By Seth Eisenberg
For generations, marriage education came from our parents. We watched how they interacted with each other, how they navigated the challenges and chapters of their lives, and what marriage meant to them. From their examples, we discovered what it meant to love, honor and respect each other within the context of our homes, families and marriages.
Sons often grew up to be like the fathers they respected and idolized. Daughters grew into the mothers they cherished and adored.
As long as the models men and women learned from their parents’ marriages represented the values and vision we sought for our own, marriage education came almost exclusively from our homes. For the 76 million American children born into the baby boomer generation from 1946 to 1964, marital and family breakdown grew to epidemic proportions as we discovered the education about marriage we learned from our parents often didn’t work for our lives and marriages.
While divorce statistics themselves are debated by researchers and policy-makers, recent studies offer a glimmer of hope that the tidal wave of divorce that touched millions of adults born to the baby boomer generation may be receding as their children and grandchildren reach adulthood.
The impact of millions of American children growing into their own adulthood with a front row seat to marital and family breakdown is not yet fully understood. Yet, recent studies show that they’ve become increasingly cautious about their own decisions regarding marriage and family, striving to create models for their lives that may be vastly different than the examples they saw from their parents.
Of the nearly 5,000 people who have participated in marriage education classes delivered in South Florida since 2006 as part of the federally-funded Healthy Marriage Initiative, almost 20 percent are under the age of 30. Fortunately for these young adults, an effective alternative to counseling and therapy has become more widely available. Brief, skills-based educational programs such as PAIRS Essentials, PREP, Mastering the Mysteries of Love, and The Art & Science of Love are designed to enhance martial satisfaction and stability, offering new resources for the children and grandchildren of the baby boomer generation. These men and women are more likely than their parents to have postponed marriage, choosing first to pursue education, careers, skills and strategies to help assure they’re better prepared to provide a stable, loving environment for their own lives and children.
Marriage Education Research – Six Months Later
- 77% showed greater relationship cohesion and stability;
- 95% improved communication in their relationship;
- 94% increased shared appreciations with their partner;
- 93% improved conflict resolution;
- 88% improved physical intimacy;
- 89% improved emotional intimacy.
Full report at evaluation.pairs.com.
In evidence-based marriage education classes offered in-person and online throughout the country, couples and singles quickly learn a new paradigm for healthy, happy, lasting marriages. They discover what it means to meet each others’ needs for emotional openness and physical closeness – bonding — along with a commitment to staying a pleasure to each other through the typical challenges, struggles, transitions and passages that are part of each of our lives. Singles, married and dating couples also explore what it means to be vulnerable, deepen empathy, and build from an environment of good will with partners who are open to learning and growing.
Unlike the generation of their parents and grandparents, these adults are demonstrating a growing willingness to learn skills for improving communication, understanding emotions in themselves and others, and addressing differences in ways that bring them closer to loved ones instead of becoming a threat to the stability of their marriages and families. They’ve seen firsthand what’s a stake for children of parents who — with the best of intentions — often stumbled. Their actions say they want to get it right.
For each of them, their children (present or future), and their communities, that’s very good news.
Seth Eisenberg is President & CEO of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and leading relationship skills training organizations.