When the friction heats up in marriages, more people (10-20%) than ever before are considering getting professional help. That is very wise. We may be making progress. I am still disturbed that most do not seek help. What is wrong with the other 80%? Getting therapy seems so reasonable to me; it seems that every friend, every parent, every child, every relative, and every professional person in contact with the unhappy couple should recommend counseling. Why don’t they? Divorce is such an emotionally laden decision (perhaps more so than who to marry), we need help seeing the situation realistically, trying to resolve the problems, deciding what other alternatives exist, considering the consequences to others, making reasonable plans for our future, etc. Anyone going though marital hell or a divorce needs a friend to talk to and vent with, no doubt, but he/she needs much more than that–a wise, experienced, unemotional but empathic and caring counselor and a group of people who can relate.
We are freer than we have been for centuries to dissolve an unhappy marriage. There are other factors associated with the increasing divorce rate. Many of these social-economic factors would be considered good, e.g. more equal education and job opportunities for women, higher incomes, fewer children, fewer religious restrictions, and general social acceptance of divorce and of women living alone. Yet, as we will see, there are terrible consequences frequently associated with divorce (and with continuing a bad marriage). Over 75% of Americans accept divorce as a solution when a couple can’t get along, even if they have children. There is concern by some that divorce may have become too easy (few people who have personally gone through a divorce consider it easy). But, what about those who are happily married and newly weds? Why not help a relationship strengthen before it gets to that point of divorce or feeling helpless?
I would like to start a Support Group for newly married couples. These couples are not troubled couples but rather couples who want to enrichen their marriage and have the support of other newly married couples. Our society is built so much on how marriages fail but forget so easily those who work hard daily to keep their marriage healthy. Newly married couples need to know there are other couples out there who are making and succeeding in this hard world. They need to know, yes, marriage is hard, but this is what we are doing to make it work. Therefore, I would like to propose a Support group called “Spousal Support”.
Spousal Support would include all newly married couples who do not have serious marital issues. Those who are just married to ten years of marriage. Couples who are looking for support of other couples, building friendships, and other marriage enrichment resources. Couples who will be accepted into the group are those who feel they are alone in being happily married, or put down for saying they are happily married. The percent of married people who say they are “very happy” has gone down during the last 20 years, especially among women.
“Happily married couples have rosy illusions about their marriage and they idealize their spouse. The more illusions, the happier the couple” (Azar, 1995). This Ideal stated here is the reason why more and more being a happy couple is in the minority and a support group is needed. A support group that believes being happily married is something you have to work on but is possible. Ursula K. LeGuin once said; “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new.
Screening and selection of couples will be done through an interview. The interview will consist of questions about their relationship and what they want to get out of Spousal Support. Those who are not experiencing major marital issues and want support in their marriage will be accepted. Couples who are considering divorce, infidelity or other major marital issues will not be accepted into this group. Any couple who has been married ten years or less, and considers themselves happily married.
Couples who have been married for less than ten years are many times considered either still in the “honey moon” stage or are considering Divorce. Regardless the first ten years can be hard, not just because you are working out your marriage but because of society pressures.
This group will consist of five couples, meeting once a week on Sunday at 4 p.m. for 16 weeks. There will be a break of a month and new members will be able to join at that time. The group will determine a convenient private meeting place and occasionally take outings to local venues.
Group members will be briefed during the initial interview as to what will take place and what is expected in the group. Also discussed will be goals that each couple would like to make. Ground rules for the group will be open for discussion during the first meeting:
Couples must always be as a couple never alone
Please be timely
Please be respectful and caring of other couples and relationships
Confidentiality is very important
Topics explored will consist of any marriage enrichment discussions, exercises, resources and free for all night once a month. Discussions would include any issues that may come about in day-to-day lives like finding intimate time together, free time, working on careers, building a family, and any outside pressures. Exercises would include questionnaires, inventories, role-playing, communication exercises, and games. Resources are very valuable to have, like a good self-help book, or videos, even ideas to help the couple be there for one another. A free for all night will be given for any topics that couples may want to talk about or focus an entire meeting on in the future. This will allow them to throw out ideas in a less structured tone. Couple will be given time to bond more freely with each other and plan any outings the group will take.
The specific outcomes I would like the group members to attain is knowing that a marriage can succeed and not every issue has to be hard. I would like them to realize that there are other couples out there who work hard at making the marriage work. My last outcome I would like the group members to have is resources and ways for them to work through their problems and strengthen their marriage in a healthy way.