published Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Tackle marriage obstacles in a fun way

Couples on the verge of marriage may not be fully equipped to tackle all the obstacles that can get in the way, said Andrea Perry of First Things First.

The organization is trying a "new spin on our traditional premarital education class," Perry said, by taking couples out of the classroom and incorporating fun, physical activities to help strengthen communication skills and give them other lessons in working as a team.

The Nearly Wed Adventure, which takes place today, is a full day of both indoor and outdoor activities for "marriage-minded" couples, those who are engaged, living together or seriously dating.

"Research has continued to prove that couples who go in for some time of premarital education or counseling tend to do a little bit better in their relationship because they're going into it with realistic expectations," she said. "A lot of things they've assumed before they got married."

Examples, she said, include how each member of the couple feels about having children or dealing with finances.

[Participants can] "go into marriage knowing that these are things that a lot of young couples have to tackle," she said. "The goal of this class is fun way to approach some of these obstacles that young couples face and overcome them."

The day will begin at Vaudeville Cafe, then half the class will go to Renaissance Park. The groups will switch halfway through the day.

The classroom setting, Perry said, will include discussions and team-building exercises on paper with marriage educators.

The outdoor portion will consist of more physical games and activities, said Deborah Gunn, projects director for First Things First. One such game, called Minefield, will see one member of the couple blindfolded, while the other instructs him or her through an obstacle course.

"In the minefield, couples have an opportunity to learn what it's like to run into obstacles in relationships, so they'll learn how to deal with those obstacles, but the main thing for the minefield is to teach communication skills, not only speaking skills but listening skills and the importance of good, clear communication in a relationship."

Clear communication, she said, can mean specifying if a partner needs to take a long or short step to bypass an obstacle, rather than simply saying "take a step."

Gunn said the goal of First Things First is to reduce the divorce rate in the community. "If a couple can go into the marriage with communication skills and conflict resolution skills ... that's going to equip them for their lifelong adventure and their journey of marriage."

The organization, which she described as a "Judeo-Christian nonprofit," includes both faith-based and secular activities. The Nearly Wed Adventure is an entirely secular program.

"The goal [of the Nearly Wed Adventure]," she said, "is to create healthy, lifelong relationships."

Visit www.firstthings.org for information on other marriage preparation classes.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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