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About The


Ethics & Religion
Column #2,045
October 20, 2020
How To Save Marriages
By Mike McManus

About 25 years ago, my wife and I created an organization, Marriage Savers, to do a better job preparing couples for a lifelong healthy marriage, enriching existing ones and saving those in crisis. We have helped 230 cities to do so by creating what we called a Community Marriage Policy.

An independent study estimated that citywide divorces fell 17.5% on average, with nine cities slashing divorces by 50% or more. The result: about 200,000 marriages have been saved from divorce.

What most couples are doing to consider marriage is living together. It is the worst possible decision. We wrote a book on this issue, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers. One myth is that a couple can test a relationship by living together. However, four out of five cohabiting couples break up before a wedding, and those who marry are 50% more likely to divorce than those who remained separate.

A better way to consider marriage is to meet with an older, trained Mentor Couple to discuss key marriage issues. To spark the conversation and guide it, we suggest that couples take a premarital relationship inventory called Prepare-Enrich used by 4 million couples. It asks whether they agree or disagree with 100+ statements like these:

  • We have decided how to handle our finances.
  • We have some important disagreements that never seem to get resolved.

About a fifth of couples who take the inventory with a trained Mentor Couple decide not to marry. But over 20 years fewer than 5% of couples we prepared have divorced.

Second, we believe that every marriage needs enrichment. Marriage Encounter is a powerful weekend get-away. We recommend that churches hold a Marriage Enrichment Weekend as a booster shot. There are CDs which a church might use on a Friday night and Saturday such as Fireproof.

Alternatively, a church might order 10 Great Dates by David & Claudia Arp. Married couples come to the church 10 consecutive Friday nights, and watch a 15 minute CD on such topics as "Sharing Hopes & Dreams" or "Managing Your Money. Couples then go on a dinner date to discuss that issue. The Arps have written a book, Ten Great Dates and have created a DVD package that can be ordered.

Since the 1970s, half of America's marriages have ended in divorce. However, most of these marriages can be saved. A pastor can ask to meet with couples whose own marriages were once in crisis. One pastor who did so met with seven back-from-the-brink couples. They were trained to tell their story of recovery to couples in current crisis.

Over five years, they met with 40 couples considering divorce. A couple who recovered from adultery told how they restored trust, for example. Result: 38 couples saved their marriages.

The central idea behind successful marriage preparation or restoration is the trained Mentor Couple. They share how to build strong marriages with practical tools and strategies.

What if a couple is separated, with one spouse wanting a divorce? Joe & Michelle Williams, who each had failed marriages before marrying each other, created a course they called Marriage 911 which is taken by the spouse who wants to save the marriage with a friend of the same gender over 12 weeks. It is designed to help him or her grow so much they attract back their errant mate. It saves about half of these marriages.

Finally, what if there has been a divorce, but a remmariage by either or both of the partners? Normally, these stepfamilies divorce at a 70% rate.

However, if stepfamilies create a Stepfamily Support Group couples can learn from each other how to make these marriages be successful.

Thus, there are interventions which can help couples accomplish five great goals:

  1. Prepare for a lifelong marriage.
  2. Enrich existing ones.
  3. Restore marriages in crisis.
  4. Help separated couples to heal their marriages.
  5. Enable stepfamilies to heal successfully.

My wife and I have planted these Community Marriage Policies in 230 cities. An independent study reported that city/county divorce rates fell by nearly a fifth in seven years. Nine cities - such as Austin, TX, Kansas City, KS, Modesto, CA and El Paso slashed divorces by 50% or more.

El Paso's rate plunged 79% from 1996 -2001. One surprising result is that El Paso has had America's lowest crime rate for four straight years. And Austin, with a 50% drop in divorce has America's fourth lowest crime rate.

Why? If couples stay married, few of their children become delinquent.

Community Marriage Policies demonstrate that marriage can be restored in America.


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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