By Alyssa Moses
A marriage won’t be successful if the husband and wife don’t develop skills, Mark D. Ogletree told a BYU Education Week class on Tuesday.
The class, titled “Going Where the River Takes Us – Trends and Contemporary Problems in Marriage” was designed to teach about the things that pull a marriage apart and how to put it back together.
Ogletree is a marriage and family therapist, the father of seven daughters, and has a doctorate in family and human development. He is also the director of the Dallas Texas Institute of Religion.
“One of Satan’s greatest tools for adults in this church is distraction,” Ogletree said. “Out of the many problems facing marriages today, I decided to focus on how we spend our time.”
The class taught that we live in a time-starved culture that is in opposition to marriage.
We are running around thinking that we are doing the Lord’s work, Ogletree said, but we are too busy to do the most effective work: building relationships. The challenge of active couples is to grow together and not apart.
Couples married for the first time have a 40- to 50-percent chance of becoming divorced, according to national statistics cited by Ogletree. And most first-time marriages end in the first three to five years.
Ogletree quoted Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family author, who said, “When people ask me why there are so many divorces today, they expect a psychologically complicated answer, but the answer is simple. They do not spend enough time together.”
“We go to college, work full time, have a baby, fix a house and run a business and then wonder why our marriage falls apart,” Ogletree said, quoting James Dobson. “It falls apart because you only see each other when you are exhausted.”
Ogletree suggested this situation may particular apply to BYU students, and he taught that continuing courtship is essential to prevent marital apathy.
Television, computers and other media that require our time are also threats to time-starved marriages. Ogletree warned that when couples have TV in their bedroom, they may waste the only time they can have privacy.
Bringing children into the world can also be a challenge to parents, Ogletree said. Running errands for kids can consume an exorbitant amount of time, leaving little quality time left at home with a spouse. He cited a model by team authors William J. Doherty and Barbara Carlson in which “the marriage is the sun and the children are the planets, not the other way around.”
The class provided two suggestions for improving a marriage: pray together and create an intentional marriage.
“Praying together on bended knee is the first and easiest way to take your marriage back,” said Ogletree, backing his statement with words from the prophets. Also, he told the class he conducted an informal study about prayer during his time working at LDS Services. He found that every couple that came in for counseling had stopped praying together.
To have an intentional marriage, the couple must have a plan to keep the marriage alive. Ogletree suggested having a weekly meeting with the spouse to talk abut how the marriage is doing, read helpful literature or set goals.
Ogletree quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said of marriage: “You must work to keep it solid and beautiful… it requires nurture and very much effort.”