A pick-me-up for marriages

Photo illustration by BRYAN NIELSEN/Standard-Examiner
Story by Amy Nicholson
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Mon, Feb 6, 2012
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Read more: Davis County also has a marriage workshop

Everyone who is interested in marriage, whether newlywed, engaged, thinking about getting married someday, or couples who have been together for decades — all are invited to attend the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration on Feb. 17 in the Weber State University Student Union Building.

Research shows that when couples participate in just six hours of relationship education each year, it strengthens their relationship, according to the Utah State University Extension’s Naomi Brower, who has been organizing the event since she was hired in 2008.

The workshop has drawn a sell-out crowd in the past, and organizers expect to see the same this year with several popular workshop presenters on the docket, as well as keynote speaker Matt Townsend, founder of the Townsend Relationship Center in Draper.

The conference offers practical tips on conflict resolution and communication styles, as well as suggestions on how to spice up intimate relationships and how to make marriage more fun and more meaningful.


Julee Smith, adjunct professor in child and family studies at Weber State University, is presenting a workshop titled “Who’s Tarzan and Who’s Jane?,” dealing with gender-specific communication styles, their pitfalls and how to work through differences.

Although each person is unique, Smith said, there are some generalizations about communication styles that usually apply to men and women. She believes it is partly influenced by genetics, but mostly due to our culture.

“We socialize men to be competitive,” she said. This leads them to want to be seen in a positive light. When they communicate, Smith said, they are more concerned about the topic, getting their point across and appearing confident.

Women, on the other hand, tend to use communication as a means of bonding. They generally express more emotion and would rather have a meaningful discussion than to get right down to the point and be finished, Smith said.

She hopes that by helping couples understand their differences it will help them avoid conflict because they won’t take it personally. “Knowledge is power,” she said.

Smith has been married to her husband for more than 40 years and believes that conferences such as this one are helpful to any couple. “We all need booster shots to keep our marriages healthy.”

Working and playing

Other issues that Smith plans to address are the element of fun and putting our best foot forward for our spouses.

“Sometimes when we get married, we think the hard part is over and we get to relax and be ourselves. But, our spouses should be the people we treat the very best,” she said.

Smith points out that dating is about getting out, having fun and being involved in activities; on the other hand, a lot of married life involves paying bills, cleaning house and tending to other responsibilities.

“Too often, we forget to make sure we are also having fun,” she said. That is why she encourages couples to set aside time for dating and enjoying time together.

In a separate workshop, Tim Border, who is presenting at the conference for his first time this year, is covering the topic “Discovering the Hidden Treasures of Lifelong Commitment.”

Border looks at how enduring trials together can strengthen and deepen relationships.

Resolving conflicts

Emil Harker, a marriage and family therapist with Changes Individual and Relational Therapy in Layton, is speaking on “Disarming Relational Landmines.”

Harker said it can be difficult for people to figure out how to resolve conflict because it is not a skill that is typically taught at school or in the home.

He finds that many people bring up issues they want to resolve while they are upset. Being upset brings an element of spite into the conversation, which puts the other person on the defensive. As a result, things don’t get resolved.

He said he will be teaching a five-step tool that can help couples resolve their issues for good. The process is also designed to bring people closer together.

Brower hopes people will make time to attend the conference. “It’s easy to get distracted and busy and ignore the things that are most important in our lives,” she said.


WHAT: Northern Utah Marriage Celebration

WHEN: 6-9:30 p.m Feb. 17, with bonus workshops beginning at 4 p.m.

WHERE: Shepherd Union Building, Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden

TICKETS: $20/person, through www.smithstix.com or 800-888-TIXX by Feb. 16.


3:30 p.m. — Registration begins

4-5 p.m. — Bonus workshops

5-6 p.m. — Entertainment by Benjamin Jennings and the BBC 3

6-6:50 p.m. — Workshops

7-7:50 p.m. — Workshops

7:50-8 p.m. — Dessert break

8-9:30 p.m. — Keynote speaker Matt Townsend on “Feeding the 7 Basic Needs of Healthy Relationships”



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