Who is Better Marriages, Australia?

Better Marriages, Australia (Trading as CMEA) is an organisation which exists to enhance and enrich the marital relationship between a man and a woman. Activities include weekend marriage enrichment retreats, shorter seminars and local support groups, training of marriage enrichment leader couples and the publication of regular newsletters. Some of these events are sponsored by community groups and churches.

Email us at nswadmin@bettermarriages.org.au

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How did Better Marriages, Australia begin?

Better Marriages, Australia (Trading as Couples For Marriage Enrichment Australia (CMEA)) was officially formed in 1980 after an initial contact and nurturing period under Better Marriages USA (formerly ACME, The Association of Couples for Marriage Enrichment , its “parent’ organisation in the United States of America. Better Marriages USA had been formed some years earlier by world renowned family sociologists, David and Vera Mace. At the invitation of Family Life Movement of Australia (now Interrelate), the Maces trained community leaders and couples from several different church denominations to commence marriage enrichment work. Better Marriages, Australia now has members across the country with committees in 2 states, New South Wales and Queensland. Married couples of any race, religion, vocation or age are welcome to attend activities and become members of Better Marriages, Australia. By becoming a member of Better Marriages, Australia you will receive a quarterly newsletter with dates of future retreats, conferences and special events; articles; book reviews; news of members and exercises to do at home. See "How do I Join" page for details of how you and your spouse can become a member couple.

Types of Events

1. Marriage Enrichment Retreat

Usually held in a retreat setting on a weekend (1½ to 2½ days) for six to eight couples and a leader couple.

2. Marriage Enrichment Workshop (also called a mini-retreat)

Held within a local community, most often on a weekend for 1 to 1½ days. Size may range from small (6 to 8 couples) to large (100 or more couples). Large groups break into small groups for couple interaction.

3. Marriage Enrichment Series (also called a Growth Group)

Held within a local community, often on a weekday evening for several weeks for five or six couples. Generally, the series has a specific focus, such as Growth in Marriage for Newlyweds, Communication Skills, etc.

4. Ongoing Marriage Enrichment Group (MEG)

Five or six couples meet monthly in their homes for a year or more for marriage enrichment dialogue and exercises. Leadership may be by a facilitator couple or rotated among member couples.

5. Marriage Enrichment Program or Seminar

Open to the public, including both couples and singles. Usually lasts 1½ to three hours with a program including both educational and experiential content.

6. Marriage Enrichment Conference

Conferences usually last one to three days, are open to the public, and may include large groups of couples. The program includes speakers, workshops, and continuing education for leaders. CMEA currently holds a National Conference every 2 years.

7. Marriage Enrichment Festival / Rally

This event is open to the public, and may include large numbers of couples. The program typically includes speakers, workshops, and celebrative activities.

8. Leadership Training Workshop

Usually held in a conference or retreat facility, CMEA Leadership Training is held over a period of 3 days and 2 evenings (25 hours). Open to a maximum of eight married couples (per trainer couple) who want to bring marriage enrichment experiences to their community. Led by an experienced, certified CMEA trainer couple.

 

Features of Better Marriages, Australia

Does Better Marriages, Australia have a model of marriage enrichment? Well, rather than referring to a Better Marriages model, it might be more accurate to say that there is a Better Marriages style or that there are distinctive elements which are promoted in leadership training and which characterize Better Marriages enrichment activities.

Experiential Learning:

Couples use their own experience for learning and the focus of any enrichment event is each couple’s own marriage. When information from outside sources is used in an event, couples are helped to take that information and apply it to their own experience.

Group Process:

Couples can help couples. Within a small group, couples can find an environment of safety, trust, and community. Small group process is used as a powerful tool to help couples gain a sense of “we are not in this boat alone;” to gain encouragement and motivation from other couples; to learn alternatives for handling issues common to most couples; and to gain hope or “inspiration” from hearing other couples talk about things that are meaningful in their marriage. Within the groups, there is no confrontation, analyzing, or prescribing — each person “speaks for self,” sharing his own experience and gives others support and encouragement.

Couple Dialogue:

Couples talking to each other about their relationship is central to Better Marriage’s approach to marriage enrichment. Dialogue between couples may occur prtrong>Civately or publicly. In “open” couple dialogue within a small group, couples, one at a time, talk together aloud in the presence of the group. Other couples may respond by their own open dialogue on the same or similar issue and by statements of identification and encouragement. The experience of each couple contributes to the enrichment of other couples.

Leader couples, married to each other, who are willing to share from their own marriage experience provide models, establish the climate of safety, openness, support, and sharing within the group. Leader couples make themselves vulnerable and demonstrate openness within the group. They “work for better marriages, beginning with their own.” Leaders come as participants and not as experts.

Positive, Growth Focus:

Enrichment is based on the assumption that each couple has strengths on which to build. Identifying these strengths and building on them is an essential element for an enrichment activity. Growth plans and agreements for specific action by each partner help couples make step-by-step progress toward the goals they set for their marriage.

Non-sectarian:

Better Marriages, Australia as an organization is non-sectarian. In enrichment events, couples are encouraged to explore meaning and direction in all areas of their lives, as individuals and as partners. Developing the spiritual or faith dimension in marriage may be expressed through dialogue or in other more focused experiences.

What Makes Marriage Enrichment Work?

Better Marriages, Marriage Enrichment events are attended by couples who value their marriage and who want their relationship to be strong and enduring. They want to learn skills and have experiences that help them increase their marital intimacy and mutual understanding. They are committed to the present and future growth of their marriage. Small group process, including private and public couple dialogue, aids couples in learning that “we are not alone” in dealing with the typical issues in marriage. Learning new skills, sharing from experience, and affirming each other within a small group of caring couples provides powerful support for building positive bonds in marriage. Trained married couples create an environment of safety and openness in which couples can relax their defences, affirm their strengths, and be open to change. Leaders are “participating facilitators,” i.e., they are focusing on their own marriage at the same time that they are providing leadership for the group of couples. By making themselves vulnerable and sharing from their own experience (difficulties as well as successes), the leaders help the other couples acknowledge and deal with their own issues. Examining one’s marriage, identifying needed changes, setting goals, and taking steps to reach these goals make marriage enrichment work!

Groups function with guidelines that create a climate of trust:

  • The focus of the group is on each couple’s own marriage experiences. (Not children, in-laws, books read, or abstract ideas.)
  • Each person shares her/her own experience, speaking for self, using “I” messages rather than “You” statements.
  • Participation is voluntary — each person is in control of what he/she shares. Silence is okay.
  • There is no confrontation, advice-giving or prescribing between couples or within a couple.
  • Confidentiality is expected.
  • Concerns get priority. If something is preventing anyone from being a full participant within the group, that concern should be shared, heard and handled if possible.
This environment and structure provides an optimal opportunity for the process of marriage enrichment to occur.

This process involves:

  • Taking an honest look at one’s own relationship.
  • Gaining understanding, insights, skills, or alternatives for one’s marriage
  • Reaffirming or setting new goals for one’s own marriage — restating hopes, dreams, priorities, and directions for their relationship.
  • As a couple, making specific plans and commitments for what each partner can do to help reach the goals they have set.

This enables each couple to leave the enrichment experience with a “plan for action,” that is, the next step or steps each agrees to take toward their agreed-upon goals.