Beyond ‘Me First’: Rediscovering the Value of Marriage in the Age of Individuality

Beyond 'Me First'

Unexpectedly, there is a raft of new books on the value of marriage and how it produces not only more happiness, but impressive generativity, meaning, and contribution to the next generation and our society as a whole. This is not the message we are used to hearing from academia, the media, and corporate America in this age of individuality.


These books not only promote marriage as a key to personal happiness and profound personal growth for married partners and our culture, but these authors produce statistics to back their assertions. This defies our decades long “me first” messages that marriage is over-rated and that divorce statistics prove their assertion. In contrast, these research-based books report more meaningful lives by married partners as well as more accumulated wealth than their unmarried and childless counterparts.


There is also a subtlety in this report. The authors acknowledge that couples who learn how to create partnership and family by putting, “we before me,” enjoy the happiest of marriages and contribute profoundly to our civilization. This refers to the learning curve in a marriage where the success of the relationship hinges on developing respect and intimacy skills to appreciate our own and our partner’s individuality. The pressure for this growth does not occur in single life because no one is equal to you like your marriage partner and invested in the relationship like your partner. Your marriage is the invitation and gateway to this maturity. It provides the opportunity for a healthy relationship, family and society by growing you.


Michael and I have long known this from our own experience. We ran into headwinds as a young couple and our conflicts were painful and destructive. We had two children and they inspired our motivation to find a solution to the disconnection we both felt. Little did we know what we needed to learn. Our parents were happy in their marriages. We had no idea how they made that happen. We were willing to learn. It certainly helps to know happy couples and see that it is possible to be happily married.


We went to two therapists at the time. We were in our early thirties. We tried a secular marriage therapist and a religion-oriented marriage therapist. We found neither therapy helpful.
Unexpectedly, a friend and former supervisor of mine from St. Joseph Hospital offered his help. He knew me and he knew Michael. I would go so far as to say he loved us both. He was able to soften the edges of our conflicts because he loved each of us and loved us together. He helped us hear each other. It was enough to keep us going. It was the beginning of seeing a path through our struggle, but we knew we had far to go.


Sometime later, I heard about another very wise person who was coaching relationships in a group. I immediately enrolled. What we learned from this experience changed our lives. Our teacher became a good friend and mentor. We spent years absorbing his point of view about relationships. A lot of what made him so effective was his own development and maturity. His love for us, his unwillingness to see one of us win at the other’s expense, his determination to teach us we can both win with each other was a priceless gift


As we digested what we learned, and as our life together changed brilliantly, we knew we had to find a way to teach other couples. We see what is happening in our culture and this kind of personal learning is urgent for the well-being of our children and the culture in general. I am a marriage counselor and I am open about saying that teaching and coaching in groups of couples is far more effective than marriage counseling in a therapist’s office.


One reason is that you realize in a group you are not alone. You are up against developmental pressures to grow and every other couple is experiencing the same pain. You will hear me say there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t have a diagnosis. You just need to grow. Michael and I model and teach the skills you need to learn and then you practice them as a couple in the class and at home between meetings. Over the five or six weeks of the classes, we watch the connection between the partners grow in warmth and expand in their understanding and support of each other.
It is a sweet experience for all of us. We teach this developmental stretch differently than our mentor because we are a couple. We use the dynamics of our own relationship to help couples see how partnership can flow smoothly even with all of our individual differences.


Michael and I are devoted to contributing to our culture. We care about your marriage; we care about your children seeing a happy marriage and family so much that they want that for themselves. We want to use your desire for love and respect in your marriage to develop and mature you while you learn how to love each other profoundly. We care about our culture maturing and finding wise solutions for our society’s problems.


If what we are doing speaks to you, we are happy to hear from you and answer your questions. You are welcome to join the classes we teach in our office. We are also happy to present what we do to your social and/or religious community. If your congregation leaders are interested, let them know the course fees by the couples from their congregation can be a donation to their community.


We know we have important knowledge for our culture. We are older and in the generative time of our lives. Please help us fulfill our purpose to help American couples grow sweet and mature marriage partnerships. We look forward to hearing from you and growing your marriages.