Family Impact Story – Thriving Marriages Retreats

As a part of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, we provide weekend retreats to married couples who are in high-stress life situations due to fostering or adopting a child, or otherwise maintaining caregiver responsibilities. The majority of the couples who attend these retreats are highly distressed and in need of dedicated time to focus on their marriage, which often takes a backseat to other family needs. We often hear from couples about their experience and the following includes excerpts from a firsthand account of the ways in which the retreat impacted a couple’s life:

When we attended the Thriving Marriages retreat, we didn’t know what to expect. Were they going to point out all our flaws? Were all our problems going to be critiqued by everyone? On the contrary, our retreat experience was wonderful and we wanted to share the story of how the retreat helped (saved) us.

We were blessed with two wonderful boys, but our marriage suffered; the words ‘I’m sorry’ were not in our vocabularies. We fought all the time and we couldn’t listen to each other. It’s funny what can make two people wake up. Our son started having seizures and an MRI showed a large tumor on the right side of his brain. A phone call with a cancer diagnosis changed our lives forever. The emotions and strain this put on our marriage were tremendous, especially since we were not communicating.

Our son began receiving physical therapy through SoonerStart. What awesome people. We would make two steps forward and one step back but, they were always working on and changing his program to suit the problem of the moment. Then a miracle happened (even if we didn’t know it at the time). Our therapist asked if we would be interested in going to a marriage retreat with other couples with children in SoonerStart. Like many people, we’re sure, we weren’t sold on the idea but thought at least we would get a free childless weekend. We couldn’t remember the last time we had even been out for an evening alone.

So, off we went and it was an eye opener. There were speakers on various subjects. All interesting and some funny—funny always helps—followed by group work where we learned about the other couples and ourselves. It had been so long since we had been able to just talk with other grown-ups and these grown-ups had similar things going on in their lives. We didn’t know we were having fun until the day was over…it went so fast! We went to check into our hotel to get gussied up for a date which included dinner and dancing provided by the lovely people at OMI. By the time we got back to our hotel room we were talking like a normal couple — an amazing feat all by itself!

On the second day, the results of a couple inventory we took on day one were frighteningly on the mark and gave us a visual of how we relate to each other. OMI showed all of us how to use the information to help ourselves and our marriages. They gave us some simple basic tools to relearn how to listen to each other and how to communicate with each other. All this wrapped in a weekend getaway.

We feel truly blessed to have been a part of a marriage retreat with OMI. It came in the nick of time. When we went on the retreat, our son had just finished a round of radiation therapy, but seven months of treatment hadn’t shrunk his tumor. Shortly after undergoing radiation, his oncologist told us that there was nothing more they could do for him. He fell into a coma and his body began shutting down. On December 9, 2009 our Peanut passed away at the age of three.

Without the OMI Retreat, we do not believe our marriage could have survived those last few months. Never before in our marriage had we been so aware of each other, so considerate of each other and actually listened to each other. We both feel that maybe our son’s purpose was to bring us closer together. Without him we would never have had the chance to meet the people that led us to the OMI Retreat. We would have gone along never knowing that Oklahoma is making a concerted effort to keep married Oklahomans together.

You never know how people can affect your life and it’s never too late to try to save your marriage. It is worth every ounce of effort you can muster to stay together. Two short days made a huge difference in our lives and we couldn’t be more thankful to our Peanut, to our family, friends and neighbors, to OMI, and to God for giving them all to us.

Family Impact Story – Family Expectations

Through our Family Expectations (FE) program, we regularly see transformational change in the lives of the couples we serve. The following story, as documented by program staff, illustrates the program’s impact.

I had been working with a couple for 10 months. At one meeting, the father shared about his recent raise, and the news reminded me of just how far this couple had come since enrolling in the program. They had come into FE in crisis, having just moved from California without jobs, transportation or their own place to live. They each had a history of substance abuse and were not eating well because they had little money for food. During regular office visits, I provided the couple with tailored resources and referrals to food pantries, job search assistance and information about OKDHS benefits for which they would qualify.

One of the couple’s goals was to be financially stable so that they could get their own place before their baby was born. The couple would tell me at every office visit about how they wanted their life to be different and they wanted good things for this new baby. Eventually, the father was able to secure a vehicle and only a week later began working at a construction company. The couple moved into their own apartment, opened a bank account and secured health benefits.

Today, this couple has been clean for more than a year and they are the proud parents of a 2 ½ month old baby girl! Even though they still face relationship challenges, they are willing and eager to learn how to communicate better with one another. The couple relayed to me that, without the tools provided by FE, they do not think they would have been able to accomplish so many positive things in their lives.

Family Impact Story – Public Strategies Staff

Many of the professionals who come to work for Public Strategies began their journey by participating in one or more of the services managed by the company. Thus, they have seen the benefits of these services firsthand and have a personal connection to the company’s mission. The following includes excerpts from stories provided by Public Strategies staff members relative to these experiences.

Story #1

I can’t forget my first PREP workshop in 2004, as my mother and father were there. After 42 years of marriage, they were ready to learn more about their relationship. Afterward, I remember talking with them for hours about how to build successful relationships. I remember my parents using the skills to paraphrase simple conversations for each other. It was amazing and I know that this workshop was the trigger for many positive changes in my parents’ relationship, as well as my relationship with them.

I know that we can’t succeed with all families, and some will choose divorce. However, the vision and professional work of this company are changing and enriching the dynamics of so many families, as I have realized because of the experience of my own family. This is the best legacy for my parents, me and my children.

Story #2

When I was in college, I remember going through a breakup. Two days later, I found myself sitting in a classroom in a class titled “Relationship U.” This class was different than any I had ever sat through. It was….real. I could relate on each of the topics being discussed and learned that every relationship I had in the past was more of a “slide” than a conscious decision I made. More than that, it wasn’t just me that felt this way. Looking around the room, I learned that people around me had been through many of the very same things I had.

One of the biggest blessings I have received over the past year was in the form of a phone call. I received an interview from the very company that was represented by the man who taught the “Relationship U” class at my school four years ago. Now, I have the privilege of waking up each morning and sharing my day to help families learn what I learned about how to make it work.

Story #3

I was speaking with my mom just the other day and she asked, “Did you ever think that you would be working for that place that saved your marriage?” Because of the Family Expectations program, my husband and I have learned to thrive, compromise, and do what we know is in the best interest of our children – stick together and work through our differences. We often use the speaker-listener technique and XYZ statements. Because of my experience in this program, I am now able to give back to others. It is my hope that they listen to me not only as a supervisor and former Family Support Coordinator, but more as that couple that once sat across the table feeling hopeless and unsure. It is because of Public Strategies that parents are benefiting and this is trickling down to their children and breaking the cycle they grew up in.

Story #4

When I was 19 years old, I found out I was pregnant with my son. While I loved my husband very much, we did not know how to communicate well at all. We went through the Family Expectations program and it truly changed our lives and communication forever. We became a host couple and enjoyed getting to know the other couples and hearing about all the ways the program was changing their lives. I then got the opportunity to work here full-time and jumped at that opportunity. I love working for a place that I believe in and that helps so many people.