Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Should You Have To Take A Class To End A Marriage?

Will the Oklahoma Experiment make couples think twice?

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin  signed a bill into law sponsored by State Representative Jason Nelson and State Senator Rob Standridge that will require married couples with children under eighteen years old who seek a divorce based on incompatiblity  to take a class before they can end their marriage. The Tulsa World Newspaper reported that the class covers a variety of subjects that affect divorced couples and their children, including" substance abuse, addiction,family violence, behavioral health, individual and couples counseling and financial planning."

State Representative Jason Nelson said that divorce affects all taxpayers by putting a burden on social services, the criminal justice system and the school system, adding, "It seems like a small thing to ask people to do- to take a course- when the challenges that come from divorce are so permanent."  Representative Nelson  is right that single parent families are more susceptible to poverty and a whole range of social problems. Crumbling marriages lead to a downward spiral of increased drug use, crime, teen pregnancy, homelessness, infant mortality, suicide and depression. George Gilder predicted that the loss of the system of family to the system of the unmarried would contribute to the rise of gangs due to the absence of fathers in the home to temper male aggression in their children and guide them in healthy male bonding.

This new law is based on the findings of the Oklahoma State University  Bureau For Social Research Baseline Statewide Survey on Marriage and Divorce, which showed that  92% of couples who once thought their marriage was in trouble were glad they were still together and had not divorced. The study concluded that "the data show[ed] that it is common for people to go through periods of intense unhappiness or concern about their marriages...These data suggest that couples could benefit from relationship education programs that teach couples skills to reduce risk factors and increase commitment."

Leslie Godwin, Executive Director of Parent Support Services in Calabasas, California, has suggested that the key to reversing the social pathology of single families is to bring men and women back together to raise children together that will grow up with the ability to sustain meaningful, healthy relationships.  We think that  the 50 states are the best laboratories in which to try out new approaches to dealing with the decline in relationships and marriage and bring men and women back together, even when they teeter on the brink of divorce.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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