Here is an interesting concept. A marriage checkup educational program, where husbands and wifes undertake an annual 'physical' for their marriage, to protect its health.
"Dr. James Cordova, the head of a project at Clark University in Massachusetts, is working to bring some rigor to this concept by creating a research project evaluating some 200 couples.
An annual physical exam and twice-yearly dental checkup are supposed to protect your health. Now there's a move for married Americans to do the same to protect the health of their unions.
So far, 171 couples in the Worcester, Mass., area are getting a Marriage Checkup, part of a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health.
With questionnaires and two in-person sessions, the program provides personalized feedback to keep relationships on track and circumvent trouble, says psychologist James Cordova, who runs the project at Clark University, where he's an associate professor.
"This is a health issue," he told a session of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies on Saturday. Some 3,000 are attending the three-day meeting, which ends Sunday.
"Your marital health doesn't catch your attention until it really starts to hurt," he says. "By that point, sometimes irreversible damage has been done."
The marriage checkup is not therapy but an information service, Cordova told the nonprofit membership group of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.
"We're able to help them identify exactly what it is they're doing that is keeping them healthy and make sure that whatever their areas of concern are aren't potentially problematic in the long run," he says.
Cordova says an estimated 12 million couples — about 20% of all marriages — experience some significant level of distress. And he says about 5% of couples who marry are already distressed. Marriages deteriorate in stages, and he says a marital checkup can catch small issues before they grow big.
Karen Wachs, a graduate student in clinical psychology working on the checkup, says the program gets people to think actively about their marriage.
"People can describe themselves as being good friends and saying that they have a good relationship, and have this stuff going on underneath the surface and they're not aware of it," she says.
Preliminary results suggest that couples are benefiting from the knowledge the program provides.
"Couples are feeling more like a team," Cordova says. "They're feeling a greater sense of emphathy and understanding towards each other — a greater sense of accepting each other, warts and all."
Study participants range in age from 20 to 72, though most are in their mid-40s. They have been married anywhere from less than a year to more than 50 years, with the average marriage around 15 years. Three-quarters are in first marriages.
Cordova says once they have more results, it's possible the checkup could be replicated by those outside the therapy field to use in churches or other settings.
The Marriage Checkup aims to have 200 couples by April. Those who have participated for a year are now getting their one-year booster checkups, Cordova says."
Would love to know what is in the questionairre.
In the John and Julie Gottman model that I like to use with domestic violence perpatrators, the handout that comes with their video workshop begins with the "Love Map Questions", a series of 62 questions the partners ask each other, and it is designed to help the couple to discover how much they know about each other's world.
The purpose is to gently take turns learning about your partners inner world.
As I have used this with couples, even the most conflicted clients I have had have been able to do this with a good humor.
And then I can say, as cheerleader, of course, "Can you remember how much fun this conversation was the next time you sit down to talk?"
At the very beginning of the 14 exercise sequence, my couples began to remember how they talked to one another at another time in the relationship.
Then they move to the second part of the "Love Map" exercise, "Opportunities to do With or For Your Partner", where the couple can chose from 37 suggestions that the Gottman's offer, or come up with their own, for doing something with or for your partner.
So the Gottman model switches the focus for the couple to what they have done or do well together right off the bat.
I really like that wellness focus, and hope the marraige checkup is like that also.
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