Written by Krsnanandini Devi Dasi & Tariq Saleem Ziyad
In our last post, we promised to provide some solutions to the spiraling divorce rates and to the failure of many people with children to marry. We’re excited about the transformation that is possible when some of these solutions are accepted and implemented. And we do gratefully acknowledge that, through the work we do, we’ve seen a breeze, a current of wind blowing- an openness to view marriage differently and a slight increase in married couples or couples about to be married who reach out for help.
Working with clients, some in the throes of intense distress, has allowed us to glimpse into the lives of so many marriages. Just because we are Marriage and Family Educators, just because we have worked with hundreds of couples and helped save scores of marriages, we are not immune to the ravishing effects of divorce. Altogether, we have 19 children. Several are married, but a few are divorced. Some of them are in college and we have two youngsters at home. Still, we know how it feels to get a call from a grandchild who is sobbing his little heart out because he wants his separated parents to get back together.
All thoughtful people should have a vested interest in healthy marriages. In part one of this discussion, “Does Marriage Decline Mean Society’s Demise?,”we offered many reasons why society needs to invest in strengthening marriages. Read on to find some suggestions we’ve culled from our research and experience about how we, as individuals or couples, or as a society working through government can do this.
How Can We Strengthen Marriages
1. Promote healthy marriage through state and local government advertising, through tax breaks for families, and definitely through supportive services, e.g. available and accessible marriage education.
2. Require couples to get counseling before divorce is granted. The Parental Divorce Reduction Act will set our nation off on the right foot. Ultimately, however, especially when children are involved, we believe no fault divorce should be eliminated, except in cases of physical abuse.
3. Let your male relatives – brothers, sons, nephews and cousins – know that you fully expect them to care for their children. This means you encourage and insist that they financially, physically and emotionally, support their children. Make this known by your words and your actions. Help them to look at having sex in this way: Don’t have such physical intimacy with any lady unless they could picture her as the mother of their children. This may sound radical, but consider its implications.
4. Encourage couples you know to get premarital education that includes sessions on effective communication, financial planning, goal setting, identifying their couple values, and having realistic expectations about marriage. Generally in these sessions couples practice and learn how to utilize healthy relationship skills.
5. Consider asking your congressional or state representatives to introduce reform legislation, specifically the PDRA. When people have children, it should not be so easy to divorce. (Ruling out of course circumstances where there is physical abuse).
6. Talk positively about marriage to the youth and others in your families.
7. If you are married and your marriage is conflicted, set an example for others and seek help so you can honestly promote this institution. Attend workshops on effective communication and conflict resolution. Go online to find resources if necessary.
8. Find a healthy, committed mentor couple who will agree to mentor you and your spouse.
9. Give couples you know gift certificates for marriage enrichment and premarital education.
10. Take the initiative to develop couple support groups in your neighborhood, church, temple, synagogue, community agency, family, etc.
What happens if we don’t support and encourage healthy marriage?
Can we withdraw money from a bank in which we have never deposited anything?
Can we pick flower flowers from a garden that we have never planted?
Can we realistically expect water to flow from a water faucet if we have not had the water in our house turned on?
Can we expect marriages to do better if we don’t make concentrated efforts to improve them?
The negative answers to these questions point to the futility of expecting positive results if we do not invest in saving the marriages in our communities.
There is an old saying: “Between the little things that I won’t do, and the big things I cannot do, the danger is that I won’t get anything done.” So we’re asking you, dear reader to reflect on the things that you can do.