Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Schooled in Marriage

Every Saturday, since March 8, 2014, my husband and I have driven to Yonge and Finch in Toronto to attend a special class. This six-week course is offered by Catholic Family Services for the Archdiocese of Toronto for couples that run Marriage Preparation courses at their local parishes. If engaged couples wish to marry in the Roman Catholic church, they must take a Marriage Preparation course beforehand. At our church, Saint Barnabas, the wonderful couple that are in charge of "Marriage Prep" have asked us to take over; since they've been doing it for 28 years, I think this is a reasonable request!

When my husband and I tell our friends that we are attending this course, the news elicits a very positive response. Even though we've been married for 16 years, we are enjoying the course and learning new and useful things. I've been amazed and gratified that so many topics and activities are closely related to the Tribes TLC process. These are the similarities I've seen so far.

Making the Implicit Explicit

In both the Tribes TLC ToT (Training of Trainers) session and in the Marriage Preparation Instructors Course, the leaders run the course exactly like the participants will experience, but the "teacher of teachers" spend extra time giving background information that informs how we do things and why. We think we understand what it is to be married, or to be a student, but we make it clear what this exactly means to the participants with whom we'll be interacting. It's important to make things explicit for the people attending the class.


Module 3 (if I remember correctly) in the Tribes training is all about the four agreements (Mutual Respect, Attentive Listening, Appreciations with No Put-Downs, and the Right to Pass). Session #2 of our Marriage Preparation was all about communication, which included the art of speaking and listening, Affirmations / Meaningful Praise, Active Listening, communication styles, and articulating feelings. There are so many parallels! My husband used to roll his eyes when I talked about "I-Statements" from Tribes, but we've been using them in the marriage course and even though they can sound artificial at first, I-statements can really help, especially when it comes to the next area.

Make It Safe & Conflict

Both in Tribes and in Marriage Prep, conflict resolution models are directly taught. In marriage prep, two possible methods are shared: a behavioural set of steps and an emotional, Path Through Conflict, "Paul Model" (based on Drs. Jordan and Margaret Paul). The behavioural Problem-Solving method was almost exactly like the Conflict Resolution model in Tribes. I also know it as the ABCDE method: Ask what the problem is (using I-Statements) / Brainstorm solutions / Choose the best one for both parties / Do the chosen solution / Evaluate how well it worked in solving the problem. I also really liked how our marriage preparation course addresses IPV (intimate partner violence, also called domestic violence) head-on. The starry-eyed couples about to married might not be considering it, but many couples separate or need counselling due to violence. Schools might not like to think they are breeding grounds for bullying, but it occurs and must be discussed (as it often is, but must be done in a way that does not ignore other forms of harassment and provides options for those in unsafe circumstances).


I don't want to suggest that Tribes is a just mirror-image of the Catholic marriage preparation course, or vice-verse. The definition of Tribes is this: "Tribes is a process that creates a culture that maximizes learning and human development". The definition of a Catholic marriage is this: "The matrimonial covenant whereby a man and a woman come together to form a partnership of the whole of life is, by its nature, ordained towards the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament". However, experience in one can make learning in the other easier. We can all learn to be better people, students/teachers, and husbands/wives.

My friend "Debbie Cranberry Fries" has a regular feature on her blog called Marriage Mondays. Much of the advice she shares feels like common sense, but it's helpful to hear these lessons over and over, so that in our role as spouse or teacher, we don't forget to make things explicit, communicate effectively, and create a safe place where conflict is managed in a healthy manner. I know I'll try to apply these teachings to my own marriage and my own teaching practices more regularly.

1 comment:

  1. Neat connections! You're even more of a guru than I thought! ;) Libraries, minecraft and marriage! Thanks for sharing. I believe it's important for teachers and students to constantly make connections between things, particularly when they are things you might not have thought to attempt to connect at first glance.