Although statistics vary depending on the source, it is estimated that between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages in America end in divorce. According information derived from the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 30 percent of all adults living in Rockdale County are divorced.
Conyers residents Kenneth and June Huff have great hopes of making positive changes in the country's divorce rate, starting right here at home.
The Huffs, who are both licensed, ordained ministers, will host a marriage enrichment program called 10 Great Dates that focuses communication, conflict, encouragement, love life and balancing the roles of parent and partner.
The program, which is free of charge and open for couples throughout the east metro area, is set to begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at Conyers First United Methodist Church in Olde Town. It will be held each Tuesday for a 10-week period and the Huffs are endeavoring to line up volunteers to provide a babysitting service for couples with young children.
Based on the book-and-video series "10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage," created by Claudia and David Arp, founders of Marriage Alive International, the 10 Great Dates program is sponsored locally by Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale, the Nurturing Program and the Georgia Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Kenneth Huff, who works as program coordinator for the Nurturing Father program of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale and is co-pastor of Conyers-based Spring of Life Ministries, said he attends monthly meetings of the Healthy Marriage Initiative (which has a stated goal of reducing divorce in the state by at least 10 percent) and has been certified through the state's Department of Human Resources to teach the 10 Great Dates curricula.
"I'm bringing this class to Rockdale County to get people help with their lives and with their marriages," said Huff. "The program is for any married couple, from newlyweds to those struggling with empty nest syndrome."
Each program begins with a 30-minute-long video presentation by the Arps, who have been married for more than 40 years and live in Virginia (David Arp is a Georgia Tech graduate and Claudia Arp has a degree from the University of Georgia). After the video, couples are sent out into the community to have a "date" that encourages discussion about marriage issues.
"The date part of the program enables couples to examine their relationship," said Huff. "It might be a trip down Memory Lane, a discussion about how their marriage got off course or how the pressures of work and home may have made them lose focus on each other.
"It's designed to be fun. A lot of couples might not be interested in counseling, but they enjoy this no-pressure program. I'm trying to get local restaurants to work with us on perhaps providing discounts to couples who bring their assignments with them, and we're looking for volunteers and sponsors for couples who might have babysitting challenges."
Huff said he and his wife, who have been married for 20 years and have four children, recently completed the 10 Great Dates curriculum and found that it does indeed help couples "refocus on their relationship."
"We had a ball," he said. "One of the exercises is to look back to when we first started dating and what it was that attracted us to one another. And we also looked how things had changed since we first got married."
Besides the "date" in which couples reflect on how their marriage began and progressed, other "dates" involve communicating the three most positive things about the marriage and the three things that could be improved upon, putting the sizzle back into the physical side of the relationship, appreciating differences, balancing busy lifestyles and dealing with conflict.
Several couples from Spring of Life Ministries recently participated in a pilot program run of 10 Great Dates with the Huffs and it went so well that Kenneth Huff decided to offer the program to the community at large.
"There's no charge for the class," he said. "We'll keep it free until we run out of books and materials, and then we'll just charge for that. And there's really no limit to the number of participants, although for this first time I'd like to see us have between 10 and 20 couples. We've already had a few sign up."
For more information on the 10 Great Dates marriage enrichment program, call 770-860-1775.