Marriage Education as a Permanent Part of American Culture

A movement to change the trajectory of American family life by supporting marriage education was begun in 1997 with the formation of the Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education.  The formation of CMFCE led to the first Smart Marriages Conference that year.  In 2006 many marriage and relationship education courses were federally funded through the Healthy Marriage Initiatives.

Prior to these efforts, many volunteers and professionals were quietly providing Marriage Education through churches and agencies.  Nonetheless, when compared to Parenting Education or Health Education, Marriage Education is much less available.  Our founder, Dr. Bernard Guerney, helped originate the concept of “giving psychology away” through community relationship education back in 1969.

Today IDEALS continues Dr. Guerney’s work through a new effort to make Marriage Education a normal part of American culture.  As the federal projects are round out Year 5, we are working with each of our 37 HMI projects to transition programs to existing community resources or alternative funding.  We are also working with ANY marriage education activist to develop his/her own leadership skills and resource base to make Marriage Education a permanent part of American culture.

As IDEALS we believe Sustainability is founded on:

  1. Making ME part of consciousness and culture
  2. A balance between the needs of providers of ME and consumers (affordable, achievable, accessible, attractive to both)
  3. Multiple options and  entry points
  4. Multiple sources of funding

ME as Part of Consciousness and Culture

Move from ME to Education for Family Bonds (Combine with Fatherhood, Parenting, Family Strength)

For small towns, give it a positive meaning and make it a part of ordinary community life.

In larger communities, give it a positive meaning and a source of sense of community.

Balance Between Providers of ME and Consumers

Providers can afford to give it; consumers can afford to receive it

Providers feel competent to provide it; consumers see positive results in their lives from receiving it.

Providers give programs as part of existing social structures; consumers access ME through  existing social structures

Providers and consumers see ME as good.

Multiple Options and Entry Points

Warm-up Programs

Skill Programs

Prevention Programs (Youth, Marriage Prep)

Troubled Couple Programs & Therapy Support

Community Culture of Marriage Support

Life Event Programs (New Baby, Retirement, Financial Troubles, etc)

Promising Sources of Sustainable Funding

  1. Affordable fee for service by couples, combined with marketing to make an ME class as attractive as dinner out or a week-end away
  2. Line item in church or agency budgets
  3. Line item in job descriptions of people who are already paid
  4. A structure that combines a very few paid administrators with a small number of highly committed, well trained volunteers and a large number of transitory volunteers (like Girl Scouts) with an in-house source of funding for those administrators (like Girl Scout cookies).
  5. Local public funding (United Way, local fundraising events)
  6. Like Parenting Education, a possible component in many state or federal grants
  7. Private Foundation funding for special projects
  8. EAP, Wellness, CE, Staff Development, and Insurance Programs