Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Marriage education matters

If you were offered a business proposition with a 50 to 60 percent chance of success, would you take it? Regrettably, these are the odds today for marriages to last beyond the first five years.

The marriage education movement, virtually unknown in Israel, works to counteract these statistics and prevent divorce. It does this by teaching skills and techniques to help couples understand what to expect in marriage relationships, and how to create happy and healthy marriages. Unlike therapy, education is for all couples at any stage in their married lives. The movement has gained widespread recognition in the United States, European countries and Australia, and would be a valuable asset for a society as family-oriented as Israel.

I see the cynical side of Israelis, who express incredulity that there can actually be “healthy and happy” marriages. But the reality is that conflict and negative emotions, though inevitable, can be managed. Positive connection and open communication between couples can be created. Risk factors threatening our marriages can be minimalized. And marriages can be strengthened through mutual respect and willingness to really invest in listening and understanding each other.

Research has shown that healthy and happy marriages can shape our future. In very simplistic terms, healthy marriages have the greatest potential to contribute to the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of our society, especially for children. Divorce, as I wrote about in my previous blog, has just the opposite effect.

Israel took a monumental step forward on the marriage education front in 2011, when a large gathering of professionals and lay people attended the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel. The keynote speaker was University of Denver Professor Dr. Howard J. Markman, a recognized expert in the field.

Markman told the audience that marriage education is not therapy;

He said that marriage education teaches the skills and principles that research has found to be associated with a safe and healthy relationship;

And he explained that marriage education can serve all ages and stages: Newlyweds, Planning a child, Empty nest, Aging couples.

The 360 conference participants brought a real commitment to marriage education and signed the first Marriage Education Charter. They expressed a commitment to advance marriage education throughout Israel, participate in conferences and workshops to upgrade their professional skills in this field, help activate marriage education programs and workshops, and increase awareness about this topic in Israeli society.

The United States government has invested millions of dollars in marriage education, and there are nonprofit organizations all over the country offering marriage education workshops. More importantly, there are scientifically based research studies demonstrating that marriage education works.

With Family Day in Israel coming up this Sunday, February 10, let’s focus on the importance of family in our lives; on the importance of taking the time to build strong, meaningful relationships and healthy marriages.

It’s time for Israel to join the movement. Marriage education matters.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education