The SYMBIS Approach to Marriage Education

Article excerpt

Questions are answered in relationship to the Parrotts' work in marriage education and in relationship to a variety of sociocultural 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.

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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, 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 "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) was established in 1992 with the overarching 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" 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, 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, increased religious heterogeneity, 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, lack of premarital education, easy divorce laws, a moral decline, stigma 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 or any other deterrent to personal health, the marriage will suffer. …