Pre-marriage and Post-marriage Relationship Education – Improving the Trend
“Couple relationship education programmes have been shown to be capable of reducing couple breakdown by 20%-30% or more – but only 8% of couples in the UK and many other countries enjoy the benefits of them with the notable exception of Norway, the USA, Australia and one or two other countries”
He cited at least four very positive developments in this area in the UK and asked the conference delegates to please think about what role, large or small, they may be able to play in their country to support and promote greater use of these programmes.
During the session there were presentations on Couple Relationship Education and How to expand use of existing pre-marriage couple relationship education and post-marriage enrichment programmes.
He stated that “an estimated minimum of 3,600,000 children in the UK today are affected by divorce or separation” and that this number is increasing by at least 120,000 per year.
He then talked about “What can be done” including:
• Better support for families
• Greater use of marriage preparation
• Marriage enrichment programmes
• Improved attitudes in society
• Better use of the media to spread positive messages
• Support for families that get in to difficulties
• A more effective Social Services system
• Learn lessons from how other countries manage better
Mrs. Sara Perez-Tome Roman, President of The Association of Large Families in Madrid and her husband Mr. Carlos Molina Grigalba gave a talk about education supporting couple relationships, before and after marriage, in Spain and offered some statistics about the Spanish situation. For example, the number of couples getting premarriage training before entering into a Catholic marriage is 98.0% while those receiving post-marriage training is 1.5% (0.01% in the UK). The number of Catholic marriages in 2006 dropped to 118,000 from 160,000 in 2000, the difference being made up by civil marriages.
They explained that relativism, consumerism and an absence of any faith and belief in / knowledge of God produce family instability and that there are, unfortunately, some quite negative policies for the family be promoted by the Spanish government.
Mr Nick Gulliford
“There is no tradition of pre-marriage preparation for couples marrying at a registry office. We want that to change. We want local registrars to start signposting couples to pre-marital education as a matter of routine. The Local Government Association who co-ordinate the role of wedding registrars, agree and I am pleased to say that they [are] putting forward this policy so that every young couple getting married will be made aware of the benefits they would get from relationship support at this critical point in their life”.
He hopes very much there will a move towards publishing a 'Social Capital Index' by a neighbourhood as a monitoring device [which will be at least as significant as GDP and RPI], and that signposting by registrars to relationship education - along the lines outlined by Maria Miller MP - will be implemented now by local authorities in conjunction with voluntary groups.
He explained very clearly that nice words have often been spoken by the government of the day about supporting the family and relationship education but that little has happened. However, he remains optimistic about eventually getting the government to support these properly as other countries do.
The MC then introduced a surprise fifth speaker, Professor Alan Saunders, who is the Director of the Character Education programmes of the Universal Peace Federation based in the USA. Alan has trained in twelve different relationship skills, marriage enrichment and parenting programmes and has so far worked in 82 countries training teachers and educators in these type of skills and programmes. He gave a short interactive presentation involving the audience and encouraged everyone to familiarise themselves with available programmes.
The organisers truly hope that everyone benefitted significantly from the information provided at the conference and that a good proportion of the delegates will be inspired to actively support this kind of work wherever they may be in the world!
The MC concluded by stating that this is another step forward for the UPF Marriage and Family Initiative in the UK and Europe. There will be a number of follow-up up meetings taking place over the coming weeks along with discussions with partners about how best to make the initiative substantial over the long-term.