Utah’s Stronger Marriage Campaign

Dr. Liz Hale is the spokesperson for Utah’s Stronger Marriage Campaign. She explains more about this effort and tips for starting off on the right foot in marriage.

Divorce comes with painful costs; not to mention the emotional toil divorce has on adults and children. The Healthy Marriage Initiative is to help couples better prepare themselves for marriage before wedding vows and to help others strengthen their existing marriage, post wedding vows.

This emphasis on preparation and education is a growing trend among marriage and family organizations. What we have found is that the better prepared and educated both parties are going into marriage, the greater the happiness and success of marriage! Utah’s Healthy Marriage Initiative is part of this national trend. Two of our key goals are to maintain two-parent families and prevent family breakdown.

I have created an acronym on how to start off on the right foot in marriage. As a matter-of-fact, the acronym you’re using is just that: S.T.A.R.T. It’s all about starting off on the right foot….and staying there.

“S” = Sanction

The definition of “sanction” is to “make our oaths binding.” Sadly, too often we are cavalier about our vows and ‘cleaving to one another.’ We promise to forsake all others; this means mom and dad, co-workers, jobs and hobbies. We need to make that one person the most significant person in our world; again, and again, and again. I interviewed a couple of 70+ years of marriage recently and was struck by their ability to draw a tight circle around their relationships. Their eldest daughter said, “they did EVERYTHING together! If dad needed to go to the dump, mom went to the dump! If dad wanted to go hunting, mom went hunting. They were never without the other during my childhood and now adulthood; they remain each other’s best friend, companion, and confidant.”

“T” = Turn Towards

This is terminology coined by Dr. John Gottman from the University of Washington. In our continuing to turn towards another, we stay updated on dreams, aspiration, personal trials, and triumphs! Close relationships consist of a series of “emotional bids” -that is, your partner reaches out for emotional connection with a comment, question, smile, or a hug. You can choose to:

1) Turn away, ignoring the bid.

2) Turn against, reacting with anger or hostility.

3) Turn toward, showing you’re open, listening, and engaged.

Habitually turning away or against your partner’s bids harms marriage, while turning towards your partner strengthens emotional bonds, friendship, and romance.

“A” = Affectionate

Inevitably, when I have couple fills out an Emotional Needs Assessment Questionnaire, BOTH of them have “Affection” listed as one of their top-three emotional needs. Talk with each other about what “affection” means to you; how you’d like it to be; look; act; feel; and the frequency of affection. Have a way to say that a “quickie” or a cuddle is perfect…or that you’re interested in a more gourmet full-out love-making session.

I had an advisor once said, “if we can’t talk about ‘it’ then they ought not be doin’ ‘it!’ Get comfortable around the language of affection; physical, emotional, and sexual. Taek small steps but keep progressing.

“R” = Responsible

Do what you say you’re going to do and accept responsibility when you can’t. Be accountable for your actions, words, and feelings. Two individuals who are 100% accountable for themselves, who don’t not blame others for their lot or make excuses for breaking promises, create a tremendous foundation for their partnership. Be responsible for your fidelity; for how you spend money; for your time; actions; emotions; and physical health and well-being. (If you’re sick…go to the doctor!)

“T” = Time

There is no substitute for time in our relationships. Quality is not a sub for quantity.

For more information about starting off on the right foot in marriage, as well as other pertinent topics to sustaining a loving and healthy marriage, visit www.strongermarriage.org.

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