In a previous post, The successful marriage – Can it be learned, the discussion revolved simply around whether one could learn how to have a happy marriage. With national statistics showing that 50% of first marriages will end in divorce, it begs the question whether couples can learn to strengthen their marriage, or if they must simply rely on luck and hope that they and their spouse can learn to get along on their own. The conclusion was that clearly happy marriages don’t just happen, couples can learn how to be more fulfilled and at peace in their marriages. They just sometimes need some guidance. The real trick over time is to change the culture within our society from one of discarding marriages simply because couples have “fallen out of love” to one of committing to marriage and learning how to make each one stronger even through difficult periods.
Many communities around the country are creating public initiatives as well as working with private businesses and local churches to try and provide education services. Here in Salt Lake City, the Utah Marriage Initiative has been launched specifically to help make marriages stronger.
The Utah Commission on Marriage was formed in 1998 by former Governor and First Lady, Mike and Jackie Leavitt,” explains Melanie Reese, Coordinator of the Utah Healthy Marriage Initiative. “The Commission is an advisory board to the Utah Healthy Marriage Initiative, now housed within the Department of Workforce Services’ Office of Work & Family Life. Its mission is to help people form and sustain a healthy and enduring marriage.”
According to Reese, the state of Utah spends upwards of $276 million per year on unwed childbirth and family fragmentation. As part of the effort to combat this problem, the Healthy Marriage Initiative strives to help couples better prepare themselves for marriage, or to strengthen their existing marriage.
One trend among national professional Marriage and Family Therapist organizations, like the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE), is an emphasis in the belief that people who better prepare themselves for marriage relationships through education programs are more likely to have successful, happy marriages. Utah’s Healthy Marriage Initiative is part of this national trend. Some of the key goals of the initiative include “maintaining two-parent families… (and) preventing family breakdown…” explains Reese.
Another significant new trend coming from the CMFCE, and something the Utah Marriage Initiative tries to emphasize on its website (http://www.strongermarriage.org/) and in its promotional materials, is the use of researched information to backup and support its claims and educational programs. By providing clear substantiated data to support the idea that healthy marriages improve society, and that all couples can learn to have more satisfying and healthier marriages, the CMFCE, the State of Utah, and many other groups across the country are beginning to make a difference in our society by providing resources and information to help strengthen our world one couple at a time.