Learning to fall in love again

Seminar: Laurel Church of Christ is holding a "Love, Sex and Marriage" workshop today and tomorow. Joe Beam of the Family Dynamics Institute hopes to teach couples how to eliminate negative behavior.

Religion

October 01, 2004|By Deitrich Curry | Deitrich Curry,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Rev. Michael Ray, 39, recalls when a family friend decided to divorce his wife after 49 years of marriage.

The minister also has witnessed divorces, after fewer than 10 years of marriage, among his church members and in his neighborhood.

Ray's congregation, Laurel Church of Christ, is holding a "Love, Sex and Marriage" seminar today and tomorrow to help prevent other marriages from going down the drain.

"It would be easy for a church to sit back and criticize the direction our society is going," Ray said. "But it's more important that we reach out and help couples strengthen and improve their marriages."

The remedy in this case is Joe Beam, an internationally known speaker from Kentucky who has given the seminar to 4,500 couples and has appeared on ABC's Good Morning America. Beam, a former corporate trainer, did graduate studies in clinical psychology and is founder of the Family Dynamics Institute in Kentucky. His goal is transforming the way people live and love in their marriages.

The two-day seminar is fast-paced and meant to entertain, Beam said. He hopes to strengthen marriages by teaching couples how to eliminate negative behavior and fall in love again.

"Joe is a dynamic speaker and is able to communicate in a way that entertains and educates at the same time," Ray said.

Ray hopes the seminar will help more couples stay together and help decrease the divorce rate, which is 51 percent, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Last year, there were about 2.2 million marriages in the United States and 1.1 million divorces.

In Maryland, the rate is not much better. There were about 38,000 marriages in Maryland and 16,000 divorces, a divorce rate of 43 percent.

Ray believes one of the biggest problems in a marriage is selfishness. One spouse is more concerned about his or her happiness than the well-being of the other. The mindset is "you're not giving me anything, so I'm not going to give anything," Ray said.

One of the sections of the seminar that will be discussed tomorrow is sex. Beam uses biblical examples, including the book of Song of Solomon, to dispel myths about sex and marriage.

"I use Scriptures so they won't think I'm a dirty old man," Beam said.

Beam is confident in his ability to turn a marriage around. He said he once helped revive a marriage in which the wife had an affair and became pregnant.

He is no stranger to a complicated marriage. He and his wife divorced after 15 years in 1984. After reading and going through counseling, he remarried his ex-wife in 1987 and is going on 17 years in the second marriage. Beam said that most people are not taught how to have a successful marriage.

For Columbia resident Allen Pratt, 41, marriage is not that difficult. He plans to attend the seminar with his wife of 21 years, Michelle Pratt, 42, for advice on how to keep their marriage strong.

He said marriage fulfills his need to feel loved and connected to someone. He is willing, he said, to stay focused on his wife and not worry about what is going on around him.

"When you really love someone, you always want to do your best for that person," Pratt said.

Steward Highberg, 52, and Dorothy Highberg, 49, of Columbia are going to the seminar to serve as an example to younger couples. The Highbergs believe that putting the marriage first has helped them stay together for 31 years. Steward Highberg says it is important to evaluate his performance as a husband.

"You're never too old to learn something new about your marriage," he said.

The seminar will be held from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow. Information: 301-490-0777, or www.laurelchurch.org.

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