Workshop Brings Hope to Stressed Marriages


Last Sunday, May 5, the Marriage Resource Centre held its new Break-Through workshop for gridlocked marriages or those who were experiencing a lack of motivation in their relationship.

The workshop consisted of a series of short inputs on topics such as argument patterns including how an argument escalates, feelings and needs, forgiveness and practical strategies for getting forward momentum in the relationship. Participants were given time to reflect on the material through the use of inventories and questionnaires on each topic.

The focus was not on resolving disputes, but on helping individuals understand the dynamic of their relationship and what they are seeking from it, so that they can resolve their internal distress before they attempt to resolve the relationship conflicts.

All activities were individual and there was no couple or group sharing. This allowed a number of participants who were not accompanied by the spouse to engage with the material and their feedback speaks for itself.

When asked whether the workshop was helpful to one participant, she paused to reflect then responded, “I would say helpful is a huge understatement. It was incredibly uplifting. I feel free and able to make a fresh start.” Another said, “I have always heard about unconditional love, but today I have learnt what that truly means and how to apply it to the day-to-day context of my marriage.” One couple who traveled quite a distance to attend the event said, “Ten hours of driving seemed a lot for a three hour course, but it was well worth it.”

Also coming from a far way was Fr. Duane Fernandez who traveled from Nowra to investigate the workshop and was so impressed with it that he is now looking at how he can bring the series down to his own parish.

Francine and Byron Pirola, who have been working with marriages for over 20 years, ran the three hour workshop. “We get so many calls from couples who are desperately looking for help. They’ve either tried counselling and it hasn’t worked or their spouse won’t go to counselling and they’re anxiously looking for an alternative. This was partly a response to those cries for help.”

The Sydney couple who have recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary are the co-authors of the SmartLoving courses for engaged and married couples. “We believe very strongly that marriage education is a very effective way to intervene in a stressed marriage to help them break through, and move their marriage to a place of stability and get forward momentum in their relationship.”

Fr. Zvonimir of the Warragamba parishes, who has been a long-time supporter of the SmartLoving initiatives, along with Bernard and Anne Ellis of Springwood hosted SmartLoving’s Break-Through workshop. “We were really delighted, at the last minute we asked Fr. Zvonimir to be available for reconciliation,” said Anne, “We weren’t sure he’d have any takers but we were delighted when quite a number of the participants presented for reconciliation which indicates that the process was very robust and effective in helping people move to a position where they were able to recognise their need for God’s help.”

One couple at the afternoon workshop had been separated for over ten years and just recently got back together but were finding it very difficult and having a lot of arguments. They were so grateful for the opportunity that the workshop gave them to process some of their issues, and were feeling especially positive to go home and start interacting in a more productive way.

Bernard and Anne have supported SmartLoving initiatives since they were introduced to them five years ago.  “SmartLoving has been such a great enrichment in our lives as a couple, it’s helped us to grow and to plan for our future as a couple and we’re really committed to bringing this material to others because it’s been so transforming for our own relationship.”

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