Based on the author’s successful workshops and years of counselling married couples, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love gives easy-to-follow guidelines for how to set aside time each week to “meet” as a couple.
Each meeting includes 4 parts: appreciation; chores; plans for good times; and problems and challenges. The meetings are designed to allow a forum where issues can be discussed and resolved but also the couple can celebrate what they love about each other and plan for future “dates” and make decisions about their families and lives together.
One of the primary changes to family structures over the past few decades is the way in which traditional family-based activities have given way to the pursuit of individual activities. Everyone is so busy these days following their own interests that it is only the occasional event that brings a family together.
This often results in the growth of serious misunderstandings between family members with each members’ self-interests invariably crossing the paths of others.
One of the more successful practices for over-coming these problems has been the growth of interest in the ‘family meetings’ (If anything good can be said about our indolent sofa-gathering, fast-food, TV-watching culture is that it does at least bring the family together for a short time every week!)
For those new to the concept of family or marriage meetings, these are formal, pre-planned gatherings in which each member of the family gets the opportunity to air their grievances and to listen to the opinions of others on a wide range of issues related to home and domestic life.
Where families with problems have tried this approach to mediation and co-operation they have recorded great success in dealing with many of the typical conflicts and resulting aggression that inevitably emerges within any close group structure.
Many families take a fairly informal approach to their meetings; using it more as a discussion forum, whilst others take a more structured approach with a pre-established set of rules and itinerary of subjects under discussion for that week.
Marcia Naomi Berger is a strong advocate of the idea of family meetings. In her latest book Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love, she offers her extensive experience working with clients who are looking for a more dynamic approach to marriage and family responsibilities.
Her book mainly focusses upon marriage meetings where two people are looking to bridge the gap that can emerge between themselves over time but the information and advice in this book can easily be extended to include all family members.
So what can partners and other family members expect from regular meetings of this type? Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love opens with a general look at the basics—how to prepare for a meeting, what to expect from one and the approach one needs to take in order to make a meeting a success.
The author then explores the reality of emotional connections between people and how these impact upon the expectations of each partner. In addition to using these meetings as an emotional safety net they can have a wider function by allowing each partner to demonstrate their emotional commitment and appreciation for each other in ways that they may not feel able to do at other times.
Another common area of contention between family members can be found in the delegation of chores and the role that each member plays out within a family.
The various roles that partners conform to in todays family structures are not as rigidly enforced or delineated as they used to be. Over the past few decades there has been an increasing shift towards men playing a part in the domestic tasks in the home with more women becoming career-orientated and bringing home a wage.
Communication and communication skills are an essential part of expressing how you feel in a meeting and in part three of her book Berger looks specifically at the way in which a marriage meeting can be structured that enables all sides to express their own personal needs.
She also looks closely at the role of mediation and the requirement for each attendee to be prepared to be flexible in their demands. A degree of horse-trading might be required at times so that a common consensus is found. Some problems may take several meetings to resolve to everyones satisfaction as various options and alternatives are tried out and tested.
The book then closes with some interesting commentary by the author regarding the benefits of marriage meetings including offering children a more harmonious and conciliatory environment to live in and a way of avoiding deeper problems and resentments creeping into a family structure—problems that may, if not checked, lead to the eventual fracturing and dissolution of a marriage.
Marriage meetings are not an easy option when seeking to run a busy and pressurised household but they are an extremely valuable way to avoid problems becoming truly unreconcilable over time.
Back in the day our family used to have weekly family meetings and we ensured that absolutely nothing would stop them from taking place. The phone was muted, the TV was turned off and we withdrew to a place of sanctuary. These meetings gave our young daughter such an empowering sense of value within the family structure and enable us to understand to a greater degree the requirements of each of the others,
However, they were not always a great success and we made many mistakes over the years. I wish that we had been given the opportunity to understand how to make them more successful. When reading Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love I can see how we came to make those mistakes and what we could have done to avoid them or even how to resolve them.
It is true to say that love alone does not make a successful marriage. It takes much more than simply strong emotional bonds so if you feel that you would like to meetings into your family or marriage structure then Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love is book is an absolutely invaluable guide on how to get the best from them.
It is crammed with helpful advice on how to face and deal with the challenges that face-to-face exchanges inevitably create. The book also clearly identifies the most common problem areas and skilfully shows the uniquely different requirements that members of each sex typically bring to a meeting.
This is a valuable book to anyone interested in family-counselling. It presents some powerful ideas on making your marriage a success as well as the necessary tools for resolving any problems that are hidden under its surface.