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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinSeptember 9, 2005 Issue 

What works, and doesn't, in married life

Gathering speaker to look at marriage and engaged life

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Diocese Gathers

What: The Gathering of the Church of Green Bay.

When: Oct. 7-8, opens with the Celebration of the Eucharist by Bp. David Zubik at 9 a.m., Friday.

Where: St. Norbert College, De Pere

Why: To come together with Catholics from around the diocese to pray, learn, share faith, be renewed, develop skills, celebrate your beliefs and enrich your spiritual life.

Registration: For materials, call 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8272, or (920)272-8272.

Dr. James Healy was taken aback by a comment following a recent talk he gave on marriage.

"A woman said to me, 'It must be wonderful being married to you,'" said Dr. Healy. "If only my wife could have heard that. I don't think she would always agree. I will say this much, I've gotten better as a husband over the years."

Dr. Healy, director of the Center for Family Ministry of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., hopes to help other couples through his talk "How to be Married and Stay Engaged," one of four sectionals he will present at the 2005 Gathering of the Church of Green Bay, Oct. 7-8 at St. Norbert College in De Pere. He is one of six featured speakers at this year's event.

Having a clear vision of Christian marriage is necessary for staying engaged in marriage, he said.

"Today's generation tends to see marriage as limiting their opportunities," he said. "That leads some to the fear of commitment. If they have a true vision of Christian marriage, have the skills to live it out and support one another, marriage increases possibilities. It increases opportunities. Their lives are enriched by marriage."

Dr. Healy, a psychologist and counselor, received the National Marriage and Family Ministry Award in 2000. He has spoken on marriage and family in 60 dioceses, and his marriage preparation and enrichment materials are used throughout the United States. Couples participating in the Marriage Prep Program in the Diocese of Green Bay receive his CD, When the Cake is Gone: How to Get Married and Stay Engaged.

In addition to marriage, Dr. Healy will address "Cohabitation and the Church" at the Gathering. He first researched cohabitation at the request of priests.

"They (priests) were looking for ways to deal with different sets of values," he said. "It almost appears that cohabitation should work. Living together should drop the divorce rate. That's what people thought in the 1980s when I first studied this topic, and the opposite occurred. The divorce rate is higher than 50% for couples who lived together before getting married. There is no evidence that living together first helps couples once they are married. There is a secular and Christian argument against cohabitation."

Cohabitating couples often develop behavior patterns that do not serve them well in marriage, said Dr. Healy, who authored A Reflection for Engaged Couples Who are Living Together as part of his "Living Together and Christian Commitment" materials.

For example, some cohabitating couples develop poor conflict resolution skills because they are not committed to the relationship for the long-term. They don't work to resolve conflicts with an eye to the future, he said.

Dr. Healy will also present "Back to Back, Face to Face and Shoulder to Shoulder: The Three Christian Marriage Vows" and "The Four Traps of Communication." The latter stems from a laboratory-based study.

"There was a study of relationships where couples were monitored in apartments," said Dr. Healy. "Their bodies were hooked up and they were able to determine what the men and women did that drove each other nuts. There are four different patterns that we all do. If we can avoid these patterns, communication, even in difficult times, will be positive."

The Gathering will mark a return visit to the Diocese of Green Bay by Dr. Healy.

"Green Bay was the very first one to invite me to speak back in 1989," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. My prayer, whenever I speak, is that the right information floats to the right person. I open myself up. Most of the stories I share come from my family. I'm thankful for my wife (Madonna) and our four children. They've provided me with a lot to talk about over the years."

Dr. Healy incorporates humor into his presentations.

"We have to have humor in our lives," he said. "A lot of problems in marriages don't get solved. They get managed, and many get managed through humor, which is a good thing."

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