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Q. What exactly is meant by marriage enrichment?

A. It means making marriages better - happier and more satisfying - than they are already. Rather than adding new components (as you would when enriching bread or motor oil), it means drawing out hidden potential - relational potential, we call it - that husband and wife possess, but which they have never developed. It could greatly increase their happiness, but is often unused and being wasted.

Q. How does marriage enrichment differ from marriage counseling?

A. Marriage counseling is a way of helping couples who have run into troubles that threaten their relationship, and that they can’t clear up by themselves. This requires skilled help from a qualified therapist. We don’t recommend marriage enrichment for such people. Marriage enrichment is for people whose marriages are not in serious trouble, and not threatening to break down. You might say it is for marriages that are functioning reasonably well, but which could be much more satisfying.

Q. Are there many couples whose marriages could be improved by enrichment?

A. Indeed, there are. Unfortunately, our culture has never paid much attention to the quality of a marriage - except in romantic poems, songs, and stories. The down-to-earth traditional attitude was that as long as a marriage held together - an “intact” marriage, it was called - that was all that mattered. The assumption was that a stable marriage was a good marriage.

Q. And is this no longer true?

A. It is very far from being true, but as long as there was no way out of a disappointing marriage, and what went on behind the scenes was kept strictly private, the quality of the relationship was never really faced. The real facts could only be guessed at when some tragic incident occurred. Some novelists went behind the scenes and portrayed some of the grim realities, and the truth leaked out in the vast repertoire of sour and cynical jokes about marriage that have been passed down.

Q. And what is different today?

A. Today, the facts are getting out as a result of our very high divorce rate. This shows how many people can get disillusioned with marriage, but perhaps a better indication is the unveiling of the facts about battered wives, battered children, and even battered husbands. Of course, all this family violence that we are now discovering goes on between couples who are still married and living together. If they were living apart they couldn’t batter each other.

Q. Do we have any idea how many marriages might be considered unhappy or unsatisfying?

A. It would be impossible to get precise figures. However, one of the founders of the family therapy movement, psychiatrist Don Jackson, gave it as his opinion that the proportion of all marriages which were in the top category - really highly functioning relationships - might be in the region of 5 to 10 percent. This clearly suggests that the great majority of marriages in which couples stay together could be decidedly better, happier, and more satisfying than they are.

Q. What can marriage enrichment offer to those couples?

A. It can offer them new understanding and insight, new skills, new resources, new tools which they can use to appropriate their unused relational potential. Most of these husbands and wives know deep down that their marriages have turned out to be disappointing. But they can’t admit this to anyone - often not even to each other. So they just give up trying and put up a front before their friends and relatives. Some of the world’s best actors are disillusioned married couples who manage to behave in public as if they were really happy together. Then, when a divorce follows, all their friends are astounded, because they had no idea there had been anything wrong.

Q. How, then, do you go about reaching these people?

A. It isn’t easy, and that’s why marriage enrichment makes relatively slow progress. But the word is getting out, because couples who have been through the enrichment experience are ready to talk about it, and their testimony awakens hope in others which motivates them to go to a marriage enrichment event and find out for themselves what it is all about.

Couples Marriage Mentoring

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