Wouldn’t it be grand if married couples everywhere could have enduring, satisfying relationships, based on spiritual principles? Wouldn’t it be marvelous if all children could grow up in a healthy two-parent home? Such was the goal of most of the attendees of the 12th Annual SmartMarriages conference from July 2-6, 2008 in San Francisco, California.
Founded by Diane Sollee, MSW, this is the premier conference of its kind in the world. More than 2,000 people from all over the globe come to share, present, gain insight and get inspiration from marriage and family books, programs, dvds, and presentations. Marriage Educators, Therapists, ministers, teachers, youth project leaders, government officials, judges, couples and other lay persons converge in a wonderful, near week-long experience of marriage and family strengthening workshops, keynotes, exhibits, roundtables and networking.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi and Tariq Saleem Ziyad, co-directors of the Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute, traveled over two thousand miles to attend this year’s SmartMarriages conference. The conference was held at the San Francisco Hilton, by far the largest and one of the most prestigious hotels in California.
At this year’s SmartMarriages conference, the co-directors of Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute presented a workshop featuring an overview of their “From Couple to Couple” curriculum, which trains and certifies couples in healthy marriages to become Mentor Couple/Marriage Educators. These Mentor Couple Marriage Educators can then work with couples before and after marriage, modeling healthy relationship skills and teaching skills to their mentee couples. (To find out how you or a healthy couple you know can get this training, check the DZFI website at www.dzfi.org or the GVT website at www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org)
Krsnanandini and Tariq rubbed shoulders with notables like John Gray, author of the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series of books, Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages and related works, Dr. David Olson, co-founder of Life Innovations and the internationally acclaimed set of Prepare/Enrich premarital and marriage inventories, Dr. Scott Stanley, famed author of Fighting For Your Marriage and the Prep healthy marriage curriculum and Nisa Muhammad, Director of Wedded Bliss Foundation and creator of the National Black Marriage Day Initiative.
These and other dedicated Marriage and Family proponents spend much time and effort to strengthen marriages and families. They know the benefits; And they know all too well the consequences of the break down of family. As researchers Wood, Goesling and Avellar state in their report, The Effects of Marriage on Health: A Synthesis of Recent Research Evidence, “A burgeoning literature suggests that marriage may have a wide range of benefits, including improvements to individuals’ economic well-being, mental and physical health and the well-being of their children”¦A focus on the most rigorous recent evidence reveals that marriage has positive effects on certain health-related outcomes.”
Further, such research is validating what many marriage and family experts already know: Marriage Education programs work to “reduce strife, improve communication, increase parenting skills, increase, stability and enhance marital happiness.”
Some highlights from the 2008 SmartMarriages conference include:
From Dr. Gary Chapman: “Many couples love each other but don’t know how to connect. Sacrificing for one’s spouse is important. When it (a service for your spouse) doesn’t come naturally, it’s actually a greater expression of love. We must learn to speak one another’s love language.”
From Dr. John Gray: “ Men talk to solve problems; Women talk to express feelings.”
From Dennis Stoica’s (Director California Healthy Marriage Initiative): “Marriage matters to children. Divorce is hard on kids and it is a serious national problem.”
From Michelle Weiner-Davis: (Founder, Divorce Buster Programs) “Real giving means giving what your spouse wants — no matter if you don’t understand it—it’s mutual caring.”
Dr. Sue Johnson (Sociologist and author): “Without empathy and secure connection, there can be no real love. All humans need nurturing, soothing and protection”¦”¦ Key moment which defines forgiveness: when the injured party looks into the eyes of the offender and sees that their pains matters. They have to see it in their faces.”
Dr. Steven Stosny (Author and founder of Compassionworks.Com): “You can turn your resentful, angry or emotionally abusive relationship into a compassionate, loving one”¦.. The urge to improve, appreciate, connect or protect are the motivations of our core values. The experience of value gives you meaning and purpose. Crime goes up when the sense of community goes down. People feel disconnected.”
Many of these thoughts are reminiscent of the teachings of an ancient Vedic wise man, Rupa Goswami. In his treatise on Devotional Service, Goswami delineates 6 Kinds of Loving Exchanges which keep healthy connections between people:
1. Giving gifts in charity
2. Accepting gifts with appreciation
3. Offering food prepared with love and devotion
4. Accepting such food with grace and care
5. Revealing one’s mind confidentially
6. Respecting and honoring such confidential sharing.
Over 125 workshops and 16 keynotes were presented at the conference, covering a wide spectrum of marriage, family, fatherhood and healthy relationship topics. Next year’s 2009 SmartMarriages Conference will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 6-12, 2009.
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