Drs Claudio and Pamela Consuegra have released two new books on marriage this year, Preparing for Your Marriage and Enriching Your Marriage. They spoke with recently about their longstanding work as Directors of Family Ministries for the North American Division, advocating for healthy marriages and families, and their recent publications.
What changes to marriage dynamics have you seen during your time in ministry?
We have worked for the church for close to four decades and have seen many changes, including an increase in cohabitation among young people, an increase in the use of technology to consume pornography, adultery and resulting divorce, and the new phenomenon of grey divorce, with older couples going their separate ways after they become “empty-nesters.” Over-connectedness to technology has led to a lack of connection among family members, so one of the things we recommend for all families is to disconnect at meaningful times like meals in order to reconnect. On a more upbeat note, we have seen more participation of men in household responsibilities, including childcare, and that is a positive trend. Fathers are stepping up to the plate and actively participating in child-rearing in new and meaningful ways.
Are there predictors of a successful marriage?
In our experience—and research supports this—commitment to marriage is essential. One researcher, Linda Waite, found that couples on the verge of divorce who chose to remain married and worked at making their marriage successful, were happier and had more satisfaction in their marriage than ever before within five years. It appears that some people give up on their marriage too soon.
Another key component of a successful marriage is to participate in marriage preparation, which is one of the main reasons we wrote the book Preparing for Your Marriage. We have been using the “Prepare–Enrich” program since the early 1980s and have been training pastors and marriage counsellors to use the program since the mid-1990s. We wanted to give premarital couples additional resources to reinforce what we were trying to teach them, so we decided to write this book.
If you were to give a newly married couple one key tip for resolving conflict, what would it be?
Train yourself to listen more and speak less. That doesn’t mean you should never say anything—in fact, we encourage individuals to develop assertiveness, which is your ability to express what you think, feel, like or dislike. By practicing these two—assertiveness and active listening—a couple can establish a positive cycle of communication and thus, a healthier relationship.
How has faith made a difference in your own marriage?
Faith is what brought us together. When we met in college, we were both active in the church and during the three years we dated we worked together in Pathfinders, children’s Sabbath School, preaching and other church activities. So our life is intertwined with the life of the church and with our personal faith. When we have gone through difficult times—and we have had our share of difficulties—our faith and our commitment to our marriage and family has helped us tremendously. As we approach our 40th wedding anniversary, we can definitely say that “we’ve come this far by faith.”
What opportunities do you see for families as they come out of the current pandemic?
While the pandemic and quarantine have been extremely challenging for families, and especially for children, they have also proved to be a blessing for many. When was the last time that families were able to spend so many hours together during the week? Our hope is that as parents return to work, they will carve out quality and quantity time to strengthen their marriage and to nourish the life of their children. Talk, walk, vacation, play and laugh together. We will never be able to recover time lost in other pursuits.
Preparing for Your Marriage and Enriching Your Marriage are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online.