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Marriage on a Cold NightPosted Tuesday, February 8, 2011, at 12:11 PM
Harville Hendrix is his name.
He's seventy-five years old now, lives different halves of the year between New York City and a farm in New Mexico.
You may remember him from his books or his appearances on television. His work "Getting the Love You Want" has been published in fifty languages and sold more than two million copies. He's appeared on the Oprah Show a total of seventeen times and her first Emmy Award was for a show on which he was the principal guest.
He was in Indianapolis on Thursday night, February 3rd. The town had just "reopened" at noon (as one television reported phrased it) from two days of an ice storm. The roads to Christian Theological Seminary looked as if they hadn't been touched by any city plow.
And yet there were over three hundred people who came to hear his presentation.
He is an expert on marriages and relationships. In fact, his presentation that night was entitled "What We Know About Healthy Relationship."
And, it appears that we know quite a lot!
My favorite line he used: "You never marry someone with whom you are compatible. That would be boring!"
The most startling statistics he gave: 50% of American marriages end in divorce. 93% of these divorced people remarry. 70% of second marriages end in divorce. 93% of these divorced people remarry. 76% of third marriages end in divorce. 93% of these third-time divorced people remarry.
He used a power point presentation on the different stages of a healthy relationship beginning with its infancy verses an unhealthy relationship from its infancy. Both begin with that same romantic passion that literally causes the brain to stop functioning in certain areas.
According to him, romantic passion can last no longer than two years. Suddenly the unhealthy relationship has two people who are trying to change the other.
Healthy relationships have two people who are trying to change themselves.
I could be technical and explain how his teachings are from the school of Object Relations, an approach in psychology that emphasizes how our first few months of life influence the rest of our lives. I could (try to) explain diagrams of the brain and how it works during different stages of love. I might even try to uplift the different brain chemicals that correlate to different parts of a relationship.
I would rather share that I was deeply appreciative of the hope I saw expressed on the faces of the hundreds who soaked up his every word. In a grandfatherly way this world renowned expert explained that nearly every relationship can make it no matter the obstacles.
He explained that communication is the key to any relationship and then "taught" better communication skills to the audience. People turned to their partners and shared that innocent kind of laughter that overcomes defensive barriers. People left hand in hand with partners who earlier had been enemies of war.
I hope that spirit lasts for these people!
I live in a culture that emphasizes having a partner and being married. I represent the majority of adults in the United States, for there are now more singles in this country than there are couples. I come from a spiritual tradition that states God blesses the union of a marriage.
I live in a nation where divorce is ... a fact of life.
I know from experience how wonderful the world looks when you are in love. I see the heartache people go through when that love doesn't grow, doesn't mature, doesn't continue to be a blessing to the two who have had such high hopes.
Hendrix isn't the only "Relationship Specialist" who has ideas on how to help couples stay together. However, before his writings and the training that teaches his approach, only twenty-five percent of couples who came to a marriage counselor survived as a couple.
That number has nearly doubled in less than thirty years.
I believe that there is something exciting to this new approach to healing couples and relationships. In this area of life, Harville Hendrix is one who is making very positive contributions.
May the same be said about you in the areas where you can make positive differences.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.