Home' Aurora : Aurora October 2014 Contents 13
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Robyn Donnelly has presented, and advocated
for, mar riage education in the Hunter for 17
year s. Aurora invited her to tell something of
the story behind her passion for promoting the
best possible marriage for ever y couple.
I should be up front and begin by saying
that I married Mark 20 years ago, after
eight-year s of dating, and we now have two
teenage sons. We clearly didn't r ush into
marrying, and that was the right way for us,
although some might see it as unnecessarily
cautious. However, knowing the research
outcomes, I now know the impor tance,
where long-term commitment's concerned,
of "deciding rather than sliding" decision.
A strong joint decision to mar ry is a great
foundation for a happy and lasting mar riage.
Before we married, I looked for mar riage
preparation. I believed it was a wor thwhile
investment, even then, and even after dating
for eight year s. We completed a three-day
cour se and also FOCCUS (Facilitating Open
Couple Communication Understanding
& Study) with the priest who was to
preside at our wedding. Some of the
insights I remember gaining then were
that even though we were raised in similar
households, we had ver y different families
of origin which would have its impact on us
later in terms of how we parented or even
expressed our love.
Somewhat naively, I thought we were
fir mly together on a path that would
always r un smoothly. Not so. I see cracks
when I look back, using the knowledge and
under standing I have gained as a mar riage
educator and taking some accountability.
There were times when we had to face
inevitable challenges and our "we-ness" and
commitment wer e tested.
Even our boys know the phra se "sliding vs
deciding" and the concept of "7 Principles
to Make a Marriage Work " (with some
eye-rolling) and while we had very much
decided on mar riage, that didn't guarantee
that there would not be times when our
commitment faltered. Ironically, it was
when a local priest invited me to under take
for mation to be a mar riage educator that
I began to realise I had more to learn and
we needed it. A funny thing happened on
the way to marriage education : we changed
our mar riage to match the research and
When we stand befor e the altar, or on the
beach or wherever, we promise to love,
honour and respect, but we do things --
perhaps small things -- that go against that.
Our par tner asks us for a cup of coffee
or a moment of our time and we grunt or
miss the "bid". It's called "tur ning towards
vs tur ning away". Researchers say it's "the
small things often" that will lead you to
being more r elationship-satisfied. I can see
now a time when Mark and I were on 'auto
SMALL THINGS OFTEN
BY ROBYN DONNELLY
Robyn Donnelly, marriage educator.
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pilot' and marriage education gave us ways
to be more intentional in our personal
dedication and commitment. It's about "we-
ness", remember? The tools we learned to
use to become more connected were both
simple and profound.
My family, and anyone who visits us regularly,
knows about conversational cards and
the "5 to 1" rule. This means that for any
negative comment, there must be five
positives ! After all, the str ategies that build
good marriages also apply in other scenarios,
including parent-child relationships. A
fixture in our home that sits in the kitchen
where everyone sees it is a message board.
It's a simple way of reminding us all of what's
impor tant to our family, for example, "It
is nice to be impor tant but it is far more
impor tant to be nice."
I often hear people say they feel like life
is a constant juggling act, with so many
competing demands on time, energy and
funds. I feel like that too, with a variety of
commitments as well as family and work,
but during my mar riage education sessions,
I share with couples that I consciously keep
the 'marriage ball' in the air. I'm far from an
exper t juggler but at least I'm careful not to
drop that one!
While on the subject of 'work ', my Dad told
me many years ago that if I chose a job I
loved, I'd never work a day, and that's been
my experience. I really do love working with
couples preparing for mar riage or married
couples seeking to lear n more.
For anyone considering par ticipating in
mar riage education, you have nothing
to lose and so much to gain. You will be
introduced to ideas that can enrich a happy
and committed relationship even fur ther --
and who doesn't want that?
Researcher s Dr s John and Julie Gottman
say that happily married couples have a
strong friendship -- each knows that the
other is his /her best friend and will be there
for the other. In turn, that's how they build
relationships with their children -- then
you can discipline, then you can regulate
conflict -- and you are more likely to be able
to manage things you're not liking.
This is just a snapshot of the insights to be
gained and shared. Please contact me to
chat about what I offer in ter ms of pre- and
post-marriage and relationship
Under the auspices of the Life and Faith
Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and
services of Catholic Care Social Services,
Robyn offers "Before We Say 'I Do",
FOCCUS, ENHANCE and "Bringing Baby
Home". Please visit w ww.mn.catholic.org.
au or P Robyn, 4979 1172 or 0412 637 090.
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