We've taken the plunge and decided to run the Marriage Course again in Perth, starting after the half-term holidays. We've just completed a review of the feedback from all the previous courses and the overwhelming consensus was that it was helpful and useful - so we are running again if there are more couples wanting to do it. We were asked to speak about it at another local church last Sunday, and have begun putting leaflets back on display at our church - we'll see if there is a continued demand.
As ever, there are plenty of prejudices to overcome in successfully promoting something like this. I have blogged about these before, and include things such as it is marriage counselling for relationships in difficulty, or it is only for young-marrieds, or it includes group-discussion, or it is overly prescriptive and tells you how to live, rather than empowering couples with relational skills to negotiate however they together decide to live. Sometimes it can be depressing, having explained what the Marriage Course is (and isn't!) so clearly - to have normally reliable people continuing to audibly misunderstand it - from the unique vantage point of almost total ignorance of the subject matter!
We are going to host the course again because we think that it is so helpful. We have done the course twice now completely, and this has been a real eye-opener for us in terms of how successful it can be. Going back over the exercises that we did first time round, reading the comments that we wrote down and the plans that we made, reviewing all of those things a year later made us realise just how much progress we had made as a result of doing the course. It's an obvious and tired old cliche that marriage requires work. What is less obvious is where to start that work, what structure it should have, and how we can help each other in the task of building a happy and enjoyable marriage. The Marriage Course provides exactly that. The even less obvious thing is that the work can be made enjoyable, spiritually enlightening, and even fun, and again this was our experience of the course. While it is true that we identified areas of our marriage which we needed to improve and were given good ideas on how to do that - the marriage course is also a great way to identify and celebrate the areas of the relationship that are really successful, and to recognize the achievements made over the years. This in itself can raise bits of the everyday 'taken-for-granted' to things of gratitude and encouragement to work on weaker areas.
In the last three days I have been told by one couple that the course "really worked" for them, another guy told me that he did the course even though he didn't want to as his 20yr long marriage was going well - but thoroughly enjoyed it and gained a lot from it. Another lady told me, with deep sadness of the way that her marriage had ended twenty years ago when such resources were not freely available in the church and the community - and encouraged us to persevere with it, while another husband said he had come on the course under duress, but thought it was excellent, recommended to to others, and in fact wanted to do it again!