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´╗┐Title: Marriage Enrichment Retreats - Story of a Quaker Project
Author: Mace, D. R. (David Robert), Mace, Vera, 1902-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Marriage Enrichment Retreats - Story of a Quaker Project" ***

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Marriage Enrichment Retreats

Story of a Quaker Project

By

David and Vera Mace

Friends General Conference
1520 Race Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19102



About the Maces


David and Vera Mace have spent almost forty years making a vital
relationship of their own marriage, and, because of their inherent sense
of purpose, consequently have enriched the lives and marriages of
innumerable persons in some sixty countries around the world.

David Mace's first degree was in science from the University of London.
Earlier family influence led him on to Cambridge University, a degree in
theology, and work in a mission church in the slums of London. Vera,
already in youth work, joined him after their marriage in the work of
the mission church. From that point on theirs was a partnership which
focused on counselling persons in trouble. Later, a PhD. in sociology
for David and a Masters degree with a thesis on Christian marriage for
Vera, moved them into full time marriage guidance work. (Two children, a
war causing forced separation for a time, and a pacifist stand by David
which also made life more difficult, only strengthened them in their
life's purpose.) Before leaving Britain permanently in 1949, they had
set up more than one hundred marriage guidance centers and achieved
their goal of recognition for the Marriage Guidance Council.

It would be impossible to enumerate specifically here all the activities
of teaching, published writing, training seminars and travels the Maces
have shared. Theirs has been a life of richly varied experiences and
shared responsibilities.

From 1960-67 the Maces served as joint Executive Directors of the
American Association of Marriage Counsellors. At present they are
members of Summit Friends Meeting in New Jersey, currently living in
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where David Mace is Professor of Family
Sociology at the Behavioral Sciences Center, Bowman Gray School of
Medicine. David Mace delivered the 1968 Rufus Jones Lecture, _Marriage
As Vocation_. This pamphlet and the project it presents is an outgrowth
of that experience.



"How important is it that Quakers should have good marriages, and what
should Friends General Conference be doing about it?" This question was
asked at a gathering of ten married couples, all of them Friends,
representing both the U.S. and Canada.

What brought these couples together was the common bond that all had
been leading marriage enrichment retreats at which six to eight
couples, all with stable marriages, spent an intensive weekend sharing
marital growth around the theme "communications-in-depth about
relationship-in-depth."

The project of which they had been a part dates back to the 1968 Rufus
Jones Lecture, _Marriage as Vocation_.[A] The impact of the Lecture and
the weekend following resulted in the Religious Education Committee of
Friends General Conference sponsoring a project to train couples
selected by Yearly Meetings to lead marriage enrichment programs in
their own regions. The first group was trained in 1969, the second in
1971, and, as the majority of them met again the consensus grew that
this project had been sufficiently tested to provide the basis for a
more extensive movement within our fellowship.

A number of concerns emerged that can best be expressed as questions:

    Do Friends reaffirm their traditional belief in marriage and
    the family as the foundation unit of the Meeting?

    Do Friends believe that their mission to spread love and peace
    in the world begins with the practice of love and peace in
    their own primary relationships?

    Are our Meetings doing their utmost to make use of modern
    knowledge and experience in the preparation for marriage of
    those for whom they accept responsibility?

    Are our Meetings satisfied with what they are doing for the
    care and support of the marriages of their members, and that
    divorces that occur could not have been prevented by any means
    that lay in their power?

    Would Friends in positions of leadership be willing to
    demonstrate their support for this project by participating in
    retreats at which they can examine with others the
    potentialities for growth of their own marriages?

Those who met at Pendle Hill were not in a position to answer any of
these questions in a definitive way. It is clear that answers would
vary from one Friend to another and from one Meeting to another. They
felt, however, that it would be appropriate and timely for these
questions to be more widely considered. Moreover, their own experiences
of marital growth, resulting from their sharing with other married
couples, had been so rich and rewarding that they felt they had "good
news" to pass on, and were constrained to do so.[B]


THE PLAN

Yearly Meetings throughout the United States were invited to select with
care a married couple for a weekend of training at Pendle Hill, the
Quaker study center near Philadelphia.

During the six months following the training each couple would have the
opportunity to conduct a marriage enrichment retreat arranged by their
Yearly Meeting. Then all the couples would reassemble at Pendle Hill to
share their experiences. The project would be evaluated, and further
action would depend on whatever judgment was reached.

We two were asked to lead the two training weekends. Our decision was to
begin with an actual retreat for the group of couples since this
experience would, in our judgment, provide the best training we could
give them.


PREMISES FROM EARLIER EXPERIENCES

In 1962 Joe and Edith Platt, a Quaker couple who helped run a retreat
center called Kirkridge, invited us to conduct a weekend for married
couples. We were at that time joint Executive Directors of the American
Association of Marriage Counselors, so this was a challenge we could
hardly evade. Although we had been involved in many lectures and
conferences about marriage, and plenty of marriage counseling, a retreat
for married couples was a new venture. However, we accepted the
invitation, conducted the retreat to the best of our ability, and
learned a great deal in the process. There is no need at this point to
go into detail about the procedures we followed for we improved on them
considerably later as we gained further experience.

The first Kirkridge retreat was successful enough to encourage the
Platts to ask us to come again and again. We then began to receive other
requests as it became known that we were available for this kind of
leadership, most of them being under religious auspices. The retreats
generally began on Friday evening and ended with Sunday lunch. One, for
Methodist ministers and their wives, lasted five days, and proved to be
the inauguration of a nation-wide program now being run by the United
Methodist Church under the title "marriage communication labs."

These experiences brought us into close touch with many "normal" married
couples. Our practice was to insist that the retreats were _not_ for
couples with problems, but for those who considered they had
satisfactory marriages and wanted to explore their potential for further
growth. As counselors, we had previously dealt only with marriages in
trouble. Now we found that many of these "normal" couples were settling
for relationships that were far short of their inherent potential. Some
exhibited the same self-defeating interaction patterns which we were
accustomed to finding in couples with "problems"--but either they had
accepted these poor patterns as inevitable, or the conflicts they caused
had not yet reached crisis proportions.

Matching our observation of these couples with some of the research
findings on marital interaction, we arrived at four important
conclusions:

1. Only a small proportion of marriages came anywhere near to realizing
their full potential. Lederer and Jackson[C] suggest that the proportion
of "stable-satisfactory" marriages in our culture does not exceed 5-10
percent.

2. Most married couples desire, and hope for, the achievement we have
called "relationship-in-depth." Early in their married life, however,
they find their growth together blocked by interpersonal conflicts which
they either cannot understand or are not prepared to make the effort to
resolve. They settle for a series of compromises, resulting in a
superficial relationship.

3. As time passes, the couple either accepts this unsatisfactory
situation, or it becomes progressively intolerable. They are usually so
"locked into" their self-defeating interaction pattern that they are
quite unable to change it by their own unaided efforts. Some seek
marriage counseling, but often too late for it to be effective.

4. This tragedy of undeveloped potential could be avoided in many
instances if married couples had a clearer concept of the task of
marriage and did not have to struggle in almost total isolation from
other couples going through the same experiences. The potential of
married couples for giving each other mutual help and support is very
great; but it is unable to function because of an unrecognized taboo in
our culture.

This taboo, hitherto unrecognized as such, prevents married couples from
sharing their intramarital experiences with other couples. In many
settings married couples form friendships with each other, enjoy social
contacts, even work together on projects; but there is always a tacit
understanding that they do not reveal to each other, further than is
unavoidable, what is going on in their husband-wife relationships.
Complex mechanisms for evasion and mutual defense exist. Some of these
are familiar, strong hostility in one partner when the other appears to
be revealing too much; making jokes to relieve tension when some inner
secret of the marriage accidently breaks to the surface; silence or
withdrawal when "outsiders" appear to be probing too deeply. These
defense systems work so well that it is not unusual when a couple begins
divorce proceedings for others in their circle of acquaintance to
express astonishment in such terms as "We are amazed! We had no idea
that they were having trouble!"

We could speculate about the reasons for this taboo: a protection
against public humiliation, since we all want others to feel that we can
manage competently such a basic undertaking as marriage; a safeguard
against exploitation, since a discontented marriage partner offers fair
game to a predatory third person; a link with our sexual taboos, since
difficulties in marital adjustment often have a sexual component, and
any suggestion of sexual incompetence is deeply wounding to our pride.
It could reflect the traditional tendency to regard the family as a
closed "in-group"--an attitude not without advantages for its strength
and stability.

What we are concerned about, however, is that this taboo is being
maintained with a strictness that goes far beyond its usefulness in our
changing society. It is depriving married couples of help and support
from each other, at a time when marriage has become much more difficult
and demanding than it was in the past. Indeed, we believe that with the
emergence of the nuclear family as the norm in our Western culture, the
individual marriage has been deprived of the supports derived from the
extended family of the past precisely at a time when our rising
expectations of highly rewarding interpersonal relationships are
subjecting it to demands it is often unable to meet. In the larger
family groupings of the Orient, despite their hierarchical structure, a
great deal of help and support can become available to the individual
couple in times of trouble from those with whom they share a common
corporate life.

It may well be that the new "life styles" being experimented with
today--mate-swapping, multilateral marriages, and group marriages, for
example--represent attempts to enable the individual marriage to break
out of its isolation and to gain better communication, interaction and
needed support from other marital units.

A striking illustration of this trend toward deep sharing between
married couples has come to our notice from an unexpected quarter. Two
married couples from a conservative Christian background decided to meet
and talk together, with complete detailed frankness, about their sexual
experiences. A series of such meetings was held, the conversations
taped, and subsequently published in book form.[D] The couples, after
careful consideration, decided not to hide behind a cloak of anonymity,
but to use their real names and disclose their identity.

Confronted with this new trend, we take the view that the taboo against
the sharing of husband-wife experiences between one married couple and
other married couples can with impunity be relaxed in appropriate
situations with benefit to all concerned. Between such couples the
development of great warmth, empathy, mutual understanding and support,
can contribute significantly to the enrichment and growth of the
individual marriages involved. This is essentially what happens in
marriage enrichment retreats.


COMPARISON WITH THERAPY AND ENCOUNTER GROUPS

"How do our marriage enrichment groups differ from group marital therapy
on the one hand, and from encounter groups on the other?" These
questions are raised by many people. What are the answers?

Group therapy for married couples is now widely available, and its
effectiveness has been established. Our marriage enrichment groups
differ from therapy groups in three important respects.

First, marital therapy is undertaken with couples who have serious
problems, often because the individuals concerned suffer from
personality disorders. When marriages are not stable a good deal of
pathology may emerge in the course of group interaction. Severe
conflict between husband and wife may have to be permitted to surface
and be handled openly by the therapist.

The second important difference is that therapy groups generally
continue meeting, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, over a long period of
time--as long as a year in some cases. Moreover, individual couples may
also undergo counseling (individually, conjointly, or both) in
association with the group therapy either before being admitted to the
group or concurrently with the group experience.

The third difference is in the leadership pattern. Therapy groups are
led by professionally qualified persons--psychiatrists, clinical
psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors. They play a fairly
directive role. The leaders are often male and female co-therapists, but
are seldom husband and wife. The role model aspect of the enrichment
group, as well as the participatory aspect, are therefore much less
pronounced and the group is less free to find and follow its own
direction.

An enrichment group consists of several married couples not in need of
therapy meeting on an intensive basis but for a limited time period. In
our opinion such groups need not be led by professional therapists;
although, other things being equal, that is of course a decided
advantage. We have come to the conclusion, however, that effective
leadership can be given by lay couples if they are carefully selected
and trained.

The encounter group, a general descriptive term, is intended to include
many variants. We have participated in such groups, studied their
procedures, and adapted some of these to our marriage enrichment
retreats. Couples who have been involved in encounter groups adjust
quickly and easily to the methods we use in marriage enrichment, are
generally very cooperative, and an asset to our groups.

There are two significant respects in which our marriage enrichment
retreats differ from encounter groups. First, encounter groups are
composed of individuals, while our groups are confined to, and led by,
married couples. This distinction calls for different approaches. There
is a greater complexity in the leadership, and a greater complexity in
the group itself. The encounter group is confined to interactions
between separate individuals and usually these individuals have not
known each other before joining the group and probably will not continue
association afterwards. By contrast, we have at least three kinds of
interaction: between individuals within the group, between couples
(including the leading couple) within the group, and between husband and
wife within the marital unit.

This multidimensional aspect of the enrichment group not only makes it
more complex, but also increases its potential. This is particularly
true after the experience is over. From our knowledge of encounter
groups we are aware of the problems encountered by the individual who,
after experiencing a new and invigorating openness and warmth in
interaction with others returns home to an atmosphere in which a similar
quality of relationship cannot be sustained unless there are already
friends and associates at home who have had the benefit of earlier
encounter experiences. In the case of our marriage enrichment retreats,
the experience is not gained by an isolated individual, but by a
preexisting social unit, so that new levels of openness and warmth which
the couple have experienced in the group can continue to be maintained
after their return home. This would suggest that the "casualty rates"
for couples would not be nearly so high as for individuals. We know of
no precise study that has investigated this, but our general impressions
would seem to confirm it.

The second significant difference between encounter and marriage
enrichment groups raises a somewhat controversial question. Encounter
groups are more ready to evoke negative interaction between
participants, while we place major emphasis upon positive interaction.

If our judgment of encounter groups is in this respect inaccurate we are
open to correction. We have, however, gained the impression from many
sources that an important technique used in these groups is to provide
opportunities for the participants to secure cathartic release of their
pent-up hostilities, including hostilities engendered by, or projected
upon the group leader or one or more of its members. We recognize that
many people in our culture are pregnant with suppressed hostility or
rage, and that the provision of properly controlled opportunities for
its release may constitute a commendable service; and since the group
members are generally strangers who will not be personally and socially
involved later, no entangling complications are likely to follow.

For our married couples, the situation is different. We do not mean that
they do not have hostile feelings toward each other. They often do, and
this comes out clearly and unmistakably. We do not mean, either, that
healthy discharge of these feelings might not be good for them--in our
therapeutic work with individual couples in conjoint interviews, we make
full use of such controlled opportunity for cathartic release with
ensuing interpretation. It is our considered opinion, however, that in
the particular context of our enrichment retreats, unrestrained
discharge of hostile feelings should in general not be encouraged.

Our reasons? One, the shortness of the available time might not permit
the proper resolution of such episodes. Two, a couple who have openly
discharged rage against each other may well react later with deep
feelings of humiliation that are not easily assuaged. Three, coping with
this kind of explosive emotional discharge could be alarming for lay
leaders not accustomed, as the therapist is, to the expression of deep
feelings which normally are not displayed in public. Four, other members
of the group could be similarly disturbed and diverted from full
participation in the main purpose of the retreat. This complaint has
actually been made, and we think justly, by participating couples in a
group where a violent and prolonged emotional episode took place.

We have been criticized for taking this position, but have not been
persuaded to change our considered opinion. That opinion is reinforced
by another conclusion, namely, that when genuine positive interaction is
promoted, negative emotion, even when it is strong and intense, tends to
dissolve and wither away. Couples have told us how their fierce hate
melted in the atmosphere of warm and loving support engendered in the
group, and with the stirring of compassion within them, they began to
see each other in a new light. We are inclined to the view, after
hearing such testimonies, that in deploying our therapeutic armament we
have given short shrift to the power of love not only to cast out fear,
but also to turn away wrath.


LAY LEADERSHIP

Our decision to train lay couples for leadership was not hastily made.
In fact in the early years during which we were leading retreats we knew
of no other couples who were doing so. After seven years we felt that we
knew what we were doing. Although we expected criticism from some of our
professional colleagues this has not developed to any significant
degree, and we are now entirely satisfied that we were justified in
taking such a calculated risk. We know of no case where our lay couples
have encountered crisis situations which they were unable to handle with
wisdom and skill.


STRUCTURING THE RETREAT

These retreats require a minimum of organization and structure, but that
minimum must be firmly insisted upon. We strongly favor the residential
weekend retreat, although we have met with groups of couples for
separate evening sessions spaced out over four to six weeks. This
approach was found to be less effective, but decidedly better than
nothing for couples who cannot get away from their homes.

We would regard five or six couples as the optimum number, but seldom
have we enjoyed this luxury. Usually we have had to accept our upper
limit of nine couples, in addition to ourselves, making a total group of
twenty. Often more couples apply than we can take, and the organizers
plead with us to accept the maximum number because family crises can
compel couples to drop out at the last moment. Two couples short at a
retreat planned for five couples would leave only three. Therefore our
normal procedure has been to ask for six to eight couples.

Although the selection of the couples has been left to the organizers we
insist that husband and wife both undertake to come together, which
means that if one has to drop out, both do so; we insist that they come
only on condition that they both continuously participate in the entire
retreat, from beginning to end.

No requirements regarding age, race, vocation, education, or
socio-economic status are made. There are advantages in having a
homogeneous group of couples, but there are also advantages in a
heterogenous group. Our groups have included one engaged couple and one
honeymooning couple who came straight from their wedding as well as
couples old enough to be retired. They have included highly qualified
professionals and blue-collar workers, PhD.s. and high school drop-outs.

Couples coming to our retreats should have what they consider to be
reasonably good and stable marriages since our purpose is not to provide
group therapy, but to foster marital growth. The reason for this
requirement is that we do not believe that group marital therapy can be
attempted on a short-term basis, and it is not the purpose in these
retreats. Many couples come to these retreats with a good deal of
apprehension, and some have told us that they would not have come at all
had they not been assured that it was definitely not for "problem
couples." Despite all our efforts, couples with severe marital problems
do get in occasionally under the wire and we found no way of avoiding
this.

We are often asked to provide preparatory material for the participants,
including books to read, but we do not think there is any way to
"prepare" for this kind of experience; and recommending books to read
might convey the impression that we are going to engage in intellectual
discussion, which is not the case.

We ourselves do not "prepare" for the retreats and do not ask the
couples to do so either. It is an adventure in sharing into which we all
move together, ready to take it as it comes.[E]

This does not mean, however, that our sessions are totally
"unstructured." A timetable is worked out by the group, not imposed upon
it. Obviously it has to be planned in relation to the place and the
circumstances of our meeting.


INTRODUCTION TO THE FRIENDS' EXPERIENCE

In the living room of "Waysmeet," the house at Pendle Hill in which we
held our first training retreat, there was just room for ten couples to
sit in a wide circle.

"What we are going to do here," we explained, "is to experience together
a marriage enrichment retreat. We hope this experience will be
meaningful to you all personally, quite apart from the fact that you
will be learning how to conduct a retreat yourselves after you return
home. We know of no better way to train you than to let you go through
first what others will later go through under your leadership.

"However, we shall be working together at two levels. At any point we
can break off and examine together, objectively, what has been happening
to us subjectively. You can ask us as your leaders any questions you
wish, about what we are doing, or why we are doing it.

"Our goal is very simple and very clear. As married couples we are here
to engage together in communication-in-depth about relationship-in-depth.
Everything we do will be done with the intention of sharing with each
other the directions in which we want our marriages to grow. How far we
travel will be decided not by us as leaders, but by you as a group. No
one will be put under pressure to do anything he does not wish to do,
or to say anything he does not wish to say.

"Our function as leaders is to be 'participant facilitators.' We are in
every sense members of the group, and will fully share all the group's
experiences. We do not wish to be treated as experts or authorities. The
only way in which we shall exercise our role as leaders is to help the
group to achieve its goal, or to tell it if we think it is not taking
the best direction toward that goal. We make no claim to be infallible.
If at any point you don't agree with us, it is your duty to say so. If
in any situation we don't know what to do next we shall say so frankly
and ask you to help us.

"Now we are ready to begin. The first thing we must do is to get to know
each other as couples. The sooner we get well acquainted, the faster we
can move toward our goal."

Most of the first evening is devoted to the process of getting to know
each other. Our favorite method is to ask the couples to volunteer in
turn to be freely questioned by the group. We usually volunteer first,
and make it clear that we are prepared to answer the most personal
questions. We indicate at this point that we would like to be called by
our first names, and we hope the others will agree to do the same. The
questions then begin, and when there are no more, we ask another couple
to volunteer. We prefer not to go round the circle in order, or take
names alphabetically. Everything is done voluntarily as far as possible,
to encourage spontaneity.

Time goes quickly as the questions come thick and fast, and it is
usually necessary to limit the questioning, or to ask for brief answers.
It should be emphasized that the participants are free at any time to
ask each other personal questions; this understanding creates a climate
of openness which emphasizes the goal of communication-in-depth.


THE GROUP IN ACTION

Assembled again on Saturday morning, we begin by preparing our "rolling
agenda," as one of the trainee couples called it, in order to keep a
record of what the group members want to talk about. The aspects of
marriage they want to include for discussion before the weekend is over
gives us clues to the issues that are important to them. The list with
which one of our trainee couples started their retreat was:

    What is the state of our marriage now? How have things changed
    as our relationship has grown?

    What are the memorable experiences in our lives that have
    enriched our marriage?

    What have we found to be the most effective ways of handling
    conflict?

    What do we feel about a depth relationship between one of us
    and another person outside the marriage?

    Have we found ways of sharing that have contributed to our
    spiritual growth?

We ask the group members if they have any "concerns" explaining that if
members of the group feel unhappy, or anxious, or angry, about anything
that has happened, they have a duty to share their feelings with us all
otherwise the fellowship will be broken. Situations have occurred in
which someone had a concern that another member of the group also had
and neither was expressing.

As a group cannot function effectively without openness to each other on
the part of its members, neither can a marriage grow without the same
kind of openness between its partners. This is what every married couple
should be doing every day--raising issues that need to be discussed, and
being honest about disturbed or negative feelings.

There is a sequence of events that is typical of most retreats. Nearly
always, we begin with general discussion of some aspect of married life.
At this stage we are testing each other, so we take refuge in
generalizations. A common theme is the difficulties of raising children.
We can all commiserate with each other about the problems of the
generation gap for it is "safer" to talk about parenthood than about
marriage. If the talk _does_ focus on marriage, such topics as working
wives or overworked husbands or the sharing of household tasks can be
discussed without risk.

The group will move at its own pace from the superficial testing stage
to the deeper sharing. The leaders can facilitate this process, but it
isn't helpful if they try to hurry it. "Personalizing" the discussion by
using such questions as "Mary, did you raise that subject because it's
an issue between you and Tom?" or "I wonder if any couple could give us
an example from their own experience of what Harold has been talking
about?" is helpful.

Once a couple have shared some situation in their own relationship, one
of the leaders can ask "Did any of the rest of you identify with Peg and
Larry as they were talking?" This will help other couples to share
rather than discuss, and move the communication to a deeper level. A
phrase we often use is "making yourself vulnerable"--an act of trust by
sharing a problem about which the couple feels some embarrassment. The
group's response to this is invariably warm and supportive with an
effort to help by sharing similar problems which others have experienced
or are experiencing. Sometimes a major breakthrough is achieved when the
_leaders_ are willing to be vulnerable.

This process of deep sharing must not be seen as an orgy of humiliating
confessions. Not at all. The areas where the growth of a marriage is
blocked are almost always sensitive ones which we tend to keep hidden
because they make us feel inadequate or defeated. It may well be that a
way out is not really difficult to achieve, but as long as we are
avoiding the whole problem we are not likely to find a solution.
Bringing the issue out in the open, in the presence of other couples
eager to help because of similar problems may suddenly break the log-jam
and move the relationship along the path to enrichment. This happens
quite often during retreats, and the results are usually decisive and
lasting. The resolution may come for a particular couple when they are
alone together later reporting it to the others; or it may actually come
in the supportive atmosphere that the group is able to generate. Such
experiences are deeply reassuring and rewarding for all the
participating couples.


FACILITATING EXERCISES

The use of simple "exercises" in these retreats has been found to
be very helpful. What they do is to break up our stereotyped and
often rather sterile patterns of interaction when people get
together. They are simply devices designed to bring about _couple_
interaction--sometimes for all the couples in the group together,
sometimes for one couple at a time.

A good example is asking each couple to draw a picture of their
marriage. Paper and crayons are made available, and the couples scatter
about the room and work on their pictures. They may choose to do this
verbally (discussing the drawing together as they go along) or
non-verbally (working at it together in silence). When all have
finished, we come back to the circle of chairs, and each couple in turn
lays their picture on the floor and explains it to the group. This is an
activity the couples always seem to enjoy; and it enables us to learn a
good deal about each other. The leaders, of course, also draw their
picture, and display it with the others. We have accumulated quite a
collection!

One of our trainee couples introduced dancing. Lights are dimmed in the
room, a record is played, and all the couples dance, each couple
improvising whatever movements express their mood. They then sit round
and report on what the experiment meant to them.

Occasionally when we are faced with a controversial subject (for
example, "How far are you prepared to allow your partner to go in
friendships with the opposite sex?"), we might ask all the couples to
discuss this privately together for ten minutes, and then report to the
whole group what conclusions they have reached.

Another kind of exercise is what we call "dialogues." A volunteer couple
sit in the center on chairs or on the floor facing each other, and talk
back and forth on a subject chosen by the group but accepted by them.
Some topics have been "How do we deal with conflict in our marriage?";
"How do we overcome fears of intimacy?"; "What are our procedures in
decision-making?"; "How do we meet each other's dependency needs?" The
subject should of course focus on husband-wife interaction.

It is best for the interchange between the couple to be slow and
deliberate. Indeed, it is helpful for each to allow a period of silence
before replying to the other (learning to pause in this way is a very
helpful means of making husband-wife discussions more effective).
Sometimes two or three couples may volunteer; all sit in the center of
the circle (the "fishbowl," as it is sometimes called) and the dialogue
is taken up by each in turn. While the dialogue is going on, other
members of the group should not intervene or in any way act as an
"audience." The general discussion comes afterwards, and provides an
opportunity for others who identified with the couples in dialogue to
share what they felt.

An interesting variant is to ask if another couple will volunteer to sit
with the couple involved in dialogue, and to function as _alter egos_
(Latin for "other selves"). The _alter ego_ on each side listens
carefully to what is going on, and intervenes from time to time to
verbalize deeper levels of communication and interaction that are not
being expressed in words. Playing the _alter ego_ role requires some
insight and skill, but it is highly effective when well done.

Another exercise for individual couples is "positive interaction." A
very simple device, it is usually highly effective and often deeply
moving. For this reason we often make it the last activity on Saturday
evening. It can either be carried out by about three volunteer couples,
or all couples may agree to take turns. The couple sit facing each
other, holding hands, and are asked to tell each other, simply and
directly, what they specially like about each other, being as specific
as possible. Surprisingly, it turns out that very few couples have ever
done this before, and everyone finds it a heartwarming experience. We
think we have encountered here another taboo in our society--married
couples spend infinitely more time telling each other what they _don't_
like about each other than what they _do_ like. Most of us have a
strangely inhibited self-consciousness about spelling out in detail what
we mean by "I love you."

We generally conclude the retreat with a short session of perhaps half
an hour in which we share with each other new insights and the rewarding
experiences we have had together. This may appropriately be followed by
a Quaker meeting for worship.

These exercises are no more than illustrations. Leading couples are
inventing new ones all the time, and there seems to be no limit to their
ingenuity. The books by Herbert Otto and Gerald Smith, listed in the
bibliography, are full of good ideas.

In essence, these were the experiences in which we and our nine trainee
couples were involved during the crowded hours we spent together at
Pendle Hill. Before they took their departure, we enjoined them not to
try to repeat anything we had done unless they could do so entirely
naturally and comfortably. They would develop their own patterns of
leadership, and these would be more effective than anything we had
taught them.


EVALUATION AND REAFFIRMATION

The follow-up retreat at Pendle Hill was much more than a reunion or
season of rejoicing. We undertook together an intensive evaluation of
what had been experienced. One couple, for example, had had to cope with
a marriage in serious conflict so we set up a role-playing re-enactment
of the situation to serve as a learning experience for the whole group.

We also tried to pool our ideas about the best way to plan and lead
marriage enrichment retreats. Our agenda covered the following areas:

    _Organizing the Retreat._ Time, place, cost, recruitment of
    couples, size of group, preparatory materials.

    _Methods and Techniques._ Introductions, agenda, directing
    discussion, dividing up, special exercises, crisis situations,
    evaluation.

    _Leadership Roles._ Qualifications, goals, training, couple
    teamwork, preparation, vulnerability, follow-up.

    _Future Plans._ Further retreats, training new leaders,
    cooperation with other groups, books and materials.

    _Other Areas for Enrichment._ Retreats for youth, premarital
    couples, parents and teen-agers, solo parents, senior citizens,
    Meeting members.

A number of issues of particular concern to the group were extensively
discussed. One was the distinction between our retreats and group
marriage counseling on the one hand, sensitivity training and encounter
groups on the other. Another issue concerned our emphasis on positive
interaction, and the discouragement, though not avoidance, of overt
expression of negative feelings between members of the group. We also
discussed what causes marriages to get "stuck" so that they cease to
grow. This led us naturally to consider the limitations of lay leaders
without training in marriage counseling, and how to make effective
referrals to professionals when this seems to be indicated. We also
talked about the use of silence, so natural to Friends, and how far
non-Quakers could accept this.

In all our discussions we were looking forward. There was a confident
assurance that we had found something of great importance that must be
communicated to others--to the Society of Friends generally, but to the
wider world as well.


THE SECOND ROUND

Another training program was organized and a second group of couples
were invited to Pendle Hill. On a Friday evening in November 1971,
therefore, another wide circle of married couples assembled in the
familiar living room at Pendle Hill; later went forth to conduct
retreats arranged by their Yearly Meetings; and returned triumphantly in
April 1972 to report to one another what had happened.

Six of these couples were new. With them we invited two experienced
couples from the first group of trainees. Our idea was that they might
help in the training of the other six, and be ready then to graduate as
trainers in later regional programs.

We have used this method in training couples before, encouraging a
couple conducting a retreat for the first time to team up with another
trained couple, each supporting and helping the other in shared
leadership. This is a good learning process; and now we were applying it
at the level of training potential leaders, in the expectation of making
ourselves dispensable. A movement of this kind should not be allowed to
focus on personalities. It will prosper best by involving many couples
in a broad sharing of leadership responsibility.

We might have asked ourselves whether what had happened in 1969-70 could
happen again in 1971-72. Would the high caliber of the earlier group of
couples be sustained? Would they again learn quickly enough through the
experience of one retreat to function as successful leaders? Would they
come back with the same enthusiasm and delight? The answers to these
questions would do a great deal to validate the plan we had adopted.

When our couples returned in April 1972, the answers were resoundingly
in the affirmative. In one case, it was true, the local arrangements had
broken down and they had not had the opportunity yet to conduct a
retreat--but they came to the reunion just the same. (Their opportunity
for leadership came later.) Reports from all the others, including the
two "veteran" couples, had the same authentic ring of success that had
been sounded so unmistakably a year earlier.

Quoting from the group:

"We felt our job was to provide some structure to help the experience
develop, and then let people sort it out for themselves. Both of us felt
it was most important to ride with the tone of the developing situation,
and avoid any use of the more aggressive techniques of confrontation.
Stan was worried on Saturday that the talk was too general. Then one of
the wives broke through by asking if we could discuss something "...
down here, where I am ... like SEX?" So we got there ..."

"We viewed our task as leaders to be one of creating and sustaining an
atmosphere in which each couple could speak personally concerning their
marriage. We felt we best accomplished this task when we participated as
a couple in the same way as we urged the others to participate."

"We regarded ourselves as facilitators. We tried to be creative
listeners; to put questions to the group that would help them to share
personal experiences; to bring about a change of pace when we sensed
this to be necessary."

"We were quite relaxed. We tried to be perceptive of the needs of
individual couples. We hope we didn't talk too much."

"We saw ourselves as equal participants with the others, and
facilitators of a process which started well with frank, meaningful
conversation. We did agenda-building at several points. Our aim was to
create an atmosphere in which defensiveness could be replaced with
tolerant acceptance, and trust and confidence could grow as we heard
each other and learned from each other."


THE PROBLEM OF UNFELT NEED

"The underlying problem is the fact that the marriage enrichment retreat
meets unfelt needs. People don't feel keenly that they need it. If you
think your marriage is sound, you aren't strongly motivated to spend a
weekend making it even sounder. To get the tingle of a potential
deepening and enriching takes emotional impact. This means hearing from
someone obviously sensible who is warmly convinced about it."

A number of theories were developed to explain this resistance to our
project. In general, it is true that it takes _problems_ to motivate
married couples to seek help, just as it takes pain to induce many
people to visit a doctor; and in both cases, action may prove to be too
late to be effective. On the other hand, many couples with basically
stable marriages are wistfully aware that their relationship falls short
of their expectations. But it takes a strong stimulus, in the form of a
cordial personal invitation, to get them to take the necessary steps to
enroll for a retreat.

Whatever the cause of this reticence, expressing itself on occasions as
resistance, it seems an inappropriate response to the needs and
opportunities of our day and age and one of the many factors responsible
for the alienation between young and old which is popularly termed the
"generation gap." Our trainees were themselves mainly in the second half
of life, and they well understood the "privatism" that is a legacy of
our past. They themselves, however, had lost nothing, and gained a great
deal by the efforts they had made to cultivate greater openness to
others, both in their marriages and in their wider relationships, and
they would lovingly invite other Friends to make the same venture. They
would also plead with Friends to give stronger support to, and undertake
more active participation in, a project to provide marriage enrichment
retreats for the couples in the care of our Meetings.

Some views were expressed suggesting a special reticence among Friends.
There seemed to be some foundation for two theories--first, that Quakers
tend to be very heavily involved in social projects, sometimes to the
neglect of their own family relationships; and second, that they tend to
be somewhat puritanical in the sense that they consider it improper to
open their private lives to others. There may be a deep dichotomy in
attitudes of Friends here such as reported by one couple: "vivid
impressions of honest encounters between those who regard the worship of
God as a private affair, and those who feel the need to reach out to
their Meeting community for personal support and a sense of communion
which includes closer relationships with other Friends."

Like other Friends, we are finding that these experiences can release
hitherto unrealized and untapped resources of spiritual strength and
power. As expressed by one couple: "For two years we passed through a
dark time in our family, trying to find resources to deal with a
seemingly insurmountable problem. At our first retreat, with the loving
support of the group, we were able as a couple to recover our
self-confidence, sense of worth, and well-being, and reaffirm our
strengths to each other.

"The family problem has now been happily resolved, and we have found
extra strength to participate fully in the expression of our Quaker
concerns in the larger community. Our Meeting did much to sustain us
through the bleakest times, and bring us back into clearness and light;
but what helped us the most to help ourselves was our activities with
the marriage enrichment project. We continue to nurture at home the new
openness and depth we have discovered, and have committed ourselves to
maintain the healthy growth that has been made possible for us."


CONCLUSION

What has been described in this booklet could easily be dismissed as a
new fad that will gain limited attention for a short time and then be
forgotten, but it may instead be the discovery of vast untapped
resources that can raise primary human relationships to new and higher
levels of richness and creativity. If this should be the case the loss
of this great opportunity would be tragic.

The need of men and women today, as in all ages, is to learn to live
together in love and peace--to build up rather than to tear down, to
cooperate rather than to compete, to find meaning in life through open
sharing with others rather than through narrow self-seeking.

Religion has always striven to further these goals, because they
represent the spiritual development of man. But again and again the
simple truths spoken by great religious leaders have been lost in the
complexity of elaborate institutions and the lust for power.

Friends have been distinctive in their stubborn resistance to these
diversions and distortions of the simple truth that we must learn to
love God and man, and that there is no other path to redemption. In each
new age, Quakers have found ways to witness to the way of love and the
way of peace.

May it be that a central calling for Friends today is to respond to the
disintegration of marriages and the alienation of the generations by
finding in their own marriages, and in their family relationships, a new
quality of creativeness based on a deep and honest sharing of life? Can
love be spread abroad in the earth, if it cannot be nurtured in the
close and intimate relationship between man and woman, the nuclear
relationship where love begins and where life begins? Can one proclaim
peace among the nations if unable to contrive to live in harmony with
those under one's own roof?

The mood of our age is compounded of hope and despair. We have achieved
so much, in terms of technological skill and power; and we have achieved
so little, in terms of harmonious human relationships. We have created
the power to make this world, compared with what it has been, a paradise
for man to enjoy, but we have failed to make it possible for man to
enjoy what has been achieved. With the threat of an atomic holocaust
hanging like the sword of Damocles over our heads, we know beyond doubt
that we must learn the art of living together in love and peace or lose
all we have.

In such an hour, what can we do?

We can make a beginning. We can begin at home--with ourselves, and those
nearest and dearest to us. We can strive to learn the great art of
living in the school that has been provided for us. We can build
relationship-in-depth at the foundations of human society: for in the
last resort the quality of relationships in any community cannot rise to
any higher levels than the quality of relationships in the families that
make up the community; and the quality of relationships in any family
cannot rise any higher than the quality of relationships in the marriage
that has brought it into being.

Yes, there _is_ something we can do to witness to the power of love and
peace. We can make a beginning. Marriage enrichment is such a beginning.



FOOTNOTES:


[Footnote A: Mace, David R., _Marriage As Vocation_, F.G.C. 1969.]

[Footnote B: Reprinted in slightly revised form from Friends Journal,
December 15, 1972.]

[Footnote C: Lederer and Jackson--_The Mirages of Marriage_, Norton,
1968, page 129.]

[Footnote D: Cicero and Fahs--_Conversations on Sex and Love in
Marriage_, Word Books, 1972.]

[Footnote E: We have capitulated at times and have prepared a brief book
list. A larger list appears in the appendix.]



BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING


There is as yet little in the way of literature about marriage
enrichment. Here are a few books which have been found useful by leaders
of retreats.

Bach, G. R. and Wyden, P., _The Intimate Enemy_. Morrow, 1969,
  (available in paperback). A belligerent but challenging book
  about marital conflict.

Clinebell, H. J. and C. H., _The Intimate Marriage_. Harper and
  Row, 1970. Perhaps the best book available on marriage enrichment.

Hastings, D. W., _A Doctor Speaks on Sexual Expression in Marriage_.
  Little, Brown, 1966. A reliable guide written by a psychiatrist and
  marriage counselor.

Lederer, W. J. and Jackson, Don D., _The Mirages of Marriage_.
  Norton, 1968. A challenging and unusual book on contemporary
  marriage.

Mace, D. R., _Success in Marriage_. Abingdon, 1958. An easily read
  paperback on the areas of marital adjustment.

Mace, D. R., _Getting Ready for Marriage_. Abingdon, 1972. A
  practical guide for the couple preparing for marriage.

Mace, D. R., _Sexual Difficulties in Marriage_. Fortress Press, 1972.
  A short and simple explanation of sexual inadequacy and the new
  approaches to its treatment.

McGinnes, T., _Your First Year of Marriage_. A very helpful guide
  for the recently married couple.

O'Neill, G. and N., _The Open Marriage_. A best-seller on some of
  today's new concepts of marriage.

Otto, H., _More Joy in Your Marriage_. Cornerstone Library 1969.
  A book full of practical ideas for increasing marital potential.

Peterson, J. A., _Married Love in the Middle Years_. Association
  Press, 1968. An excellent book on a neglected subject.

Rubin, T. I., _The Angry Book_, Macmillan, 1969.

Samuel, Dorothy, _The Fun and Games of Marriage_. Word Books,
  1973. Thoughts on marriage as a depth relationship, written
  by one of our Quaker trainees.

Smith, G. W. and A. I., _Me and You and Us_. Wyden, 1971. A
  book of exercises (47 in all) for couples seeking marriage
  enrichment. Written by a couple who participated in one of
  our earliest retreats at Kirkridge, then went into the field as
  full-time family therapists.

West, Jessamyn, _Love is Not What You Think_. Harcourt, Brace,
  1959. Written by a distinguished Quaker novelist.





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