Happily ever after ... hopefully
Workshop arms couples with tools that foster long-term relationships
Story and photo by Lisa R. Rhodes
Of that one hour, only three minutes are spent on meaningful conversation. If both spouses are working, they spend less than 12 minutes per day talking to each other.
Mike and Trisha Fox, certified marriage counselors, shared these statistics with 40 people during a "Learning How To Love Marriage And Relationship Enrichment Workshop" on Friday at the Community Readiness Center.
The four-hour workshop was sponsored by the Family Advocacy Program at Army Community Service and is one of several ACS programs that foster resilience in military families.
"These type of workshops arm our Soldiers and families with the tools that they need to live vibrant, lifelong relationships," said Celena Flowers, Family Advocacy Program manager at ACS. "Marriage enrichment is something every marriage needs to stay healthy. All marriages can have the tendency to get stale. This course helps marriages flourish, which helps promote resiliency."
The marriage counselors, who have appeared on Fox News and Anderson Cooper's talk show, used humor and interactive exercises to help couples and singles gain the knowledge and skills to make a happy and healthy marriage.
"Marriage doesn't come with an instruction manual. You have to learn as you go," said Trisha Fox of Smyrna, Del. "Sometimes we come into marriage with high expectations, but then reality sets in. It's what happens after the wedding."
The Foxes said that a successful marriage takes learning as well as loving and that each spouse must be willing to give fully to the relationship.
"A healthy marriage is when a spouse gives 100 percent to meet the other's needs," Mike Fox said.
When spouses satisfy mutual needs, there is little danger of either one seeking to fulfill those needs outside of their marriage, he said.
A key to understanding a spouse's needs, the Foxes said, is understanding the different needs that women and men have in relationships and how these differences are not good or bad -- they just are.
In general, a man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results through success and accomplishment, said the Foxes. A woman, however, defines her identity through her feelings and the quality of her relationships. She feels fulfilled through sharing and relating.
If spouses can accept and understand each other's innate needs, it is easier to try to fulfill those needs without anger or resentment, said Mike Fox.
Over time, there is a danger in marriage for the spouses to co-exist, fulfilling separate goals and living separate lives. The Foxes said the biggest destroyer of closeness in a marriage is "busyness."
Mike Fox cited studies showing that in a healthy marriage, couples spend a minimum of 15 hours per week together interacting with each other through conversation, recreational companionship and sexual intimacy.
"But this doesn't work in our modern era [with commitments outside the home]," he said.
Even so, said Mike Fox, couples can set aside time together with a date night -- time they do not compromise.
But date night should not be a movie, spending time with the children, going to church or paying the bills together.
"If your focus is on the event, it is not on your spouse," Mike Fox said.
Instead, a date night activity should be interactive and fun such as holding hands and going for a walk after dinner or on the weekend, or playing a board game.
Couples who engage in fun activities together bicker less and are happier, said Mike Fox.
"If all you do is one night a month, do whatever it takes," he said. "You're still dating your spouse."
Among the participants were Spc. Jessica Reyna DeBooy and Spc. Ryan DeBooy, photographers with 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) who have been married for a little more than a month. The newlyweds decided to participate in the workshop because they did not undergo any marriage counseling before they tied the knot.
"We wanted to get insight into how to make a marriage work so we can go down the right path," Jessica DeBooy said.
Ryan DeBooy said the workshop helped him to be more objective in regard to his marriage. He also learned how important it is to listen to his wife.
The couple said that although they work together, they don't spend much quality time together and plan to set aside time for a date night.
Sgt. Caitlin Icart and Sgt. Nathan Icart of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion, Company B, have been married for two years. The couple has a 1-year-old daughter and is expecting a second child in October.
Caitlin Icart said she learned how to communicate more effectively and to avoid making your spouse feel he is a problem that needs to be solved.
Her husband said he learned the importance of listening to what your spouse has to say, rather than what you want to hear.
"The workshop was very well put together," he said. "We plan on doing as much as possible to make a healthy marriage."
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