The SYMBIS approach to marriage education.Questions are answered in relationship to the Parrotts' work in marriage education and in relationship to a variety of sociocultural so·ci·o·cul·tur·al
Of or involving both social and cultural factors.
soci·o·cul factors concerning the condition and treatment of marriage issues in contemporary society. The Parrotts' SYMBIS approach to pre-marital, neomarital and early marriage education is discussed. In addition, recommendations are made for marital interventions to local community and church leaders as well as marital therapists.
Can you briefly describe what kind of work you are currently doing in support of Christian marriages?
As co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University External links
• • , the primary emphasis of our work has been premarital, neomarital, and early marriage education. Why? Primarily because research has shown that half of all serious marital problems develop in the first two years of marriage. Our psychoeducational approach focuses on personal insight as well as skill development. An example of this is our annual marriage preparation weekend in Seattle entitled en·ti·tle
tr.v. en·ti·tled, en·ti·tling, en·ti·tles
1. To give a name or title to.
2. To furnish with a right or claim to something: "Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts" (SYMBIS). A unique feature of this program includes the Marriage Mentor Club which links newlyweds with a seasoned married couple throughout the first year of marriage. We are also active in sponsoring the SYMBIS Model, as well as our curriculum Mentoring Engaged and Newlywed Couples nationally each year. Recently, we developed the curriculum Saving Your Second Marriage Before it Starts, and When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages.
The Center for Relationship Development (CRD CRD
See Central Registration Depository (CRD). ) was established in 1992 with the overarching o·ver·arch·ing
1. Forming an arch overhead or above: overarching branches.
2. Extending over or throughout: "I am not sure whether the missing ingredient . . . goal of nurturing healthy relationships through preventative interventions. In conjunction with the University's Department of Psychology, CRD sponsors curricular offerings which are academically rigorous and based on solid theoretical and applied research. Currently these offerings consist of two psychology courses in relationship development, the first of which focuses on practical principles for building healthy relationships in general (family, friendships, dating, etc.). The second course is more advanced and presents practical tools for marriage and family relationships over the life cycle.
Beyond the work of our university campus, we currently hold "Becoming Soul Mates "Soul Mates" is a second-season episode of the science fiction television series Babylon 5. It originally aired in the United States on December 14, 1994. Synopsis " seminars in more than twenty-five cities annually and often continue ongoing consulting relationships with these churches as they develop their marriage ministry, particularly in the area of marriage mentoring. Each year we also conduct dozens of radio, print, and televised interviews on various aspects of marriage and write columns and articles for various magazines. This past year, at the invitation of the Governor of Oklahoma The Governor of the State of Oklahoma is the head of state for the State of Oklahoma. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the Governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the Oklahoma executive branch, of the government of Oklahoma. , we moved to Oklahoma to serve at his "marriage ambassadors" while kicking off the first of a ten year marriage initiative to lower the divorce rate in Oklahoma by a third. Since moving back to Seattle after our one-year leave of absence we continue to work with the State of Oklahoma on their Marriage Initiative.
A number of dangers to the institution of marriage have been proposed including cohabitation A living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage.
Couples cohabit, rather than marry, for a variety of reasons. They may want to test their compatibility before they commit to a legal union. , increased religious heterogeneity het·er·o·ge·ne·i·ty
The quality or state of being heterogeneous.
the state of being heterogeneous. , dual career issues, modern mobility, increases in the length of life and others. Over the next decade, what do you believe will be the greatest risks to the institution of marriage?
So many contributors to the fracturing of marriage are obvious: cohabitation, serial monogamy serial monogamy
the practice of having a number of long-term romantic or sexual partners in succession
Noun 1. serial monogamy , lack of premarital education, easy divorce laws, a moral decline, stigma stigma: see pistil.
mark of Cain
God’s mark on Cain, a sign of his shame for fratricide. [O. T.: Genesis 4:15]
scarlet letter of counseling, and on and on. One of the single biggest contributors to the decline of marriage that we feel is critically important, however, is rarely, if ever, stated: The psychological and spiritual health of the two people in the marriage.
Why? Because as we have said in some of our books, a marriage can only be as healthy as the least healthy person in it. If one person in a couple is aware of their issues and working on them while the other is unmotivated to overcome an addiction or an emotional struggle or egocentrism e·go·cen·tric
1. Holding the view that the ego is the center, object, and norm of all experience.
a. Confined in attitude or interest to one's own needs or affairs.
b. or any other deterrent to personal health, the marriage will suffer.
Said another way, the maturity of your personhood per·son·hood
The state or condition of being a person, especially having those qualities that confer distinct individuality: "finding her own personhood as a campus activist" determines, in great part, the quality of your love life. More important than what you do in your marriage is who you are in your marriage. If two people are motivated and growing--and helping each other "as iron sharpens iron"--to become all that God designed them to be, the numerous risk factors to the institution of their marriage diminish dramatically.
Follow up: What do you believe is the cause of high levels of divorce in the Christian community today?
Beyond the issues of personal health and spiritual wholeness noted above, we believe that one of the biggest reasons divorce strikes so devastatingly within the Christian community is because we believe in and value marriage so much. It's a paradox. Because we believe in marriage we jump into it quickly and when it doesn't work out we jump right into another one.
Christians get married for life. Because of our conviction about this we "put our faith in God" to sustain us in our marriage. As a young couple in Oklahoma recently told us when we asked if they had gotten premarital education: "We got our counseling from the Holy Spirit." They went on to tell us they were in love and God was with them and that was all they needed.
Truth is, that's not all they needed. This couple, like every other couple, needs skills. Their reasoning would be analogous to saying I love this new car and know that God wants me to have it and He's all I need--no matter that I haven't driven a car before and I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. how to maintain it or read maps. The point is that Christians are divorcing not because we've become disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. with the institution of marriage but because we have, at times, over spiritualized Spiritualized is an English rock band formed in 1990 in Rugby, Warwickshire by Jason Pierce (who often goes by the alias J. Spaceman) after the demise of his previous outfit, space-rockers Spacemen 3. it by neglecting necessary tools and by not emphasizing the skills necessary to keep the marriage God has blessed us with together.
The Bush administration, under Wade Horn, is searching for ways to support marriages in America today. Marriage interventionists have tried to assist marriages in a variety of ways including church-based marriage enrichment, pastoral counseling Pastoral counseling is a branch of counseling in which ordained ministers, rabbis, priests and others provide therapy services. Practitioners in the United States are subject to the standards of the American Association of Pastoral Counseling and many are either licensed as a LPC , professional counseling, marriage mentoring, and pre-marital counseling. If you could make a recommendation to Wade Horn today, what would you recommend his office attempt to make a difference in marriages?
We recently had the pleasure of some face-to-face time face-to-face time Medical practice The time that a health care provider interacts with a Pt. See Specialty. with Dr. Horn and we must preface our remarks here by saying how encouraged and fortunate we feel to have a man like Wade Horn assigned to this important task. He is not only immensely qualified, he shares a deep passion for this work with all of us in the marriage education movement.
So to begin, we want to make a recommendation to the Church at large that we pray for Wade Horn. He has an opportunity to be the catalyst for the single greatest social revolution that this country has ever seen. If he can assist the already growing marriage movement to turn back our country's divorce rate he would be improving the quality of life for children and families for generations. In fact, we estimate that for every single percent that we diminish the divorce rate, one million children will be positively impacted. If for no other reason than this, it is an extremely worthy cause.
Beyond this prayerful prayer·ful
1. Inclined or given to praying frequently; devout.
2. Typical or indicative of prayer, as a mannerism, gesture, or facial expression. support, we have recommended to Wade that a great deal of attention be focused on launching couples for successful marriage. In our opinion, this begins very early--at least in high school. Relationship education in our school systems needs to be funded so that young people realize the gravity of the choices they are making early on. In addition, attention and funding needs to be focused on singles who are needing to be educated on how to find and select a mate that is an extremely good match. Too many base their decisions in this area on previous woundedness and an unreliable emotional barometer. Research has clearly shown that the more we have in common with another the easier life is with them in marriage. Still, popular and inaccurate myths persist, such as "opposites attract." Of course, we would also like to see significant funding given to the area of premarital education once couples do decide to be married and faith-based initiatives in this area are a natural. With the vast majority of couples getting married in the church, ministers and Christian counselors need to be thoroughly educated in doing an exceptional job of educating these couples--whether it be their first marriage or second. This area should be a top priority in this effort. We dream of seeing a national network of marriage mentors that would support the next generation of couples (we have worked directly with the government of Singapore The Government of Singapore is formed by the political party which gains a simple majority in the general elections held in Singapore at least once every five years. It is part of Singapore's political system and supported by the Singapore Civil Service. , started a network in Oklahoma, and have seen that this can be done).
By the way, part of the funding should simply be devoted to a national campaign to raise public awareness of the benefits of marriage education--for those entering marriage as well as those already in it. Why? Because so much misinformation mis·in·form
tr.v. mis·in·formed, mis·in·form·ing, mis·in·forms
To provide with incorrect information.
mis is still common among couples. It is still astounding a·stound
tr.v. a·stound·ed, a·stound·ing, a·stounds
To astonish and bewilder. See Synonyms at surprise.
[From Middle English astoned, past participle of astonen, , for example, to find that most people in the general public (and even some counselors) believe that cohabitation is the best step toward a successful marriage.
Wade Horn is faced with a Herculean effort and we want to support him and his endeavors to reduce divorce and build strong marriages in any way possible.
Follow up: What should churches be doing to support marriages in their congregation and community?
Every church in this country needs to give serious attention to establishing a top notch marriage ministry. Why? Because the Church will sink or swim based on how healthy its marriages are. Marriage is crucial to a church's growth and outreach programming. If a church is focused on evangelism Evangelism
fire and brimstone, fraudulent revivalist. [Am. Lit.: Elmer Gantry]
disciple closest to Jesus. [N.T.: John]
early Christian; the “beloved physician.” [N.T. they will discover that marriage is one of the greatest portals for evangelism they have. We know from speaking around the country in various churches that unchurched un·churched
Not belonging to or participating in a church.
(used with a pl. verb) People who do not belong to or participate in a church considered as a group. Used with the. couples in a community will enter the doors of a church for a marriage seminar when they won't come to church for any other reason.
How can a church develop an excellent marriage ministry? By conceptualizing a life-span approach for the couples they minister to. For example, the local church needs to examine what it is doing to prepare youth and singles for healthy dating and eventual marriage. A premarital education program is crucial. We believe every church should have a marriage mentoring ministry. With its boomerang boomerang (b`mərăng'), special form of throwing stick, used mainly by the aborigines of Australia. effect, marriage mentoring strengthens newlyweds as well as more seasoned couples. The critical years of beginning a family must be given more attention, as should the empty nest syndrome empty nest syndrome Psychology A popular term for the understudied constellation of Sx described in middle-aged ♀ whose children have left home/the 'nest' for college/university, career, marriage Clinical Depression, loss of self-esteem, loneliness, as mom (where our nation is seeing a spike in the divorce rate).
We have some advice for preachers. It can be tempting to paint the proverbial pro·ver·bi·al
1. Of the nature of a proverb.
2. Expressed in a proverb.
3. Widely referred to, as if the subject of a proverb; famous. picture of the dismal state of our unions in your preaching. "The very foundation of marriage in this country is crumbling," I often hear preachers say. "Fifty percent of marriages today will not survive," is a common refrain. Okay, we all know that and so does your congregation. So give them tools for combating divorce. Show them how to handle the inevitable conflicts of marriage. Give them steps to cultivate more intimacy. Show them practical ways for strengthening their commitment. Reveal the real life application of forgiveness in marriage. Don't paint a gloomy picture without real-life solutions.
One more thing. Christian couples don't know how to have spiritual intimacy. If you were to survey couples in a congregation on how important spiritual intimacy is to their marriage most would say it's a ten-out-of-ten. If you then asked how satisfied they are right now with their level of spiritual intimacy, they would tell you, on average, about a three. A husband and wife can walk together with God; not out of compulsion COMPULSION. The forcible inducement to au act.
2. Compulsion may be lawful or unlawful. 1. When a man is compelled by lawful authority to do that which be ought to do, that compulsion does not affect the validity of the act; as for example, when a court of , not out of duty, but because it brings their spirits together like nothing else. We visit a lot of churches every year and can't recall ever hearing a sermon devoted to this topic that the church too often takes for granted.
John Gottman John Gottman, Ph.D. is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through direct observations. The lessons learned from this work represent a partial basis for the relationship counseling movement which is based on specific training and education of behaviors has proposed that training couples in communication skills is not as effective as marriage interventionists have believed. For example, he found that "master" couples who have demonstrated the ability to create a strong marriage only use the skill 4% of the time. Consequently, there is a debate among marriage interventionists about the utility and efficacy of communication skills training. Where do you fall on the current issue?
When John Gottman speaks, we listen. As a neighbor in Seattle, but more importantly as a marriage researcher who has done yeoman yeoman (yō`mən), class in English society. The term has always been ill-defined, but generally it means a freeholder of a lower status than gentleman who cultivates his own land. work in this field, Gottman's is a voice we don't ignore. In fact, we have leaned heavily on his research on marital conflict and other areas of research in our own work. And Gottman may be very right in his assertion that training couples in communication skills is not as effective as we might believe, but we are still deeply convinced of the merits of teaching communication to couples for a couple of reasons.
First, while these skills may not be practiced routinely, we know from experience in our own marriage and many others that these skills are perhaps most valuable when a couple reaches an impasse im·passe
1. A road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac.
2. A situation that is so difficult that no progress can be made; a deadlock or a stalemate: reached an impasse in the negotiations. of any kind. When a couple is stuck on an issue it is often the clarification of the topic and the reflection of each other's feelings that will create positive movement and reconciliation.
Second, learning communication skills represents positive attention that couples are paying to their relationship and provides confidence and hope that when times get tough they can navigate it effectively. There is a sense of self-efficacy that is generalized to other areas when a skill improves--even momentarily--a couple's condition. Seeing a difference buoys optimism and hope and these qualities go a long way even if the communication skills were to be only temporary.
Third, even if learning communication skills is not as effective as it may seem to be, it often hooks a couple who is seeking counseling. That is, it is almost always a strongly felt need and a few simple and expedient ex·pe·di·ent
1. Appropriate to a purpose.
a. Serving to promote one's interest: was merciful only when mercy was expedient.
b. skills provide immediate positivity for the couple seeking help. This can provide momentum for a counselor needing time to delve into deeper issues.
The bottom line is that we deeply respect Gottman's research and theory but we will need more convincing before we drop communication skills from our bag of tools for helping couples build stronger relationships.
Explain to the readers how you integrate your faith/theology with your approach to marital intervention. How do you approach marital interventions and marital research in respect to your faith?
Both of us have received graduate training in theology--and devoted much of our work to the integration of psychology and theology. We believe that integrating our Christian faith and theology with our approach to marital intervention requires us to be individuals who have listened to Scripture, and who have wrestled with its application in our own relational challenges. As counselors and educators, we must model this integration, being willing and able to answer any questions couples may ask about our values and doctrinal doc·tri·nal
Characterized by, belonging to, or concerning doctrine.
Adj. 1. beliefs forthrightly forth·right
1. Direct and without evasion; straightforward: a forthright appraisal; forthright criticism.
2. Archaic Proceeding straight ahead.
1. . In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , our Christian faith is front and center to our professional applications.
In our work, although the big picture is the ultimate health of the marriage, the focus is not so much on the marital problem to be solved, but on the development and maturity of each marriage partner. And ultimately this demands an exploration of one's spirituality and faith. This focus on the personal development of a system of beliefs, values, and guiding life-principles, with the resultant focus on living those out within the most demanding of relationships, is a deeply spiritual task. Because much of our work is conducted in a Christian context (teaching at a Christian university, speaking in churches, etc.), this task is naturally strengthened by accomplishing spiritual growth within the biblical framework of faith in Christ.
Empirical study of Christian marriage and religious marital interventions is seriously lacking. In your opinion, what are the most important studies that need to be conducted to advance our understanding of Christian marriages and Christian marriage interventions?
One need only peruse pe·ruse
tr.v. pe·rused, pe·rus·ing, pe·rus·es
To read or examine, typically with great care.
[Middle English perusen, to use up : Latin per-, per- the bookshelves of any Christian bookstore to see that we have no shortage of Christian books on marriage. One might even be tempted to say there is a glut glut pronounced as rut, slut Vox populi An excess of a service or skilled labor in a particular area. See Physician glut. of material on marriage. What we are short on, is knowing which of these many resources seems to be most effective and for which kinds of couples. Are best-selling best·sell·er also best seller
A product, such as a book, that is among those sold in the largest numbers.
best books, by default, the most effective? Who knows? We'd like to see more research chip away at the question of what works and what doesn't in the context of Christian marriage. We'd like to see a study, for example, delineate the most popular formats of premarital counseling and rigorously examine which approaches are most effective in helping to learn new skills (such as conflict resolution) and helpful insights (such as family of origin influences). Ideally this would examine not only the short term benefits of each but, through longitudinal study longitudinal study
a chronological study in epidemiology which attempts to establish a relationship between an antecedent cause and a subsequent effect. See also cohort study. , could examine the benefits months and years down the road. For example, does a particular program increase money management skills for a couple but not help them resolve interpersonal conflict over financial issues (e.g., melding their values); does it improve physical intimacy “Caress” redirects here. For other uses, see Caress (disambiguation).
Physical intimacy is informal proximity and/or touching. It can be enjoyed by itself and/or be an expression for a couple but ignore the spiritual impact on this aspect of the marriage? Other similar studies could do the same for popular approaches to crisis intervention crisis intervention Psychiatry The counseling of a person suffering from a stressful life event–eg, AIDS, cancer, death, divorce, by providing mental and moral support. See Hotline. (e.g., infidelity, bankruptcy, infertility infertility, inability to conceive or carry a child to delivery. The term is usually limited to situations where the couple has had intercourse regularly for one year without using birth control. ). Marriage mentoring is also begging to be researched more thoroughly. We'd love to see studies emerge that use control groups and compare the differences. Anecdotal evidence anecdotal evidence,
n information obtained from personal accounts, examples, and observations. Usually not considered scientifically valid but may indicate areas for further investigation and research. in this area is plentiful, but we are in need of an empirical examination of potential benefits of this application of mentoring. In fact, because of its relatively new application to marriage, a scholarly look at exactly what marriage mentoring is and how it is used would be of value.
We'd also like to see some serious research on marriage intervention in the church--the front lines of Christian marriage intervention. What is being said most frequently about marriages in today's pulpits? How often is it addressed? And what is happening in pastoral counseling offices when it comes to marriage? What do pastors attempt to do in their premarriage work? Does today's minister know how to make an effective counseling referral when needed? What kinds of educational programs are taking place when it comes to marriage programs? And what about church-sponsored marriage seminars? Do some couples benefit more than others from these and why? Is the couple that attends an annual marriage seminar at any advantage over the couple that does not? What about couples that are involved in marriage mentoring? The need for empirical study of Christian marriage is so desperate the list of questions seems endless.
If you were to give advice to someone who is training to work with marriages, what is the key piece of advice you would like to share?
First, we always recommend that if someone is serious about devoting their professional life to working with marriages that they earn the degrees and credentials that will make them most qualified. If someone has the passion and the ability, we encourage them to earn a doctoral degree from an accredited accredited
recognition by an appropriate authority that the performance of a particular institution has satisfied a prestated set of criteria.
cattle herds which have achieved a low level of reactors to, e.g. program, secure an internship internship /in·tern·ship/ (in´tern-ship) the position or term of service of an intern in a hospital.
n the course work or practicum conducted in a professional dental clinic. that will refine their clinical abilities and so on. Marriage is too important of an issue to not have the necessary and respected credentials for intervention. It deserves the very best we can offer.
Second, we encourage students and practitioners to step back from the therapeutic models that are traditionally taught and consider the desperate need couples have today for marital education. Sure, therapy is needed but so much more can be gained for so many couples if a psychoeducational model of intervention is incorporated into contemporary intervention. Much of the field is moving this way, but centers of training and learning seem to be slow in catching on to this need.
Third, we encourage anyone who is serious about working with couples to discover their strengths. Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths, much less the ability to build our professional lives around them. We spend our lives trying to repair our flaws, while our strengths lie dormant Verb 1. lie dormant - be inactive, as if asleep; "His work lay dormant for many years" and neglected. If you truly want to succeed in a career of helping couples survive and thrive you will need to study how you can best serve them. What is unique about you and your gifts that you can bring to the field of marriage therapy and education?
Finally, we encourage marriage practitioners to practice what they preach preach
v. preached, preach·ing, preach·es
1. To proclaim or put forth in a sermon: preached the gospel.
2. . It is one thing to know what to do and quite another to put it into practice. We can easily become consumed in helping people with their problems while neglecting the problems on our own home front. We know this from experience. That's why whenever someone asks us personally how they can pray for us, we answer "pray that we will practice what we already know to do."
Les Parrott III, Ph.D. is professor of clinical psychology and Leslie Parrott, Ed.D., is a marriage and family therapist at Seattle Pacific University (SPU SPU Seattle Pacific University
SPU Seattle Public Utilities
SPU Strategy and Policy Unit
SPU Sripatum University (Thailand)
SPU Split, Croatia (Airport Code)
SPU Synergistic Processor Unit ), Seattle, Washington This page is protected from moves until disputes have been resolved on the .
The reason for its protection is listed on the protection policy page. . They are coauthors of several marriage books including Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts, and When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages. They are codirectors of the Center for Relationship Development at SPU.
LES PARROTT, III and LESLIE PARROTT Center for Relationship Development Seattle Pacific University
Correspondence concerning this article may be sent to Les Parrott, III, PhD, Center for Relationship Development, Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Ave W., Seattle, WA 98119. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org