Sealed with a kiss!

Sealed with a kiss!
Laura & Chris' Wedding at JCRaulston Arboretum


Did you know that most couples spend more money and time preparing for their wedding than investing in the success, happiness and endurance of their marriage? Don't we just assume that "things will work out" or "we can make it work" or "love will see us through"?

Were you ever offered classes on relationship skills in elementary, middle or high school or college? How about at church? Our beliefs about love and marriage are primarily based on models provided by our parents and other caregivers, fairy tales, novels and movies. Because of the lack of objective education/training in relating to our partner, we tend to re-create marriage based on what has been modeled for us unless we consciously discover how to do it differently, usually is precipitated by significant emotional pain (namely breaking up or divorce)!

As many as 67% of first marriages end in divorce within the first ten years. Most relationships fail for one of two reasons:
1) People are unaware of or choose to ignore core differences in who they are and what they want from life.
2) More importantly, people lack the skills to resolve their differences and grow through the disappointments that are inevitable in life.

Many otherwise wonderful relationships fail because people are both unaware of their differences and lack the skills to resolve them in constructive ways. Couples who wisely attend marriage preparation courses increase their ability to resolve differences and are more likely to develop happy and  mutually satisfying partnerships and marriages.

Because of my own journey through divorce, I was determined to find out how to create a fulfilling marriage and what a joyful and satisfying marriage looked and felt like instead of re-creating my parents' power struggle marriage. As a result of my quest, I now have a very joyful marriage and together my husband and I have taught classes called Creating Healthy Relationships.

After earning a Masters in Divinity in Spiritual Psychology and ordination in 1997, I began offering premarital classes to those couples who wanted to ensure that they were starting off their marriage with the best possible foundation. After I completed the Prepare-Enrich certification process for premarital counseling I acquired the ability to administer an online survey for a couple and put together what I call the Marriage Optimization program which consists of each couple completing an inventory and three sessions with me.  (I also have inventories for married couples who want to enrich their marriage, those singles who are cohabiting, and those with children with no plans to marry, and for couples who would like to find out if they are compatible before deciding to take their relationship to a higher level of commitment.)

The first step in the Marriage Optimization class after you have completed an intake application and paid the fee of $600 is for each of you to complete the inventory I send to your email address. There are no right or wrong answers. The inventory forecasts how viable your marriage will be if you do nothing. It is also a measure of your compatibility. It covers all core values that need to be in sync within the coupleship. When you have both completed the inventory (takes about 30 minutes) your answers are scored together and a relationship analysis is generated that shows the areas in which you are compatible and those areas where there may be potential for marital discord in the future. Some of the areas measured are Marriage Expectations, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Partner Styles & Habits, Financial Management, Sexual Expectations, Leisure Activities, Family & Friends, Relationship Roles, Spiritual Beliefs, Overall Satisfaction, Relationship Dynamics, Stress Profiles, Parenting & Children, SCOPE Personality Scales, and Step-parenting if applicable and Cohabitation if applicable.

I also require my couples to read this book:
Love in the Present Tense: How to Have a High Intimacy, Low Maintenance Marriage by Arleah and Morrie Shechtman. It is interesting reading, case histories of couples rather than theoretical text, and presents concepts helpful for our sessions. Even if you don't take my course, it would be a great idea to get and read the book. It is not new and you can get a used copy for pennies.

We then schedule 3 interactive sessions together to go over your relationship analysis and identify and strengthen areas that if not resolved will likely become future pitfalls in your relationship. Each session is one to two hours in length and can be scheduled nights and weekends. Our sessions are more like coaching and teaching rather than counseling or therapy. Among many things, I teach you conflict resolution skills, communication skills, and the best way to handle your finances in marriage. We go over any existing issues and/or new issues that may come up. Many times I find that the areas in which the survey shows you disagree are in reality areas which you have not yet discussed or explored in depth which we will accomplish in our time together.

Some of my couples come back to see me after they are married to handle new issues that arise or issues they cannot resolve on their own. They consider me a neutral third party to bounce things off of and offer an objective point of view and potential solutions. I am happy to be of service.

All the couples I have worked with tell me they learned so much, not only about each other, but how to deal effectively with issues that come up in the future and what to expect. A bride recently wrote on a review for"I would also recommend Kayelily's pre-marital counseling. The counseling helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses as a couple, prepare us for things we hadn't thought about, and gave us tools for strengthening our relationship." Couples tell me that the sessions are well worth the investment for their marriage. A great deal considering that the marriage optimization program is only $600 and usually less than my fee to officiate your wedding!

If you are interested in taking this important step in your relationship please contact me at or call me at (919) 345-4608 to answer any questions and request an application.

PS: Here is one of my happy couples on their honeymoon!

October 11, 2012

Just read a fantastic article in the News & Observer reprinted from the Chicago Tribune:

Baby boomer marriages are having a best of times/worst of times moment.
Despite the overall divorce rate in the U.S. dropping during the past two decades, the rate of couples divorcing after age 50 has doubled. In 1990, fewer than 10 percent of divorces included spouses age 50 or older, according to a National Center for Family and Marriage Research study out of Bowling Green State University. Today, boomers account for more than 25 percent of divorces. Bad news, right?
Researchers and sociologists cite a handful of arguably positive factors, though: longer life spans, more financial stability for women, a higher standard for happy coupling. Indeed, a 2010 Pew Research Center study found that boomers are more likely than any other population segment to say the main point of marriage was to seek happiness, and 66 percent said they would prefer divorce to an unhappy marriage, compared with 44 percent of younger Americans.
Ideally, marriage experts say, more couples will find a way to capitalize on the evolution of marital roles and norms without feeling like they've got to throw in the towel.
"It would be insane for any of us to think we're the same person at 55 that we were at 25," says New York-based relationship counselor Rachel Sussman. "The criteria we used to make decisions in our 20s are no longer the criteria we feel are important in our 50s and 60s."
But there are ways, big and small, for couples looking ahead to - or inhabiting - the post-50 years to divorce-proof their marriages.
"Baby boomer marriages have been on cruise control," says Justin Buzzard, author of the newly released book "Date Your Wife" (Crossway). "There are many wonderful exceptions, but by and large boomer marriages have been in maintenance mode for decades. The man has been focused on his career. They haven't been keeping the marriage strong and fit and healthy. The kids leave home, and the husband and wife look at each other and say, 'I'm not in love with you. I barely know you.'"
Discord has been long simmering in most cases, Sussman says.
"For people 50 and older, divorce is generally not an 'aha' moment," she says. "It's usually many, many years of dysfunctional patterns that for one reason or other the couple can't break."
So the patterns break the couple. But it doesn't have to be so.
"Couples entering this next phase of their lives have such a great opportunity to get out there and see the world together," Sussman says. "My husband and I had an ongoing dialogue throughout our daughter's senior year of high school about what we wanted the next chapter of our lives to be about; what we wanted to do individually and what we wanted to do together." But getting your relationship to a point where you're eager to embrace the next phase (or the current one, for that matter) can take some doing."
Boomers need to redefine marriage, Buzzard says, partly because of how completely the culture around them has changed since they exchanged vows and partly, oddly enough, because their parents probably stuck it out through thick and thin.
"The generation ahead of them stayed together for good or ill, and a lot of it was ill," Buzzard says. "They put a lid on it and suffered through. A lot of boomers just figured that's how marriage was. They didn't know marriages could fall apart."
So they threw themselves into jobs, kids, hobbies and other pursuits that required time and focus and passion, assuming their marriages were, in effect, a given.
"There's a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage," Buzzard says. "Guys get married and think the mission is accomplished. The real mission begins at marriage. The real dating begins at marriage. Vows don't keep themselves. Vows aren't magic."
The key (surprise, surprise) is better communication.

Communication, conflict resolution skills are major areas covered in my Marriage 101 program for pre-marital couples and married couples. 
"The most important thing is to listen to your partner's emotions and communicate the message, 'Baby, if you're unhappy with something, the world stops, and I listen and we do something about it,'" says renowned marriage researcher John Gottman, author of 40 books, including the just-released "What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal" (Simon and Schuster). "I see people who've left one another in pain for 10, 15 years, and by then you don't feel loved or safe. The critical variable is making sure your partner feels cherished."
Gottman has spent four decades researching couples in three specific domains: friendship, which encompasses intimacy, romance and enjoying and trusting each other; conflict, specifically how couples deal with inevitable disagreements and moments of inadvertently hurting each other's feelings; and shared meaning, which takes into account how they connect around holidays and traditions as well as their lifelong goals and values.
The "master" couples, Gottman says, aren't necessarily aligned on every count. But they hear each other out and treat one another gently. "Disaster" couples, he says, tend to believe the worst about their partners and feel burdened by relationship talk.
"Masters say, 'Talk to me. You don't look very happy,'" he says. "Disasters say, or give a look that says, 'I don't want to deal with this. I don't want to talk. You're too needy.' That's a big mistake.
"Masters scan their social environment for what's going well and say thank you and build a culture of appreciation and respect," Gottman says. "Disasters look for their partner's mistakes and tend to miss the positive things their partner is doing, and read in negativity when it's not there. We've determined in our research that the negative habit of mind is actually a distortion of reality, and the positive habit of mind is much more accurate."
Gottman tells couples to engage in a weekly hourlong "state of the union" talk. "Masters are talking about goals and values and making sure they're on the same page about the big things in life and about what they are all about as people," he says. "'Are you picking the kids up? Did you call the plumber?' is just errand-talk. You need real conversation."
Buzzard counsels husbands, in particular, to write action plans for their marriages. "Guys will often map out business plans or plans for their upcoming fishing trip with their buddies," he says. "I tell them, 'Hey, man, put a plan together for how you're going to date your wife, and fill in your hobbies and other responsibilities around that.'
"It's not enough to say, 'I'm going to start taking better care of my wife and my marriage,'" Buzzard says. "A dream without a plan is worthless. You need to come up with a practical plan and put legs on that dream."
And don't be naive about the challenges ahead, real and hypothetical.
"You have to face your fears, and when you see change ahead, don't hide from it," Sussman says. "'If I lose my job, how is that going to feel for us?' 'How's it going to work when our kid moves back home?' You've got to do some individual soul-searching, and soul-searching as a couple, about how you see the next part of your life unfolding."
Hello, I'm your spouse. It's nice to meet you.
Couples who've been living together for decades often forget to keep each other intimately involved in topics that dive deeper than child-rearing and household upkeep. In "Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great" (Delacorte Press), marriage therapist and University of Michigan research professor Terri L. Orbuch suggests couples spend at least 10 minutes a day getting to know each other. She offers the following questions to get your conversations started:
What was an important turning point in your life?
Do you think you are/were closer to your mom or your dad?
What is the one thing you want to be remembered for?
What is one thing you really want to accomplish in the next two years?
If you were able to work in any other job for a year, what would it be?
What are you most afraid of?
What was the one thing you hated most as a kid?
What age do you feel like inside?

Great article from Relevant Magazine:
I used to think I had my stuff together. Then I got married.
Marriage is great—but it rocked everything I knew. I quickly realized my basic goal in life, prior to getting married, was to simply remain undisturbed.
This “disruption” came suddenly and was disguised as a 5-foot-nothing Swedish-Filipino woman. When I decided I’d rather not live without her, I proceeded to ask her to marry me—that is, to officially invite someone who wasn’t me to be in my personal space for the rest of my life.
This decision introduced my most significant experiences and most challenging experiences—none of which I would trade for the world.
However, I wish I’d had a bit more insight on the front end of our marriage to help me navigate it all.
According to most research, more than 50 percent of people who say “I do” will not be sleeping in the same bed eight years from now. And though Scripture alludes to the fact that adultery and abuse may be reasons individuals might end a marriage, I’d be willing to bet that most challenges experienced in marriage are the result of unawareness. Most people—myself included—jump into marriage with suitcases full of misconceptions and bad theology, entirely unaware of the unique beauty and paradoxical intentions of marriage.
Although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight.
The following are three thoughts on marriage that friends and mentors have shared with me. I remind myself of them often in hopes of keeping this anomaly called marriage both enjoyable and healthy.

1. Marriage is not about living happily ever after.

Here’s the truth: I get annoyed at my wife. But this is more a reflection of me than her.
I’m intensely certain that nothing in life has ever made me more angry, frustrated or annoyed than my wife. Inevitably, just when I think I’ve given all I can possibly give, she somehow finds a way to ask for more.
The worst part of it all is that her demands aren’t unreasonable. One day she expects me to stay emotionally engaged. The next, she's looking for me to validate the way that she feels. The list goes on—but never ventures far from things she perfectly well deserves as a wife.
Unfortunately for her, deserving or not, her needs often compete with my self-focus. I know it shouldn’t be this way, but I am selfish and stubborn and, overall, human.
I once read a book that alluded to the idea that marriage is the fire of life—that somehow it’s designed to refine all our dysfunction and spur us into progressive wholeness. In this light, contrary to popular opinion, the goal of marriage is not happiness. And although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.
When we’re willing to see it this way, then the points of friction in our marriages quickly become gifts that consistently invite us into a more whole and fulfilling experience of life.

2. The more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.

Over the past year, a few friends and I have had an open conversation about the highs and lows of marriage—specifically how to make the most of the high times and avoid the low ones. Along the way, we happened upon a derailing hypothesis that goes something like this: If one makes their husband or wife priority number one, all other areas of life benefit.
When we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly turn into the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.
It’s a disorienting claim. Disorienting, because it protests my deeper persuasion that success as an entrepreneur, or any professional, requires that career takes the throne of my priorities and remain there for, at the very least, a couple of years.
However, seeing that my recent pattern of caring about work over marriage had produced little more than paying bills and a miserable wife, I figured giving the philosophy a test drive couldn’t hurt.
For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked. I created a metric for these purposes, to mark our relationship as priority, and then my effectiveness in all other areas of my life on the same scale, including career productivity and general quality of life.
To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences to prove that the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.
Notably, on the days my wife genuinely felt valued, I observed her advocating for me to invest deeply in to my work. She no longer saw our relationship and my career pursuits as competitors for my attention, and as she partnered with me in my career, I have experienced the benefits of having the closest person in my life champion me.
Of course, marriage requires sacrifice. And sometimes it will feel as if it takes and takes. However, when we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly turn from something we have to maintain and sacrifice for into the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.

3. Marriage can change the world.

John Medina, the author of Brain Rules and a Christian biologist, is often approached by men looking for the silver bullet of fathering. In one way or another, they all come around to asking, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father?”
Medina's answer alludes to a surprising truth.
In my previously mentioned experiment, I measured the effect that making my marriage priority number one had on different areas of my life. One of those areas was my 16-month-old son’s behavior.
What I found in simply charting my observations was that the majority of the time, my child’s behavior was directly affected by the level of intention I invested in my marriage.
Re-enter John Medina, the Christian biologist. After years of biological research and several books on parenting conclusions, what is his answer to the question, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father”?
“Go home and love your wife.”
Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, the authors of Babywise, say it this way: “A healthy marriage creates an infused stability within the family and a haven of security for a child in their development process.” They go on to sum up their years of research by saying, “In the end, great marriages produce great parents.”
The point is that marriage has a higher goal than to make two people happy or even whole. Yes, the investment we make into our marriage pays dividends for us. But, concluded by Medina and his colleagues, the same investment also has significant implications for our family, our community and eventually our culture.
So men, women, the next time you find yourself dreaming about living significantly or succeeding in your career or being a better parent than yours were to you, do the world a favor: Go home and love your wife. Go home and and love your husband.

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