Fighting for your marriage: PREP aims to preserve a lasting love

28 Aug 2004 | Lance Cpl. Heidi E. Loredo

In an effort to reduce the divorce rate and strengthen the institution of marriage, the Religious Ministries Directorate here offers the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, a three-day course that focuses on prevention of marital problems including violence and divorce and promotes relationship enhancement.According to the designers of PREP, couples that marry today have a 50 percent change of getting divorced. Out of the couples that remain married, 50 percent are unhappy for years. However, PREP research shows they are half as likely to divorce their spouse and also have fewer instances of physical violence with help from PREP.“We are young, inexperienced, unlearned and selfish,” said Chaplain John S. Lineback, Captain, U.S. Navy. “No one would get married thinking they would fail. The percentage of first-term marriages in the military that fail is over 60 percent. To live together without commitment is even more risky and the pain of failure is just as great. We are lonely and desire warm companionship, we have dreams, and we want to raise children. These are real issues, good goals and worthy desires.”Many factors contribute to a couple's separation or divorce. The program helps couples understand that although the amount of love they have for each other can outweigh the bad it is how they handle conflict and disagreements that determine the future of their relationship.“PREP is a research-based workshop,”said Navy Lt. Beth A. Stallinga, chaplain, Headquarters Battalion. “It teaches couples to communicate successfully, manage conflicts without damaging the relationship and how to preserve and improve commitment, friendship and intimacy.”The program is based on 15 years of research conducted at the University of Denver for Marital and Family Studies. The National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation also supported the research, which resulted in more than 50 scientific and professional publications. PREP has been featured on television shows such as “20/20,” “48 Hours” and “Oprah.”The course uses lectures, videos, group discussions and private coaching to educate couples in a casual atmosphere. It is not therapy, religious counseling or a group experience. Throughout the course, PREP attempts to increase protective factors like friendship, fun and commitment and decrease risk factors like destructive conflict. Core concepts are discussed, and participants practice key techniques to achieve the skills related to those concepts such as active listening vice jumping to conclusions and effective problem solving. “Couples benefit most from what I call developing ‘soft hearts,’” said Lineback.“Hard-hearted folks are difficult to live with. They tend to be selfish and hurtful. When our hearts melt, and we desire to put the other person first, to care for her or him, to uplift and edify, to serve the other then good things happen in a marriage.”Although couples that attended the August session wished to remain nameless for confidentiality, they provided positive feedback to the chaplain instructors to conclude the workshop. Many agreed the program helped them learn an alternative mode of communication when an argument or disagreement rose and how to prevent it from escalating.“Even when PREP is at its worst it is way better than anything else a couple will do in a normal week for their marriage,” said Lineback. “We could use some better packaging and delivery. Compared to all the selfish influences a person encounters in a given day, an hour working on their marriage is a terrific gift.” Marines and Sailors eligible to participate in the three-day program include newly involved to long-time partners who want to learn the specific skills essential to a lasting love and bond. The workshop helps couples that are about to get married, celebrating an anniversary, contemplating divorce or who have been married for years and would like a relationship boost. Childcare is available for children ages four and below.“Couples that learn to take care of and better love each other garner terrific joy,” said Lineback. “When folks get old and get closer to dying they don't ever talk about what movies they saw, what awards they got in the military, what concert they went to, what kind of cars they drove or how many square feet they had in their favorite house. "They talk about serving, caring for, loving, honoring, thanking, showing appreciation for, sharing with their children and loved ones."They focus on these kinds of spiritual gifts and actions. Slowly we learn that some things really make us a whole lot more happier than other things. There is peace in selfless service, in soft-hearted forgiveness, in generous gratitude and warm caring.” PREP, which would cost anywhere from $59 to $295 at a civilian session, is offered at no charge aboard the Combat Center.
Headquarters Marine Corps