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New programme to promote better marriages

It’s no secret that today’s marriages don’t seem to last.

The loving “I do” on the wedding day in front of a packed church of family and friends, is being replaced by the angry “I done!” told to the estranged spouse, sometimes in front of the marriage counsellor or divorce lawyer.

A new archdiocesan programme has been developed to help married couples strengthen and renew their marital life.

Ready to take a walk?   ‘Pathways in Marriage’ was officially launched at a simple ceremony on August 9 at Fatima Church parish hall in Curepe. Representatives from various family life ministries and other interested persons including many married couples attended the launch.

From left, Dexter and Freida Shim; Yvette and Douglas James; and Lyris and Anthony Piper.
From left, Dexter and Freida Shim; Yvette and Douglas James; and Lyris and Anthony Piper.

Pathways is based on the philosophies presented in the book ‘Passages of Marriage’, written by married couples who also happen to be psychologists. The name change was decided upon to avoid copyright issues.

After an opening prayer done Jeffrey and Pasqualina Hoford of Teams of Our Lady,  Tricia Syms of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) turned proceedings over to the presenting couples.

Dexter and Freida Shim, Douglas and Yvette James, and Anthony and Lyris Piper were given a mandate by Msgr Robert Llanos, Vicar for Family Life and AFLC chair, to develop the ideas in Passages into a viable marital programme for the archdiocese.

The multi media programme will see the use of Power Point presentations, relevant video clips and music. Poetry and other art forms will also be utilised during sessions.

Book cover

The couples gave snippets of the programme.

The book’s authors suggest there are five “passages” in marriage – Young love (1-2 years), Realistic love (3-10), Comfortable love (11-25), Renewing love (26-35) and Transcendent Love (36 and beyond).

Each passage has a set of tasks that lead to growth and vitality, and each task requires an attitude change. Incomplete tasks can lead to problems in the marriage – a couple may find themselves stuck in a passage.

Daily living will throw “gravel” into a marriage: Challenges that hamper growth. These may emanate from the family of origin – what your family said, did and maybe hid. Signs when a marriage may be trouble include disagreement on financial issues, in-laws involvement and emotional and psychological dysfunction.

Separation and divorce are the possible results if a couple is hung up in a passage, or fail to complete a task.

One of the first tasks is to mould the married couple into one family, with the challenge largely being Unity versus Individuality.

Another tough task: How to overcome the tendency to jockey for control in the marriage. A simple formula was presented: 1 person + 1 person = conflict. 1 person in love + one person in love = conflict anyway.

The ability to handle conflict is affected by fragile egos (insecurities), dreams, expectations and unresolved issues.

Three conflict resolution options were given: compromise, agree to disagree, or offer a “love gift” – give in with zero conditionalities.

Presenters skipped to the fifth task: dealing with your parents’ incomplete passages. The bad news is unresolved issues of prior generations visit your marriage on a subconscious level and can be destructive, they explained. The good news is once recognised incomplete issues can be resolve.

One area that needs to be dealt with is the unspoken “I do’s”, for example, the negative gender stereotypes which can lead to disillusionment and disappointment.

It will require a commitment to growth, a commitment to union of purpose and action, a re-examination of the relationship with God, a recognition that family of origin values aren’t cast in stone and – most important – finding time to pray together.

Barbara Salazar of the Marriage Preparation programme shares her thoughts. Raymond Syms photos
Barbara Salazar of the Marriage Preparation programme shares her thoughts. Raymond Syms photos

After presenters made the programme outline, questions and comments were taken from the floor.

First question: will it replace the well established Marriage Encounter weekend?

Programme developers don’t think so, as ME teaches couples how to dialogue while Pathways will show what to dialogue about.

Comments were positive, especially from those who see a clear link with the marriage preparation programme in the archdiocese.

The first session of Pathways in Marriage will take place in November in a vicariate to be decided, with a full roll out come early 2010.


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