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By Bobbye Wood, Fort Worth, Texas
From the March/April 2000 issue of Marriage Enrichment

Recently I was browsing in a bookstore and saw a table displaying books on marriage. I stopped to look at it, curious about the number (a recent phenomenon) and the variety. I found books on improving your marriage by cooking together, planning for fiscal sanity, and keeping the love thermometer HOT. I did not find a book about ACME, which in my opinion should be the first and fondest association when any person contemplates marriage information.

So in the midst of the new plethora of marriage advice, let me add some reminders of staple ACME distinctives, lest we forget what we owe to those whose vision shaped our organization.

Companionship Marriages

We have an emphasis on the marriage partners as equals, and their goal is to use that equality to become closer as they walk together. This is not a one-vote system, with one who is dominant in every situation. This calls for both partners to develop as persons and to claim their full potential as individuals.

ACME does not even suggest a two-vote system, important though this step is in an egalitarian relationship. I, for example, want to pay attention to my husband’s thoughts, feelings, and preferences, and I want him to pay attention to mine. Working together on our issues and relying on each other’s strengths are good ways to grow as a couple and to provide a healthy model for children.

The radical element of this ACME distinctive is that it is a three-vote system, one vote for the husband, one vote for the wife, and one vote FOR THE RELATIONSHIP. How does the relationship cast a vote? The answer is simple. The relationship is the most important part of the couple and must be constantly nourished and protected. It must always be in our thinking. There are some things that I think are good for me, for example, and I want them. But sometimes those things may not be good at the moment for our relationship. I must always keep in mind the US that is a paramount part of the YOU and ME and cast a mental vote for it in the midst of all negotiations and decision-making.

The three-vote system is the expressway to arriving at the intimacy level of close companions. I want to remind all of us of this unique and extremely helpful distinctive.

Marriage Enrichment Groups (MEGs)

Fortunately, we today we have much helpful advice and many programs to develop healthy couple communication, resolve conflict, get the marriage off to a good start, and integrate the relationship with a religious community. ACME offers a tailor-made way to see that the advice and programs have a way to be practiced consistently: the Marriage Enrichment Group.

Here a small group of five or six committed couples agree to work together for a period of time on their marriages (a calendar or school year, once a week or once a month). Here is where the real growth takes place within the process of a caring and supportive small group cheering all efforts to deal with couple issues large or small. Through exercises, dialogue, and discussion, the Marriage Enrichment Group is the place where consistent behavioral change and couple growth is most likely to take place. Never giving advice but instead offering what is honestly the product of one’s own couple struggles and victories, practicing faithfully good communication skills, always remembering that the goal is couple growth (not just winning in a discussion or an argument), learning to honor confidentiality and to speak only for yourself — here is an ACME distinctive that pays so many positive dividends it is no wonder the last IMEC marketed the MEG at every breakfast session.

Public Couple Dialogue

Most ACME events are couple-led, a distinc-tive in itself that provides an atmosphere of honesty and authenticity. In addition, the couple may at some point turn to each other and talk, ignoring the fact that others are listening. Years ago I saw David and Vera Mace practice public couple dialogue on a stage in Ft. Worth, Texas. I was astonished, never having seen or heard anyone do it, but more so at the learning that happened inside me as I witnessed real people dealing with a real issue in a real way — regardless of an audience looking on.

It gave me hope that I could someday incorporate their honesty and simple candor into my own private marriage relationship, and it filled me with an understanding that I was seeing something powerful. All they were talking about was his need to readjust some of their scheduling, but as they both participated in the planning, I was able to see a relation-ship working in a respectful and creative way, even with interruptions and a microphone. I have never forgotten it.

Even at my own MEG when I hear dear friends trying to deal honestly with their issues, I know I am in the presence of something awesome, profound, and unique to ACME

There are, of course, more ACME distinctives (or Better Marriages, if you prefer), but motivated by a huge array of advice on marriage, I wanted our readers to know that THESE began with ACME and can proudly be claimed as major contributions to marital success.


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