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.”

A cheap date is better than no date at all!

When was the last time you and your spouse had a night out just the two of you? There are tons of things to do that don’t cost lots of money. Even dinner for two at Wendy’s is better than no date at all. Make the committment to take your spouse out within the next couple of weeks. Go see a movie, drive up the canyons, watch the sunset, just go out for an ice cream cone. It doesn’t have to cost lots of money, it just needs to happen.

We attended the Smart Marriages Conference in Orlando a couple of weeks ago and learned some very sobering facts about marriage in the United States. Over 50% of marriages will end in divorce if the current trends continue.

Statistics also show that financial stress is one of the key factors in divorce. With the current economy, it may seem like you can’t afford to spend time going out on dates with your husband or wife, but these are the times when that is most important.

Go to your city’s official visitor website, if it’s got one, and see what events are coming up. Many of them are free!

Here are a few places to look:

Salt Lake City Visitor’s Bureau: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/events/
Boise Visitor’s Bureau: http://www.boise.org/Calendar/
Logan Visitor’s Bureau: http://www.tourcachevalley.com/index.php?id=16

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!!

Communication: Sometimes it’s about what we don’t say

We always hear about how important communication is in our marriages. I do agree that the way we communicate with each other is of utmost importance. However, what does it mean to communicate?

I think that sometimes we confuse communicating with talking. I don’t think to communicate always means to talk. I think that sometimes the best communication might be what we choose not to say.

When my wife and I first got married, someone gave us a quote that we thought was pretty funny at the time… “Go into marriage with both eyes wide open, and once your married keep at least one eye shut.”

We have come to more deeply understand and appreciate this concept the longer we are married. I believe that most of us understand intellectually the idea that we go into marriage blinded by love and that we can’t expect perfection in each other. But, knowing that and actually living that is not always the same thing.

Our emotions and feelings often overpower our logic and reason and with time we may find ourselves feeling resentment towards our spouse because of some of their habits or personal traits. This can cause a rift to develop with your spouse that you need to address.

As is most often the case, the way we communicate with each other has a huge impact on how we deal with these unmet expectations, or disappointments. While I am definitely a firm believer that you need to be able to communicate clearly and openly with your spouse about what is happening within your marriage, I don’t believe that everything you think or feel actually needs to be said.

For example, if I attempt to leave the house with socks that don’t match, I would hope that my wife would point that out to me, but I’m pretty sure that if she continually told me that she wished I’d consider a toupee, or hair plugs, to help “cure” my baldness, eventually it would start bothering me and I would begin to wonder if my lack of hair was really a problem. She’s not wrong; I am losing my hair, but will continually pointing that out to me help me somehow? What if I don’t mind being bald?

The same would go for a husband who continually “reminds” his wife that she’s put on a few pounds since the baby. He may technically be right, since most women do put on a few pounds when they have a baby, but is it actually helpful to her, or to the marriage relationship to keep pointing that out to her?

Sometimes I hear people actually justifying these type of comments as being “constructive criticism” or trying to be helpful and loving. But if the only result to this type of statement is that someone’s feelings are hurt, I don’t believe it has anything to do with being helpful, or loving, as much as it has to do with being selfish and having unrealistic expectations.

I believe that communication is critical in strengthening any marriage relationship, however communication does not always mean speaking what is on our mind. Sometimes communication is not saying things that would only make someone feel bad, and would not actually provide any positive value. It’s sometimes about what we don’t say.

Brief History of the current Anniversary Inn owners

In 2005, when Rich and Joan Bennion purchased the Anniversary Inn brand, the four different properties were not all owned by the same investment group. Logan and Boise were owned and operated by one group, and an entirely different group owned the Salt Lake locations. They shared the same brand name, but they were operated completely different.

The initial challenge was to get all four locations running more efficiently and uniformly. This included small things like requiring our staff to wear standardized uniforms, to more complex processes like modifying how we cleaned the rooms each day. Our housekeeping staff went through some rigorous training to get everybody on the same page to ensure our rooms are kept clean and inviting.

We also took a look at some of the themes and determined that we needed to “update” some of them or at least give some of them a facelift. As we looked at some of the rooms that we wanted to update, we also set as a goal to “raise the bar” each time we added a new room so that we could make an even bigger impression for our guests when they check into one of our Suites. Our theory is: “If the customer doesn’t say “Wow” as they walk into one of our suites, we didn’t do it right.” Joan took the lead on designing the rooms and ensuring that the tiniest details were addressed.

For those who have been following our progress, you will remember that our first major overhaul was to totally redo the lobby and common-area carpeting in both our Salt Lake locations. We then went to work on some of the suites. Little by little we have been updating and enhancing many of the different suites across all four locations.

The first major addition to our family of themed suites was in Logan. We took an old office and converted it into the Arabian Nights suite. From day one this has been a very popular room.

We then determined that Logan needed more rooms and so we purchased two adjoining buildings and began planning how we were going to introduce 12 new suites to our Anniversary Inn family.

This past fall we finally completed the project and, for those of you who have been following, I think it’s safe to say that we have really “raised the bar” with the level of detail and extravagance that we put into these new rooms.

If you’ve not checked them out, go to: http://www.anniversaryinn.com/logan.php

If you can get to Logan, it is definitely worth the trip!

The new themes are:

Juliet’s Balcony
Joanie’s Diner
Hawaiian Paradise
African Safari
Rich’s Drive-in
Biker Roadhouse
Taj Mahal
Vegas Nights
Blue Bayou
La Hacienda
Nefertiti’s Court
The Tipi

I’d be curious to hear some of your comments on how we did with the Logan expansion.

Does anybody have any feedback on which rooms are your favorite and why?