Marriage doesn’t seem to be an important component of our families these days—at least if you believe what our culture tells us. The Hollywood version of family is quasi-living together, outrageous weddings, serial marriage and divorce, and belligerent behavior between spouses, ex-spouses, and often their children. While some of what we see comes from living in a fishbowl, the sad truth is that many of the “rest” of us believe marriages and family relationships are like that for all people. It’s not true!
Most of us will marry at least once in our lives; and for 55% of us, we’ll remain married in at least a “good enough” marriage. No divorce, no domestic violence, no broken families. But for many a “good enough” marriage isn’t good enough. Truth be told, every marriage has its’ ups and downs, with all couples benefiting from some help to get over the rough spots. So how do couples find that help? For most couples, that is as big a problem as the relationship struggles they face.
Historically, couples could look to their religious leaders for assistance when their marriages ran into trouble. Unfortunately, few churches or mosques actually offer couples counseling any longer. Fortunately, there are many other resources that assist couples and strengthen their marriages before they get to crisis level, including mentor couples, enrichment retreats, skill-building workshops, support groups for stepfamilies, and more.
The Marriage Resource Center is one way couples can locate the help they need. The MRC website (www.MImarriage.org) is a one-stop shopping site for workshops, support groups and marriage-friendly therapists in the greater Detroit area. If you know of churches, therapists, or lay marriage educators who offer such services, have them contact the MRC to place their information on our site—listings are free of charge! If you’re looking for help—and don’t find what you need—give the MRC office a call: (313) 278-4400. Our goal is to help you have a great marriage; but we’d also like your support for a special project we’re working on.
The MRC is collaborating with individuals and organizations in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties to standardize the preparation and support for marriage, as well as increase the services available to couples throughout their marriages. Our Community Marriage Initiative is a 10-point plan that recommends a four month pre-marital preparation process including use of an inventory, mentor couples for those in crisis, annual retreats to nourish fun and friendship for couples, regular workshops to teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and specialized support groups for all kinds of families. That seems like an awful lot of activity for any one religious or community organization, but when they collaborate with one another, the load is diminished while the offerings—and benefits—to families increase.
If you’re in a happy marriage—or rather at a high point in your relationship at the moment—you may be asking why any of this is important. Well, there are volumes of research now on the value of a healthy marriage to women and men, to children, and for the communities where they live. Detroit recently made the poor end of a list of “most dangerous” large cities (2007 CQ Press survey, WSJ.com July 14, 2009), and with a single-parent rate of approximately 70%, it makes sense. Cities with the highest marriage rates were the safest; when cities made the most dangerous end of the list, they also had the lowest marriage rates.
Such contrasts only scratch the surface of why marriage—healthy marriage—is important, and why churches and others must commit to providing resources to help all couples build and maintain strong, vibrant marriages. Won’t you be a part of the solution? Encourage your church, mayors, judges, and the community organizations you interact with to support the Community Marriage Initiative. Have them contact the Marriage Resource Center to sign on. Or call us to find out what services they may add to their programs, and to share what they’re already offering with others in our communities. We’re waiting to hear from you!
Julie Bock, CME, is Executive Director of the Marriage Resource Center of Wayne County in Dearborn, Michigan. See the wesite at www.mimarriage.org