All posts by Spencer DeGraw

Attend the 14th annual Smart Marriages® Conference

Every year for the past 14 years, Diane Sollee has organized a conference that has attracted the biggest names in Marriage and Family Therapy circles in this country and from around the world. People like Dr. John and Jane Covey, Dr. John Gray, and Dr. William Doherty, just to name a few.

Ms. Sollee had come to the conclusion that too many marriages were falling apart and something had to be done. Sollee firmly believed that “..when it comes to marriage, we’ve been operating with good intentions, but terrible information. All that’s about to change. The research shows anyone can learn how to have a Smart Marriage®. Welcome the new era as we move out of the marital “dark ages” and into the Marriage Renaissance!”

Initially, the attendees were mainly marriage counselors and local clergy who were looking for additional information on how to support and educate couples on strengthening marriage commitments, but the conference has evolved into a fun getaway for couples who just want to find a unique way to travel and spend quality time together. In the past, it has changed venues so that each year you travel to a different part of the country.  This will be the second year in Orlando.  Think about several days at DisneyWorld with a couple of marriage education courses thrown in for good measure. For those couples who are always on the lookout for ways to strengthen their relationships, consider attending the next Smart Marriages Conference being held this year (for the second year in a row) in Orlando, Florida.

One of the Keynote Speakers will again be Dr. William Doherty. Over the years, crowds have loved his analysis and valuable insight into the world of marriage relationships because of his courage to ignore politically correct sensitivities and shed an honest and truthful light on some of the mistaken beliefs and past misunderstandings of marriage counselors, while at the same time encouraging couples to work through difficult periods and stop giving up too easily.

Says Doherty, “You move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually arrive at the Minnesota winter, with its cold and darkness. Many of us are tempted to give up and move south at this point, not realizing that maybe we’ve hit a rough spot in a marriage that’s actually above average. The problem with giving up, of course, is that our next marriage will enter its own winter at some point. So do we just keep moving on, or do we make our stand now with this person, in this season? That’s the moral, existential question we face when our marriage is in trouble.”

As I’ve written before, people don’t have to get married with their fingers crossed, hoping that they can get along well with their spouse. Happy marriages can be learned! If you are serious about saving your relationship, don’t panic at the first sign of boredom, resistance, or doubt. Have faith in each other, remember why you fell in love to begin with and attend a seminar in Orlando. It will do you good!

5 Daily acts that will remind your spouse you love her (or him)

With the pressures and speed of daily life, it is easy to forget that our marriages need to be nurtured in the same way we would nurture a small plant in our kitchen window.  With our plant, we need to give it sunlight and water on a regular basis.  It doesn’t take much, just a small amount of water and a little sun will keep the plant growing and over time you will see a beautiful bloom of color and life.

Our marriages need the same attention.  It doesn’t require much, just a loving glance here, and an affectionate touch there, but that small amount of nurturing will keep the love between you blooming and full of color and life.

Here are 5 small acts you can do each day to ensure your loved one knows you still care:

1) Kiss her goodbye before leaving for work.

2) Send him a text saying “Hi”

3) Find one thing to complement her on.

4) Ask him how his day was and then listen to him tell you.

5) Hold her hand while watching TV.

Arguing in front of the kids…. Could it actually be good for them?

It seems intuitive that if parents continually argue in front of their children, the children will be affected. However, there is a new study that has found that the affect does not always have to be negative.

According to a recent report by the University of Notre Dame, which has been conducting an ongoing study for the past 20 years, kids can actually learn conflict resolution skills if they witness their own parents working through a conflict.

“Children actually are not disturbed by (witnessing a conflict) if there are sincere efforts to problem-solve,” explains Mark Cummings, a professor of psychology and the lead researcher on the ongoing study. “They actually are happy about it, which surprised us to find that kids would actually say they’re happy to see the parents work it out.”

The study was quite elaborate in it’s design. Psychology researchers at the University of Notre Dame set up a home-like environment with cameras to record the children and to monitor their reactions. They then hired actors to play the parts of married adults that would argue in front of the children. Researchers tested around 500 children between the ages of 5 and 18 over the course of 20 years. They monitored their reactions to different argument scenarios and even took saliva samples from some of the children to study their levels of cortisol, which is the primary hormone produced by stress.

Different scenarios were portrayed. Sometimes the adults started an argument and then worked through a positive resolution. Researchers discovered that the children learned from these experiences and could recall details of the experience as well as the resolutions.

In other scenarios, the adults would initiate an argument, then pause and leave the room. The children never knew whether or not the disagreement was resolved. In other scenarios, the argument would end with one parent storming out of the room in anger.

Additional findings reported in the study included the fact that, on average, typical married couples have about eight disputes a day. These can be simple disagreements about who should pick up the dry cleaning, or who will do the dishes and can range to much more heated exchanges. But, as hard as we try to shelter our children, the report found that children witnessed their parents arguing about 45 percent of the time.

Po Bronson, co-author of the book NurtureShock, explains that if parents pause mid-argument to take their conflict elsewhere, they should tell their children afterward that the argument was resolved. “In the study, children who don’t see the entire argument, or who see just the beginning but not the resolution, can become overly dramatic in their conflicts. They may become more erratic in their behavior, and their relationships may suffer” says Bronson.

“Boys and girls react differently to parental conflicts,” he added. “Boys show more anxiety in the short term and rebound faster, yet while girls may not seem as affected initially, the conflict depresses them for at least a couple of weeks,” he said.

According to Cummings “The lesson is that if children see grown-ups fighting and making up, those children learn that disagreements can be stepping stones to solutions.”

Dr. John Gottman to speak in Salt Lake City

As part of the National Marriage Week celebration in Salt Lake City, the Utah Commission on Marriage is sponsoring Dr. John Gottman at the Salt Palace on Friday, February 12, 2010.  This nationally acclaimed speaker is the founder of The Gottman Institute™.  The Institute “helps couples directly, and it provides state-of-the-art training to mental health professionals and other health care providers. It also applies leading-edge research on marriage in a practical, down-to-earth therapy and trains therapists committed to helping couples. No other approach to couples education and therapy has relied on such intensive, detailed, and long-term scientific study of why marriages succeed or fail.”

The seminar is targeted to Therapists, Professional & Faith-based counselors, as well as Family Life educators.  Students studying each of these disciplines are also invited.

The seminar costs $45.00 and has already been sold out once.  Arrangements have been made to increase the available seating, however, these newly added seats are almost gone, so you will want to act quickly!  Tickets are available through all SmithsTix locations.You will need to They have made arrangements for a larger area, but the remaining tickets

CEU Credit available!

Utah Governor proclaims February 7th to 14th as “Marriage Week”

In conjunction with National Marriage Week USA, Utah Governor Gary Herbert has declared February 7th to 14th as “Marriage Week.”  According to the National Marriage Week website, this proclamation is part of a national movement which is “a collaborative effort to encourage many diverse groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children.”

The Utah Commission on Marriage is part of this national trend and has been working hard for several years with the aim of providing educational resources and opportunities that will help strengthen marriages.

Melanie Reese is the coordinator for the Commission and works feverishly to help promote and spread the word about the many services and resources that are available to the public.  As part of National Marriage Week, she has been instrumental in getting Dr. John Gottman tp speak in Salt Lake City.  According to Ms. Reese, “This is a major coup!  Dr. Gottman is a nationally acclaimed speaker who travels all across the country providing valuable research information on the importance and positive affect that marriage has on a society.  The fact that he is coming to Salt Lake City is a major complement to the efforts of the Commission and to the professional, as well as faith-based, marriage counselors and other relationship professionals.

According to the National Marriage Week initiative:

“Marriage works. It makes people happier, live longer, and build more economic security. Children with married parents perform better in school.

Deep down, everyone wishes they could have a rewarding lifelong commitment with their spouse. But in the midst of challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit our personal lives. We are losing our determination and the skills to keep marriages healthy and strong.

Marriage breakdown is costly to our kids and to society at large. Divorce and unwed childbearing cost the U.S. taxpayers a whopping $112 billion annually.

In these economic challenging times, building stronger marriages helps build a stronger nation.”

(Click here to see official proclamation)

No secrets: Couples share email addresses to keep things open

Over the past couple of years there has been a new trend developing in online communications.  No, it’s not the use of Twitter or Facebook, although those two technologies are a huge trend that is sweeping the country.

The new trend actually has more to do with using an old technology in a new way.  Electronic mail (e-mail) has been around for a long time and it would be hard to find anybody nowadays under the age of 65 who doesn’t have at least one email account.

Email has fundamentally changed our world, both in our personal lives as well as in our businesses.  However, as is often the case with technology, it can be a double-edged sword.  Because of the inherent privacy built into having your own personal email account, a new type of “affair” has evolved.  By traditional definition, an affair has meant an intimate physical relationship with another who is not your spouse.

However, email, and the Internet in general, has created a new type of affair.  This type of affair could happen between two people who live thousands of miles apart and maybe haven’t even actually met, yet they have grown emotionally attached through intimate conversation and the sharing of very personal information.

There are those who will argue that this is simply a form of friendship, there has been no betrayal.  Yet, if the act of having sex with someone who is not your spouse is bad, but a highly intimate and emotional relationship with someone who is not your spouse is OK, then I think the bigger point is being missed.

I submit that by definition the act of having sex is as much an emotional and intimate experience as it is a physical one, and I would also argue that it is this intimacy and emotional connection of sex that is the root of the feeling of betrayal.

Therefore, if someone has an intimate, emotional relationship with someone other than his or her spouse, even if sex is not involved, it is still the same type of betrayal.

This brings us back to the new trend in email accounts.

In an effort to show total confidence in the online communications between spouses and their friends, couples are starting to share email accounts.

Many couples have started sharing accounts simply as a way to consolidate all electronic bills or online statement communications, however over time they have grown to appreciate the “built-in safety net” of the idea.

The temptation of an online affair with someone over the internet still exists, and someone who is determined to cheat will still cheat, but sometimes the simple knowledge that someone else might easily see the communication you are sending out helps keep honest people honest.  But the real value seems to be just the confidence that there doesn’t appear to be any secrets.

James Furrow, a professor of marital and family therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in California, said sharing an account can be helpful if the goal is promoting openness. But he said the practice can hurt a relationship if it’s meant “as an act of deterrence.”

“We can take steps to manage our behavior, but then the problem with that is it begins to become the emphasis rather than the trust of giving the other the benefit of the doubt,” Furrow said. “What you end up with is the doubt.”

While this approach to openness in marriage may seem trivial and ineffective to some, for others who are proactively looking for ways to strengthen their marriage relationships, the idea is one that is starting to spread throughout marriage support groups like Focus on the Family and the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE).

The Good, The Bad, and The Funny Finalists!

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry to our “The Good, The Bad, and The Funny” honeymoon story contest. 

We have reviewed every single one and spent many long (and fun-filled) hours reading and watching all the entries.  We enjoyed all of the submissions and realized that narrowing them down to a few was no easy task. 

However, after many hours of “discussing” (honest, there was no arguing) we have narrowed down the list to the following entries.  Please read through all the entries and select your favorite by adding your comment to the post you’ve selected as the winner.  There are 16 finalists, so make sure you read them all.

Please tell all your friends and neighbors, so everyone gets a chance to vote.  We had intended to have the voting done by now, but with so many entries, we got a little behind.  Hurry and get your votes in today, voting ends November 15th.

Honeymoon Vacation With My Family

(This entry was a finalist in our Good, Bad, and Funny honeymoon story contest.)

Dear Diary,

I now know how sound proof the rooms at the family cabin down at the Lake are. They aren’t!

Adam and I decided that instead of spending money on an expensive honeymoon, we would just go down to the cabin instead and spend a week hiking.

Come to find out, Dad, Grandma and Papa were down there working on the kitchen plumbing. Dad was in the room next to us, and Grandma and Papa were in the room below us.

We thought it wouldn’t be so bad because we would be gone most of the day and only be there to sleep.

Well, halfway through the week we were in our room umm…sleeping…when we heard my dad yell from the bottom of the stairs “I”M COMING UP THE STAIRS NOW!!” and proceeds to stomp up the stairs…ooops. I

 thought I was being pretty quiet, but I guess I wasn’t as quiet as I thought. That probably explains why every time we came down stairs Grandma was sitting next to the TV reading a book…with the TV on…maybe we should have gone on a cruise after all.

The Detour

(This entry was a finalist in our Good, Bad, and Funny honeymoon story contest.)

December 2002.  

My wedding day, the happiest day of my life!

Although, the day of our wedding was also the same day as the worst storm Oakland, California had seen in 100 years. Maybe I should have taken that as a sign.

We were so excited for the honeymoon! On our wedding night, we stayed in a nearby hotel with plans to leave the next day and head up north, near California. We must have been a little excited to get to our room because we left our keys sticking out of the key hole on our car. Luckily someone turned them into the front desk. The clerk got a big kick out of it, “honeymoon huh?” :wink, wink: “Almost left your keys behind!”.

Awkward.

We hit the road and took turns on the nearly 5 hour drive. I took the wheel for the second half of the trip, and obviously I was a little over eager to get to our destination. I received my first speeding ticket, going 16 over. Obviously the police officer took no notice (or pity) of the GIANT “Just Married” sign in the back of our window.

We arrived at our destination and had a wonderful 3 days. The night before we were to leave a huge thunderstorm hit, and it poured all night long. In the morning we packed up our bags and headed home. Not 10 miles later we hit a problem. There was a massive mud slide closing the only main rode to get home. We tried asking around for another way, but the only way was to go on a mountain road, and come back down. Everyone suggested we just hang around a few days until the road is all cleaned up.

We were poor college students, we couldn’t afford to stay longer, and we had to be back at school in Utah in just three days. It was also New Years Eve, and we wanted to spend it with family, so up the mountain road we went.
We used an old atlas in order to find our way. It wasn’t real exact, but we assumed we were going in the right direction. Since it had rained so much the night before, it had also snowed just as much in the mountains.

At one point we were on a narrow snow covered road (in a Chevy Caviler) with a sheer drop off on one side. White knuckles are all I can say about that. Eventually we made it to the road we were supposed to take back to civilization only to find it was also closed due to an avalanche. We had already been driving for over 5 hours.

We looked at our atlas and found another road that looked like it hooked up to the highway we wanted to take. Every once and a while we would see another car, and at one point we passed a slow moving car with a scared looking man in it driving REALLY cautiously. We laughed and mocked him. Two minutes later we hit black ice, slid, and hit the side of the mountain. The car was fine, it was just snuck in a snow bank. Seconds later the frightened looking man came driving around the corner and offered us a ride. When we got in the car we realized he was as paranoid as he looked. Eventually we realized he was not stopping anytime soon, and we didn’t want to leave our car in the mountains so we had him drop us off.

Now we were miles away from our car, standing on the side of a mountain road. By the way, no cell phone reception either.

Luckily, a crazed looking woman showed up in a jeep going towards the direction of our car, so we hopped in. When we got back to our car there were two other people who had slid off the road. We all helped each other, and we able to get all the cars out, except ours. As everyone left, they promised to send help when they reached the first town.

Now we were all alone, on the side of a mountain road, and it was dark. At one point a drunk snow plow driver came barreling down the road, almost smashing into our car. He was no help, he just kept going on about the avalanche covered road he was supposed to be plowing.

Our savior came in the form of a mountain man driving a giant truck. Apparently he was the brother of the crazed looking jeep woman. He had a fun time goading us about “the city folk” who come down this way. He couldn’t believe my husband grew up in Utah and didn’t know how to drive in the snow (I was a little surprised myself). The Mountain man was able to tie a tow rope around our front tire and pull out the car. We were saved and were able to make it the rest of the way home, without incident.

We walked into the door of my parent’s house 10 seconds before midnight, said happy New Year, and crashed into bed.

16 Years and Counting

(This entry was a finalist in our Good, Bad, and Funny honeymoon story contest.)

Dec. 10, 1993
Oh Diary, I am so excited! Tonight Sam asked me to marry him! I said yes, of course. He is so sweet. I know we have only been dating for 2 months, but we have been good friends for over a year. We were sitting in the driveway of his friend’s mom’s house. He has been staying there until he can move into an apartment. There are 7 in the family besides the kids she babysits, so we were sitting outside in the driveway in his 1973 “Jalopy” station wagon. I can’t believe the jalopy still runs. He just got it out of the shop but it still runs kind of rough. It is so big that, when we play slug bug, I can slide to the passenger door and Sam is not able to get me from the driver’s side. At least it runs, I guess.

Anyway, we were talking about our relationship and he told me that he loves me and asked me how I felt. When I told him that I love him too he told me to hang on while he ran in the house. When he got back in the car he showed me a ring and asked me to marry him. It isn’t the ring that I have always dreamed would be my engagement ring (that beautiful black hills gold engagement /wedding set at the jewelers in the mall that has the 2 roses intertwined around a diamond), but maybe I’ll get that for the actual wedding. He didn’t ask me about a ring so he doesn’t know that I have always had my heart set on that one. He got me one with two small diamonds on the sides and an Emerald in the middle. “GREEN” I would at least think it would have been red for love, or a pearl. I like purple and blue too. Oh well, we’ll get the black hills gold ring for the wedding.

After I said yes, he ran in the house and brought out a bottle of champagne and 2 white roses. He told me that he had planned a romantic candle light dinner for the next evening to propose to me, but that the moment just seemed right tonight. I kind of wish he would’ve done the romantic dinner anyway.

Oh, by the way. Neither my roommate Tonya nor Sam’s sister Emily is happy about us getting married. Tonya says Sam is taking away her best friend and Emily says I am taking her brother away from her. I don’t understand this as we spend a lot of time together with them. Emily is with us almost everywhere we go.

Dec. 27, 1993
Dear Diary, Sam and I have been planning a wedding for the Fall of next year. I love the Fall and think it would be so romantic to be married and have our anniversary during the Fall season. But…. We are moving into an apartment together in January and he wants to be married before we move in to the apartment. He said we could go to the court house to get married now and have our wedding next year. I so know this will never happen- if we go to the court house, there will never be a wedding. He keeps trying to talk me into it but I am not going to give in. I haven’t even gotten the ring I want yet either. I know it’s the marriage and not the wedding that really matters, but I want a wedding! After all, I only plan on doing this once.  
 
Dec. 30, 1993
Dear Diary, I am still a little in shock. Today was the last day of Sam’s Christmas Vacation. He got 1 week paid vacation from work for Christmas. We are scheduled to move into our new apartment in two weeks. He talked me into going to the court house to get married, insisting that we had to go today. It took most of the day for him to talk me into it. I agreed to go this afternoon.

I came home to get ready and I didn’t even have time to do my hair. Sam kept rushing me. I know he was afraid I would change my mind. I tried to call my mom to talk to her and see if there was any way she could be there. She didn’t answer. And so, we left for the court house. I wore a pair of jeans and I borrowed a white poetic frilly shirt from Tonya, my roommate. Sam wore jeans and a jean button up shirt with a tie.

I did get Sam to stop by Albertson’s, after much persuasion,  so I could get a bouquet of red roses, but they didn’t have any red roses – nothing about this went the way I had always planned or hoped- so I got “Fire and Ice”  roses (white roses with red edges). They were pretty.

Tonya and Emily went with us to be our witnesses. Neither was happy about it. We got through the paperwork part and then had to wait in the judge’s chambers for an hour and a half with both sour faced witnesses. You would think they would at least pretend to be happy for us. We had no other family there.

When the judge finally came in, the ceremony took all of 5 minutes and we used the engagement ring he had bought me (with the “GREEN” stone) as my wedding ring and an old silver band I had for his.

Tonya wanted to go home right away. Emily, my new sister in law, went with us to Jack in the Box for our “wedding dinner”. After dinner we took Emily home and on our way “home” (Sam’s friends house with the 7+ people) we got a flat tire on the Jalopy. Since we hadn’t gotten very far, Sam ran back to his sister’s to get a jack, while I waited in the car, and came back to change the flat. When we finally made it back to the house full of people we realized the judge had written the wrong date on the marriage license. It is the 30th of December and that is what is on the license from the clerk’s desk, but on the bottom half of the license where the judge signed it says December 31! I wonder which one will be our legal wedding date. This was not the day I had envisioned as a teenager or that I spent time planning as a fiancé. Nothing has gone as I thought it would.

I really wish my mom could have been there. It is so loud in this house I can hardly concentrate. I can’t wait to get into our new apartment in 2 weeks.
 
October 19, 2009
Dear Diary, Today is October 19, 2009. In a little over two months Sam and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. As I say, “It is the “marriage” and not the wedding that really matters.” I am more in love with him now than I was then. Good marriages don’t just happen. A “good” marriage is a lot of hard work, full of compromises and disappointments, tears and laughter, joy and pain. I would do it all over again if it meant having the love we have in each other.

I never did get the ring or the wedding I wanted, but that doesn’t even matter to me now. I have the man and family I wanted and that is worth far more to me.

That old Jalopy got so bad and money was so tight right after our honeymoon and moving in our apartment, that when the brake lights went out, Sam rigged these 6 inch square lights in the back window. The wiring ran from the front dash along the sides to the lights in the top corners of the back window. You had to flip the lights on with a switch he rigged on the dash. It had a serious electrical problem. Somehow, when the car would no longer start, he figured out that if you turned the radio and left blinker on, the car would start. It would no longer idle because of a carburetor problem, so when you came to a stoplight you would have to flip the “brake lights” on, keep your foot on the brake, throw the car in park, and rev the gas so the engine wouldn’t die. We looked like we were revving our engine to race someone in our jalopy.

The saying, “You might be a Redneck” comes to mind. My mom rode once with my husband driving this car and did not ride with him again for almost 10 years and even then she had to be slightly intoxicated to, “calm her nerves” she said. She thought he was a crazy driver.

I am so glad the marriage has not gone like the honeymoon or the ’73 jalopy station wagon.