Monday, February 08, 2010

Marriage Course Conundrum

It's been a strange week for those of us involved in running The Marriage Course in Perth. I can't think of a week that has been more encouraging and discouraging, all at the same time.

On the encouraging side, over the last few days we have heard from three couples, who did the course with us - and the hugely positive difference it has made to their lives. On Saturday we met with loads of other folks around Scotland involved with Marriage Courses, in Edinburgh. One of the people speaking about setting up the course in his own church, was doing so because of the effect it had on his marriage. The privacy that couples are given on the course is so well enforced that we had no idea that they were struggling with difficult issues - or that they had learnt to manage them successfully using the tools taught on the course. We've recently been made aware of - or directly told of, a whole group of really great stories of couples who have been so helped by doing the marriage course. The stories are wonderful - but not available for public broadcast! We are however newly aware that there are loads of people who have needed (like us) to learn practical stuff about communication, time management, conflict resolution etc. and newly aware of how effective the marriage course format has been in helping them that we are really keen to offer the course again.

Why then the discouragement? Simply this - it's proving very difficult to encourage more couples to come and join us for a course, especially within our own church. Most of our advertising has been within the fellowship, yet increasingly the only people who will come do so from outside, where word of mouth has been a better advert.

I am unsure as to the reasons for the reluctance of so many people. I could speculate that the reasons include a 'marriage counselling' stigma wrongly attached to the course, suggesting failure rather than initiating investment in marriage. I also think that the absence of some of the cool opinion formers and associated ill-informed commentary has done damage. Most serious though I think have been our failures in promotion, making the course understood, accessible and welcoming; and perhaps most significantly our failure to build a team to own and run the thing with us.

Either way - this week is a tangled and curious mixture of encouragement and discouragement, when we have been made aware perhaps more than ever of the good that's been done; yet disappointed at the lack of response to our invitations. It makes for a strange week!


Les (Endlessly Restless) said...

I share your mystification.

Helen and I thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from attending the course. We really appreciate the effort that you guys put into it, and we constantly encourage other couples to attend - including the offer of baby-sitting if needed. But the conversation usually degenerates into jocular reasons why it's not right for the couples that we're talking too.

Maybe we need to be exhorted to invest in our marriages from the pulpit, and maybe the church leadership need to lead by example - and be seen to do so.

I'm stunned that you don't have a huge waiting list. I fail to understand how people who claim to value marriage aren't willing to invest a few hours in strengthening, deepening, developing their own.

Once again, our heartfelt thanks and prayers are with you.

That Hideous Man said...

Thanks Les!

While the responses from people who have come have been so positive, I'm also interested in any comments (even anonymously) from people that have seen the info and don't want to come.

People who have spoken to me about why they won't be coming have said things such as:

1) spouse refuses to come with me

2) we get on fine as long as we don't talk to each other

3) I do not want a deep relationship with my wife that involves sharing any of my feelings with her

4)it's too scary - might be too challenging

5)we all work on our marriages in different ways

Are there other reasons? What have I missed here?

morven said...

If we lived in Perth we'd be very keen to come!

Helpful prayer on Sunday too - thanks!

That Hideous Man said...

Thanks Morven!

- Strangely the day before we are due to start, the course has filled up!