Dr. Liz on Studio 5

February 11th, 2010

It’s National Marriage Week U.S.A. and Utah’s Healthy Marriage Coalitions are busy planning events throughout the state to celebrate, encourage and honor marriage. Spokesperson for Utah’s Stronger Marriage Campaign, Dr. Liz Hale, is on KSL’s Studio 5 today to discuss why it is so important to promote the healthy marriage initiative in Utah.

Why is this so important?

Marriage is in crisis. In 1970, nearly 80% of all American adults were married; today that number has dropped to 57%. The Marriage Index also reports that today 40% of all American children are born out-of-wedlock. In the midst of many external challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit personal lives and communities. We are losing our determination and the skills to keep marriage healthy and strong.

We need to think of marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman; not as a throwaway consumer relationship where we’ll want a refund or exchange due to an imperfect model. Within sacred matrimony, the chances are enormously higher for personal growth, better health, more happiness, a longer life and greater well-being for children.

What are some of the events planned throughout Utah for National Marriage Week?

From Logan to St. George there are marriage celebrations happening in your very own community. I have the honor of speaking at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi Friday Night, and our own Matt Townsend will be in Emory County Saturday Night. Visit http://www.utahmarriage.org to learn more. Regardless of your ability to attend a formal celebration, and regardless if you are married or not, you can celebrate marriage. Honor the time in years and months that you and your spouse have been together (call it “Another Anniversary”). Recognize a marriage in your extended family, church, or community that inspires you. If proximity allows, visit them in person and share how their marriage has had a positive and significant impact on you.

Parents are our greatest marriage educators. How early should parents teach their children about the importance of marriage?

From day one! The loudest example is often the most silent! A baby quickly learns about love, affection, caring for personal needs, and communication by observing his or her parents. As you model fidelity, commitment to spouse, and respect for others in all interpersonal exchanges, you become an irreplaceable example of essential values as your children develop a worldview about marriage and life. Your relationship to your mate is the primary teaching example of marriage to your children. Best parenting advice? Love that child’s other parent!

Since conflict is an inevitable part of marriage, how can parents model a good marriage within the midst of conflict?

If a child witnesses a disagreement between parents, they also need to witness Mom and Dad apologizing, forgiving, and making-up. Reassure children that conflict in relationships happen even when there is great love and respect. Parents who handle conflict wisely in front of their children are more likely to raise children with healthy attitudes and good conflict management skills. While children don’t need to know or understand all the details about the conflict, it’s best if parents don’t pretend that they have conflict from time to time, and that such conflict doesn’t indicate a lack of love and respect form one another. I have met too many young married couples where one of them is blown away at the sign of the first marital argument because he or she never saw their parents argue or disagree.

How can parents teach partner development?

I love the story of a mother would made great efforts to teach and correct her son always with the admonishment, “I want you to learn to do this for Betty.” After some time the boy finally asked his mother, “Mom; who’s Betty?” It turned out that “Betty” was the name his mother used for the girl he would marry one day, and she wanted him to learn good behaviors so that he would be a better husband for “Betty!” (Lucky, Betty!)

How can parents teach children to make good decisions on selecting friends, dating partners, and eventually a marriage partner?

Teaching moments are all around! When your teenagers have begun to date, comment on what you notice, for example, “Gee, I thought that was very considerate of Gary to call you and tell you he was sorry for running late and that he’d be here soon to pick you up. That is a great trait!” Educate your children to observe how a member of the opposite sex treats other people, such as wait staff in a restaurant, teachers and authority figures, and less popular kids at school; discuss what they think that means. We often spend hours debating over college options, potential majors, financial arrangements and even how to select the best dorm. Let’s make sure we prepare them for another important life choice looming over the horizon – long-term marriage.