Five questions with Carmen Overton: Helping build strong marriages

August 11, 2013 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI/rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.comCarmen Overton is the director of the Right from the Start, a community collaborative organization that's housed at the Pastoral Institute.

ROBIN TRIMARCHI

What can people expect from your organization's Amazing Marriage Chase on Aug. 17?

The purpose of the Amazing Marriage Chase is to provide an opportunity for engaged and married couples to have fun together. Having fun as a couple is one of the most important things you can do to have a healthy marriage, but taking time to enjoy each other is often pushed to the side because life just gets in the way. Couples participating in the marriage chase will work together to complete different challenges around Uptown Columbus.

Some challenges are physical, some are mental and some are just fun and silly. All challenges are by choice and no athleticism is required. Couples can choose to participate in as many activities as they want. Points are earned for completing activities and the top three couples will win prizes. The first place prize is a Char-Broil grill and a gift certificate for steaks from Burt's Butcher Shoppe. Second place is a date night at Epic courtesy of W.C. Bradley Real Estate. Third place is a rafting trip from Whitewater Express and "his and her" fishing rods. The Woodruff Company is the presenting sponsor for this event.

The event is Saturday, Aug. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the concrete stage on the 1100 block of Broadway in Uptown Columbus. People can register online at www.rightfromthestart.org or at the event at 8 a.m.

Is there an ideal age for marriage?

Ideally, people will choose to get married after the age of 20. There is ample research that shows that getting at least a high school degree, marrying after 20 and waiting until after marriage to start a family significantly reduces a person's chances of living in poverty. We teach this formula to all of the high school students that we work with and call it the Success Sequence.

A recent report from Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family & Marriage Research suggests the U.S. marriage rate is the lowest it's been in over a century. What's your explanation for declining marriage rates?

We obviously experienced a cultural shift in the past couple of decades. Marriage is no longer the cultural norm it was once. Currently there are more women than men pursuing higher education. Women are becoming the bread winners and that has changed marriage as we know it.

However, something interesting is happening. People with college educations are still choosing marriage. The majority of people with a college degree are married. They also experience much lower divorce rates compared to those without college degrees.

It appears that the economic downturn of the past decade has also impacted the institution of marriage. People who are struggling financially are much less likely to marry. Unfortunately this can often be to the detriment of the children born to the unwed couples as they are more likely to experience academic struggles, behavior problems, including drug and alcohol use, and are more likely to become teen parents.

What's your advice for unmarried couples thinking about living together?

Giving marriage a trial run can seem like a good idea, especially to those who may have been hurt by divorce as a child. However, some research suggests living together before marriage actually increases your chances for divorce later. This is particularly true if the couple is not engaged before moving in together.

For couples who are thinking about living together, my advice would be to do the research and understand that it may not be as good as it sounds. For couples that do choose to live together, it is crucial to work on healthy relationship skills that develop good communication and problem solving techniques. Also, set goals for your relationship. Don't just live together because it seems like the next thing to do. Decide where your relationship is going long-term.

Aside from your organization, what's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

I recently took my kids to visit the new playground behind the public library on Macon Road. This playground was designed and built by the Servant Leadership students at CSU to be a playground that would bring all children in our community together. It is located in the heart of the city and has many features for children of all ability levels. We had a great time playing and interacting with other families. This playground is a special place and a gift to Columbus.

VITAL STATS

Name: Carmen Overton

Age: 33

Job: Director of Right from the Start

Hometown: Bowdon, Ga.

Current home: Fortson, Ga.

Family: My husband, Ryan Overton, is a chiropractor in private practice. We have a daughter, Estella (6), son, Declan (9 months)

Education: Bowdon High School, University of Georgia (BA in English and Anthropology), Columbus State University (M.Ed. Special Education)

Favorite book: It's hard to name just one, but most recently it is "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp

Favorite movie: "The Sound of Music"

Favorite restaurant: Hunter's Pub

Favorite quote: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." C.S. Lewis

Best concert attended: U2 (three times!)

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