Elizabeth Weil, journalist and author of "No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage and I Tried to Make it Better," is married to Dan and has two little girls. A few years ago, she accepted an assignment to write an article on marriage education for The New York Times magazine.
The topic intrigued her, said Weil. "I realized I wasn't deliberate about my marriage in the same way I was deliberate about school, parenting and work. I read a lot about things that were important to me, but I did not own a single book about being a good spouse. Could I really learn things I/we could do to improve our marriage? I decided to dive in and see."
Clearly in love with the man she has been married to since 2000, Weil began her journey into the world of marriage education. Some nights, as she crawled into bed with self-help books, her husband wondered if their marriage was in trouble and he didn't have a clue.
After sharing why she was reading these books, she asked if he would be willing to attend classes with her.
"Initially, he was reluctant," said Weil. "Both of us were skeptical about what a few classes could do to improve our marriage. After all, we are skilled communicators, and it's not like we were in a bad place in our relationship. But he agreed to go, and to his credit, he got completely on board."
Weil and her husband gave up two Saturdays to attend a Mastering the Mysteries of Love class. "When we started the first exercise, we were giggling nervously, but once we were into it, it was an amazing experience," she said.
Weil and her husband were so impressed with the class that they started encouraging friends to attend. Some of their friends looked at her husband and said, "Oh, dude, we are so sorry you are having to go through this." Others assumed that they must be on the verge of divorce.
"It was funny, because they were skeptical just like we were," said Weil. "They also were curious about why we would do something like that if our marriage wasn't in trouble, which gave me the opportunity to explain that marriage education is like prevention. Learning to be good at marriage is like learning anything else. You have to practice the skills. There's no point in waiting until something goes wrong. It is much better to have tools to help you handle what life throws at you before the crises happen, so that they don't destroy a healthy relationship."
Marriage education classes, such as the one Elizabeth Weil and her husband took, are in Chattanooga at First Things First. For a listing of classes, visit firstthings.org.
When it comes to your marriage, perhaps an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
Julie Baumgardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.