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Broken Promises, Broken Lives

12/01/2004 - It seems that the idea of staying together "until death do us part" is becoming somewhat outdated. The divorce rate is at about 50% currently and the number of people choosing to cohabitate rather than getting married is rising substantially. Commitment is, for many, an old-fashioned concept. As the songwriter once said, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." As a marriage and family therapist, I recognize that divorce is one of the most devastating life experiences and it leaves its victims (both adults and children) with a sense of hopelessness and betrayal. Why is it that we have such a difficult time making commitments and keeping them? Mike and Harriet McManus have developed a program called "Marriage Savers" to address this issue. It is designed specifically to reduce the divorce rate by preventing bad marriages, enriching existing marriages, reuniting couples who are separated or on the verge of divorce and supporting stepfamilies. It has been so successful that a number of cities have adopted the program and have experienced reduced divorce rates in their communities (from 14% - 48% over seven years). If you would like more information on "Marriage Savers", please visit their website at www.marriagesavers.com. Some wonderful volunteers at Highland Park Community Church have made it possible to begin to work toward establishing a "Marriage Savers" program. We have begun a premarital program called FOCCUS. We have also implemented a program called Third Option that is designed to rescue marriages that are on the verge of divorce. In addition, we are working toward developing a program for stepfamilies. We would love to share our ideas with anyone who is interested!

One of the steps I have personally taken to help in the prevention of bad marriages has been in the area of defining the difference between a covenant and a contract. I will only perform covenant marriages. A contract is a bilateral agreement that can be broken based on the nonperformance of one of the parties. A covenant is a unilateral, indissoluble vow that is taken before God until death. With the concept of a covenant comes the responsibility to take time to get to know someone over a longer period of time in order to determine whether the individual is someone who has the kind of integrity with whom you can make that kind of commitment.

In the next column, I would like to take a look at what Mike McManus calls "Eight Myths of Marriage". I hope you will join me!

Please send your comments, suggestions, and questions to:

Ron Kirkegaard

411 South Walsh Drive

Casper, Wyoming 82601

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