When it comes to marriage, there's lots of advice about how to create and sustain a healthy union. It seems that everyone from clergy, to therapists, to lay educators have opinions about what is good (and bad) for marriages in the U.S. This past weekend, we had the pleasure of attending a wonderful conference where many of the country's best marriage-minded professionals were discussing the ins and outs of the topic of marriage.
As you can imagine, commonly disturbing stats were thrown around in conversations including: the 50 percent divorce rate, the troubling numbers of couples dealing with infidelity and porn addictions, and the impact this behavior is having on our kids. I think the hardest number to hear was the statement that 40 percent of American boys are growing up without a father figure. How this loss is affecting relationships, sexuality, parenting and crime was the topic for many conversations during session breaks and after hours.
Once you got past the doomsday stories, the real gems of the event were the presentations and the conversations held with the people in the trenches; folks whose purpose in life is to help create strong, passionate marriages. From pastors to social workers, therapists to marriage educators, the average attendee at the Smart Marriages conference is working night and day to help crack the code on what defines a "healthy" union.
Additionally, some of the country's best relationship thinkers were there, including well-known authors John Gray, Michele Weiner-Davis, Steven Stosny and the amazing Esther Perel. Lesser known, but equally as important were experts Hal Runkel, Rita de Maria, David and Claudia Arp, Scott Halzman and Edward C. Lee.
Over the course of the five days, I had many conversations with people and asked their best advice on what creates a loving, healthy marriage.
Here's what they had to say:
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes events like this one to keep people energized and excited about marriage. Even in the face of stories about the rising rates of infidelity, porn addiction, domestic violence (yes Mel Gibson, I'm talking about you) and divorce, people at this event were genuinely excited about marriage. For me, I came home after five days happy to see my husband and more excited than I have been in some time about our marriage. It's a really good feeling and I can guarantee that I'll be going again next year.
You can find out more about attending next year's conference on the Smart Marriages website and be sure to keep an eye on Diane Sollee, founder of SmartMarriage.com and mastermind behind this event. She's one smart cookie with her pulse on the who's-who and what's-what in the world of marriage.