More efforts are being made to strengthen marriages than most people would guess. For example, a big national conference gathered about 2,000 marriage educators last week in Orlando, Florida. The weeklong gathering included general sessions with influential leaders in the field, workshops on various programs, and vendors selling materials for couples education.

LDS Marriage pre-conference

As part of the conference, a small group of Latter-day Saints met to share ideas for strengthening couple relationships. We discussed key books, programs, and ideas. We agreed that Latter-day Saints should be leading the way in providing principles-based relationship education.

Presentations at Smart Marriages conference

Every year marriage educators from around the world gather to catch up on the latest developments in their field. This year the Smart Marriages conference was held in Orlando, Florida. The following describes some of what was discussed.

Gary Chapman has extended his love languages to the area of apology. If you have not read his Five Love Languages, you should. It is an excellent book about the challenge of communicating love in a way that blesses your partner.

John Van Epp continues to help people avoid falling for jerks (or jerkettes). His commonsense approach could be useful to someone who was courting and confused. (See his How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.)

Pat Love and Steven Stosny have challenged old ideas about marriage. Many people believe that problems are best solved by talking about them. Love and Stosny suggest that talk often makes relations worse. They suggest that men are looking for respect and women seek affection. Talking often makes men feel disrespected and women feel unappreciated. Our challenge is to get beyond talk and find ways to show respect and affection. (See How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It)

Stosny also suggested that blaming makes powerless while showing compassion restores connection.

Sue Johnson has turned the attention of marriage educators to the key role of emotions and attachment in marriage. She teaches how to maintain a strong relationship by having healing conversations. We recommend her book, Hold Me Tight.

Blaine Fowers taught that marriage is more than love; it involves shared goals. He has sensible counsel for those who are in love with being in love: Find a cause to which you can dedicate some of your time and energy.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead recommended thrift and generosity. She observed that the “greatest generation” feared debt, practiced thrift, and lived within their means. As we have moved away from these principles, we have created more financial problems. She explained thrift as wise stewardship of our resources. Further, delayed gratification is more satisfying than instant gratification. Thrift helps marriage and marriage helps thrift.

BYU Education Week

For those who want to learn more about healthy relationships, BYU Education Week always provides excellent opportunities to learn principles for better family living. For example, every day from Tuesday, August 18, through Friday, August 21, from 8:30 to 9:25 p.m., Wally Goddard will teach a class on Inviting Heaven into Your Marriage. The emphasis is on applying eternal principles to strengthening couple relationships.

Brother Goddard will also teach a series on Personal Development Using the Lord’s Sure Principles on the same days from 5:50 to 6:45 p.m. and Bringing Up Children in Light and Truth from 7:10 to 8:05 p.m.

Marriage Celebration Cruise

There is more than one way of learning about marriage. The Cruise Lady is sponsoring a Valentines Week Marriage Celebration-at-Sea from February 13-21, 2010. This cruise will provide not only a lovely trip to Cozumel (Mexico), Limon (Costa Rica), and Colon (Panama) but also several hours of discussion about healthy relationships. Naturally a cruise provides a perfect time to relax, learn, and discuss. (Click here if you would like more information.) 

Marriage Retreats

Many groups sponsor marriage retreats. For example, Family College sponsors a couples retreat every October and April. They have been held in several locations around the state of Utah and range from one to two day gatherings. If you are interested in having a retreat come to your area, let Wally Goddard (wallygoddard@gmail.com“>wallygoddard@gmail.com) or Andy Goddard (agoddard@gmail.com“>agoddard@gmail.com) know.