Army’s Pastoral Care Assists Troubled Marriages; Strengthens ‘Good’ Ones

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By Majors Earl and Annette McInnes –
Officers’ Counselors, THQ

One of the primary functions of pastoral care is to support the officers and their dependent children throughout the Western Territory. Although we deal with many difficult concerns, one major goal is to assist officers in maintaining a high functioning level in their personal lives, their family relationships, and their ministry. One important aspect of this is marriage enrichment. This ministry is open to laypeople as well, when time permits.

The mission statement of the Pastoral Care Department of the Western Territory states: “Our mission is to provide pastoral care and wellness/healing resources for officers, for prevention and recovery, both at our own initiative and in response to expressed need. Our caring for officers will seek to mediate Christ’s healing ministry of reconciliation in all its fullness. Our concern is for the mental, emotional, physical, relational and spiritual well-being of officers.”

It is to this end that we commit the resources of our department! How does this play out in the every day experience of officers? It could begin with a simple phone call to 1-800-823-8101.

We have held marriage enrichment renewals in most divisions of the Western Territory and in some corps. These times of renewal include 14 hours of instruction and interaction over a two-and-a-half-day period. The optimum size of the group is six to eight couples. We are happy to schedule marriage enrichment events in an area upon request from the divisional commander or command head.

Why marriage enrichment? People used to think an “intact” stable marriage was all that mattered. It came as quite a shock when a marriage of 20-30 years suddenly ended in divorce. Today, the high number of divorces (50-60 percent of marriages) and the unveiling of facts about battered wives, children, and even battered husbands give a clear message that many people are disillusioned with their marriages. There’s considerable abuse and family violence going on between couples who are still married and living together. Complaints of verbal and physical abuse continue to surface from “Christian” couples as well.

One of the founders of the family therapy movement suggests the number of marriages that could be classified as really highly functioning relationships might be in the region of 5-10 percent. This clearly suggests the great majority of marriages in which couples stay together could be decidedly better, happier and more satisfying.

What’s the difference between marriage counseling and marriage enrichment? Marriage counseling is a way of helping people who have run into difficulties they can’t handle by themselves. This requires skilled help from a qualified therapist. Marriage enrichment is for those whose marriages are not in serious trouble nor threatening to break down, but could be more satisfying.

In marriage enrichment, we attempt to draw out hidden potential–relational potential which husband and wife have never appropriated. It could greatly increase their happiness, but is either being misused or wasted.

Marriage enrichment can offer new understanding and insight to couples, new skills, new resources, and new tools which they can use to develop their unused potential. People who know deep down that their marriages are disappointing no longer need to mask their pain and to pretend all is well. There are now opportunities to make a marriage much better by facing the deficits and needs, and creatively working together to make the relationship more satisfying. This can be done through learning new skills, clear positive communication and conflict management, as well as discovering more effective ways to enhance the relationship.

Marriage enrichment opportunities are available to all officers in the Western Territory. You may not feel that you really need this experience, but don’t you feel you deserve it? Busyness can cause distance in relationships and soon the romance in marriage begins to fade.

Why not take advantage of this offer and attempt to make your marriage the happy, growing relationship that God intended! Call your divisional commander or command head today and ask that such an event be arranged in your area!

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