The Talent of Marriage

Listen & TalkWhen my wife, Ruth and I married, we assured each other that we were truly committed to our “until death do us part” wedding vow. Specifically, we agreed that divorce is not an option in our marriage. Although it seems to me that this should be an important consideration for any couple preparing to marry, it was crucial for Ruth and I. In part, this was due to the fact that we both have had previous marriages. Additionally, we both came from homes with divorced parents. Having had an up close and intimate experience with the devastation divorce brought us, our parents, our children, our siblings and so many others; we wanted our relationship to have no part in contributing to that.


In addition to the waste that divorce had caused in our own lives, Ruth and I had a growing concern for the ruin throughout our society that has come from divorce. Relevant U.S. statistics* on this include:

  • Annually, there are about 2.1 million marriages and there are about 1 million divorces. The divorces impact more than 1 million children.
  • Each divorce costs our society an estimated $25,000 to $30,000. That means $25 to $30 billion in overall increased cost to our nation.
  • Children in single parent homes are:
    • Seven times more likely to live in poverty.
    • Nine times more likely to drop out of school.
    • More likely to have academic problems, behavior problems, be aggressive, have low self-esteem, feel depressed, and experiment with illegal drugs.
    • 70% more likely to be expelled or suspended from school.
    • Twenty times more likely to be in prison.
    • 25-30% more vulnerable to illness.
  • The negative impact of divorce on business includes:
    • Disrupting the productivity of a worker for up to three years.
    • During the first year following a divorce, the divorced employee loses an average of four weeks work.
    • Lost productivity, due to marriage and relationship difficulties, cost companies an estimated $6 billion.
    • Unhealthy marriages, family problems and divorce are major stressors. Stress related issues cost corporate America $300 billion annually.
    • Unhappily married couples were almost four times more likely to have a partner abusing alcohol. Individuals with alcohol related issues miss work 30% more.
  • Health issues affected by divorce include:
    • Married men live ten years longer than divorced men. Married women live four years longer than divorced women.
    • Divorced men are twice as likely to die of heart disease, stroke, hypertension or cancer; four times as apt to die in accidents; and eight times higher by murder.

* Sources include: U.S. Census Bureau, Marriage Commission Research, NY Institute for American Values, Marriage Savers, President Obama, Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce, A Cry Unheard and The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.


In order to under gird our commitment to our “until death do us part”wedding vow, from early on in our marriage we have kept our eyes open for married couples activities and groups that we could join in. Our most significant find, during the first eight years of our marriage, was the Married Couples Fellowship at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM). It’s a wonderful group, headed up by Pastor John Mann and his wife, Rynner. We received far too many blessings through our involvement with this fellowship to recount here. One of our very favorites, though, was getting to go with the group on their annual week-long couples retreats to Kauai. Those retreats almost always coincided with our wedding anniversary. If you’d like to get a better sense of all this and have a good laugh, check out my related article, entitled Kayaking Up The Waialua.

As a result of our involvement with CCCM’s Married Couples Fellowship, when we moved to Vancouver, WA and settled into Calvary Chapel Vancouver (now Calvary Downtown) we started a Married Couples Fellowship there. During that time, we crossed paths with a couple who head up another locally based marriage ministry. They are Al and Autumn Ray. Their ministry, MarriageTeam, provides marriage coaching. Twelve weekly 2.5 hour sessions are needed for a couple to go through their coaching process. Of course, detailing that process isn’t practical here. But, to give you somewhat of an overall sense of the MarriageTeam approach, here is an analogy they provide:

“We each come from a different team called our family. From our families and life experiences, we create an individual playbook for life that includes how to communicate, handle anger, respond to conflict, solve problems, and other interpersonal skills. When we marry, we create a new team; however, we bring our individual playbooks with us. Any team will have problems if they do not operate from a common playbook, and marriage teams are no exception. Coaches help teams create a common playbook for a winning marriage.”

Hopefully, you’ll agree that this seems like a sensible and worthwhile philosophy. But, you may be asking, “What impact can one couple in Vancouver, WA, have with this”? The answer is that through making it their mission to raise up and equip couples to serve as volunteer marriage coaches and to provide marriage coaching services for the purpose of strengthening and saving marriages MarriageTeam has established an extensive network of MarriageTeam Coaches who are presently serving the needs of countless couples nationally and internationally.

If you’re wondering about how effective all this has been, let me say, as the British say, the proof of the pudding is in its eating. 94% of couples considering divorce prior to coaching, decide against divorce after going through the MarriageTeam program. And, according to a study conducted by PREPARE/ENRICH, the MarriageTeam Coaching results for all couples have been:

All Couple Types          Pre-coaching                Post-coaching               % Improved

Communication           17.86                               52.86                              196%

Conflict Resolution      20.71                              50.71                               144.9%

Satisfaction                    39.11                              49.29                               26%


Although Ruth and I have known Al and Autumn Ray for several years now and we’ve referred other couples to go through MarriageTeam Coaching Training, each time we were invited to do so, it seemed we just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. Going through this training requires setting aside two consecutive weekends … one Friday evening, two full Saturdays and two Sunday afternoons. However, we have managed to do that now and in the process, we discovered what I think is the real key to success of MarriageTeam. I’ve come to think of it as The Talent of Marriage.

Our class consisted of several dozen married couples. A key element of the coaching training involved pairing off the couples, with one couple practicing coaching the other couple on real issues in their marriage. In that process, we quickly realized that, like us, all of the couples in the class have marriages that are not perfect. I saw this as being with a large group of married couples who were willing to invest in the gift that God had given them, in their marriage, in order to strengthen and increase the value of their marriage, as well as to equip themselves to help other married couples do likewise.

MTCoach Training 1

What I saw, in this willingness to invest in the gift that God had given them, in their marriage, struck me as being very much in keeping with Jesus’ teaching of the Parable of the Talents. If you don’t get that connection right away, remember that when we realize personal gifts we have from God, we commonly refer to them as talents. Then, remember that the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), essentially, tells us of a man who entrusted portions of his wealth to three of his servants, as he embarked on a lengthy trip. To one he gave 5 talents, to another he gave 2 talents and to another he gave one talent. When he returned, he found that the servant with 5 talents had used that to earn 5 more and the one with 2 talents had used that to earn 2 more but the one with one talent had buried it, adding nothing to it and saying that he had done so because he knew his master to be a hard man. In the parable, the first two servants are rewarded abundantly, while the servant with one talent has even that taken away.


In the Parable of the Talents, knowing that the master was a hard man added to the challenge of being a good steward of his talents. Likewise, producing successful marriages requires both the talent and determined effort. That is the key to the success of MarriageTeam that I’ve come to think of as The Talent of Marriage. So, if you want to have a successful marriage but you haven’t been able to find your way to do that, I highly recommend going through the MarriageTeam Coaching* Process. Or, if you’re looking to further strengthen a marriage you consider to be successful, I recommend the MarriageTeam program for that too. And finally, if you want to add to the blessings of your marriage through sharing in the abundance being realized by Al & Autumn Ray and their MarriageTeam Coaches, you should prayerfully consider signing up for the next available coaching training session that matches up with your schedule.

* For a more thorough introduction to MarriageTeam Coaching, check out Al & Autumn Ray’s new book, entitled Rick and Jane Learn to Listen & Talk.

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