Category Archives: Commentary

General Commentary on relationships

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!

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).

Utah supports strong and healthy marriages as a priority

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.

The successful marriage: Can it be learned?

According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, “…50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” This means that half of our extended family, friends and neighbors are going to go through the turmoil of breaking apart a family unit. This is a sobering reality in our society that many are trying to remedy.

Diane Sollee, founder and Director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education (CMFCE), believes that part of the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding within our society of the importance of a complete, biological, intact family. “For too many years, the well-meaning experts, including myself, were saying all family forms are equal. We operated on the mentor model that if the child has at least one adult in his life with a strong connection, that is all he needs. Then a compelling body of research started coming that there is nothing you can measure for men, women and children where they do not do better in an intact biological family. That is a hard thing to say because that means they do not do as well in stepfamilies or any other family form. Just getting that information to couples is very valuable instead of saying, ‘The kids will be fine. All family forms are equal. We will send you to divorce adjustment therapy and then everything will be okay.’ It turns out that is not what the research is showing, and we have to correct that message,” Sollee said.

In her work with the CMFCE, Sollee has helped promote grass roots initiatives to create educational tools and programs that will help couples better understand what to expect going into a marriage.

The problem is one of education, says Sollee, “…We give people very good instructions about how to court, how to get engaged, how to do weddings, how to do a honeymoon, and what to expect when you are expecting a child. But then there is a black screen on how to be married. We need to educate the public about what to expect in a normal, good marriage. If you ask an educated couple about what event in marriage precipitates more separation and divorce, they answer infidelity, job loss, illness, or the death of a child. No one gets it right that it is the birth of a first baby and the three months before and three months after. If you ask, ‘When do marriages have the highest divorce rate?’ everyone says seven years. In reality, it is the first two years and in years 14 to 16. The average length of marriage is seven years,” explains Sollee.

Another key obstacle to educating our society has been a lack of understanding as to what makes a successful marriage work. Too often, it’s simply a matter of two people having unrealistic expectations. They think that because they are disagreeing, the marriage must be failing. According to Sollee, prior to the 1980’s most marriage relationship data that therapists and family counselors were using had been gathered by using couples that were already in failing marriages. Finally, the industry modified their data gathering approach and began watching “in love” couples and following them forward for ten years.

Sollee explains, “They found out there is no compatible couple. All couples disagree the same amount. And the difference was not what they disagree about or their ethnicity or age. Couples have to manage money, children, sex, others and time, and they will disagree about those. Those who divorced are the ones who do not understand that this is what marriage is…The experts also learned there are much better ways to manage – (we never use the word resolve) – conflict or disagreement in marriage. Even the happily married couples have irreconcilable differences; they just know how to manage them.”

Because of this new trend in family therapy, there has been a groundswell of support and interest in developing and providing new ways to educate and prepare people for long, happy, and successful marriage relationships.

Diane Sollee, and the CMFCE, has played a key part in organizing and encouraging a change in our culture to better prepare for long-term marriage relationships. As explained on the CMFCE website, “…The good news is that anyone can learn to do it better and smarter. Couples can unlearn the behaviors that destroy love and replace them with the behaviors that keep love alive.”

The Anniversary Inn at the annual Smart Marriages Conference

The Anniversary Inn is excited to be a part of the annual Smart Marriages conference being held in Orlando this next week. As part of the conference, we will be meeting with Dr. John Covey who has designed a special seminar series called The 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage. We will also have a chance to mingle with dozens of marriage and couples communications experts to compare notes and learn about the latest ideas and programs to help couples strengthen and nurture their marriage relationships.

As I’ve posted in an earlier blog, the mission of the Anniversary Inn is:

“…to provide a place where couples can escape from the pressures of everyday life and share a time of peace and relaxation together, thereby creating positive memories which will strengthen their relationship.”

As part of this mission statement, the Anniversary Inn Reminder can become a resource to provide information, inspirational stories, and programs that will help strengthen our communities and neighborhoods by strengthening our marriage relationships. Please help us to promote strong marriages and relationships by submitting any ideas, programs, or events in your communities that we can share with the rest of the Anniversary Inn community. Send all feedback to blog@anniversaryinn.com.

I will report back on our experiences at the conference in later posts. In the meantime, you can see what the conference provides by going to their website at: www.smartmarriages.com

Have a great 4th of July!!

Love is a verb, not a noun

I’ve always looked at love as a verb, an action word, something that is shown or demonstrated. I think sometimes we tend to minimize the concept of true love by treating it simply as a noun, something that you might possess or hold.

My grandfather taught me about what it really means to love someone. His generation had a different perspective on marriage. When people got married back then, it was a covenant before God and each other that “For better or for worse…” they were committed to one another. No matter how difficult things got, they stayed together and determined to make things work.

Today people get divorced for no other reason than they’ve “fallen out of love.” No-fault divorce has become so rampant in our society that the institution of marriage sometimes takes on the appearance of a social networking program rather than a true commitment between two people to support and take care of each other through the good times as well as the bad.

My grandmother suffered from depression for many years and was not always the easiest person to live with. But my grandfather loved her. He was a humble, gentle man who worked by the sweat of his brow his entire life. He was a farmer, he was a storeowner, he was a steelworker, and he was a volunteer fireman. He was never wealthy, but he was wise and kind and he took his responsibility as a husband very seriously.

As my grandparents got older, grandma became very ill. She was bed-ridden and spent every day lying on her back in their tiny little bedroom. If she needed to use the bathroom, he would carry her from her bed to the bathroom and then back again. He would cook every meal for her and bring it to her. Eventually she began to lose her eyesight. She became more dependent on him even for discussion and entertainment. She could no longer watch television, or read. She would listen to the radio for hours and my grandfather would sit in his chair and talk with her or read her the newspaper, or other stories.

One day when I was visiting, he was so excited to show me this “new” invention that he’d discovered. It was a cordless telephone that he had just purchased. (The rest of us had been using them for years, but he hadn’t been paying attention.) He showed me how he could now go outside and spend more time in the garden without worrying that he wouldn’t hear grandma call from the bedroom. If she needed him, she could page him by pushing the little button on the base unit and his phone would beep. He had devised a cool little phone-holster that he could strap on his belt to carry the phone.

He cared for my elderly grandmother day and night. Keeping her company, ignoring her complaints, loving her regardless of her negativity and promising her that he would always take care of her.

Eventually it became difficult for him to walk, his hips were giving out and the doctors told him that he needed to have both hips replaced. He told me later that the hardest thing he’d ever done was tell my grandmother that he had to temporarily place her in an Elder-Care facility while he had his hip operations. He felt so much guilt over leaving her alone in an unfamiliar place that he rushed through his physical therapy in order to get her back home with him. He later told me that the day he brought her home was the happiest he’d seen her in years. “She was very kissy,” he said, and they spent the next week together, with him sitting next to the bed keeping her company. She died a week later.

Marriage isn’t only about the romance; it’s also about the commitment. We are going to learn a lot about our spouse over the years we are married. We are going to know what makes them happy, we are going to know what causes them pain, and we are going to be able to choose daily which of those results we want to produce.

Romance requires some planning

Alright, so let’s get right to it.

Husbands, this one is for you. If you’re like me you’re thinking something like this: “Valentines Day is next month. This time I’m going to plan ahead. Good thing for me, there’s plenty of time to get something nice for my wife….”

Then we continue on with our daily routines and next thing we know it’s February 12th and it’s too late to get tickets, or plan an overnight getaway.

One thing to be aware of this year, guys…. February 14th falls on a Saturday. That means lots of people will be out and about. If you are planning on doing something that requires reservations you’d better start thinking about it now.

Although this site is obviously going to give shameless plugs for the Anniversary Inn on a regular basis, the reality is that February is one of our busiest months, so seriously…… plan ahead!

But even if you don’t stay with us, with Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, this year is going to be crowded. My sense is that even though our economy is struggling right now, folks are still going to want to do something nice for their loved ones.

Husbands, my suggestion to you (and to me, because I’ve seriously got to atone for last year’s “blender” fiasco) is to start floating a few “test balloons” past your wife to see what things she might be hoping for.

From my vast wealth of experience a hastily purchased present doesn’t go as far as a poem that took you some time to put together. I think we too often forget that buying stuff isn’t the same as giving a gift.

“Presents” are stuff you buy, “gifts” are things that you give with some level of meaning attached. A gift may be something that you purchased, but there is significance behind its purchase. A ring is a lovely present, but a Mother’s ring with a stone representing each of your children is a gift.

All I’m saying, husbands, is take a little time to think about this upcoming holiday. Valentine’s Day is the one time a year you really get to tell your wife that you do still care. And to represent that caring you’ve purchased, or written, or put together, or planned, this Gift.

Good luck men, I’ll see you on the other side!