprecedented move, the state Supreme Court of Georgia is hosting a
two-day national summit on the institution of marriage that began Wednesday,
tackling everything from the rise in cohabitation to custody issues and a
debate on same-sex marriage.

³We must start talking about marriage as a good thing again,² said Georgia
Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, organizer of the event, which
drew about 225 lawyers, judges and policymakers in its first day. ³It¹s
politically incorrect to say marriage has benefits. Let¹s not be afraid to
say marriage is a good thing.²

In an interview with the AJC, she said the conference was not designed to
push any political agenda, but simply to facilitate a dialogue on the state
of marriage.

Q: By holding a pro-marriage conference that includes a debate about
same-sex marriage, are you taking a stance against gay marriage?

A: There is a tendency of when you talk about marriage for the issue to be
confused with a same-sex marriage issue. And [same-sex marriage] is an issue
that needs to be resolved by legislation.

But that doesn¹t mean there¹s not a problem with the way marriage is defined
today. Marriage as it is right now needs help. We will have a one-hour
debate on same-sex marriage which I will facilitate, and I have no view.
I¹ve included it as a small part of the conference because I didn¹t want
people to think I was afraid of it.

Q: You were married for 20 years and then got divorced when your kids were
11 and 8 years old. What impact do you think your own divorce had on your

A: They seem more cynical about marriage, about the idea of a couple being
together permanently. But one good thing is they are delaying marriage. Š
But there¹s no question they suffered by the divorce. Their father was very
involved in their lives, but it¹s not the same as being there every day. We
all suffered.

Q: What role will President-elect Barack Obama play in encouraging marriage?

A: Think of all of the young black men who will see a powerful and
intelligent father who loves his wife and takes care of his daughters.

He and Michelle respect and love each other. It is real and it is genuine. I
could almost cry. This is beautiful for all of us to see. His message is
probably more powerful than this conference, but I am still proud of my

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