Pick up Susie from soccer. Cook dinner. Your spouse is due any minute from picking up your younger child, Jack. Eat dinner. Do a report for work. Crash. Rinse and repeat.
For the modern couple, busyness like this is a way of life.
More than two years after the launch of Right from the Start, a local marriage initiative that seeks to build healthy marriages and curb divorce rates, Columbus couples have the chance to go on a date night. A chance to rekindle romance. A chance to communicate more clearly. Or simply to laugh.
“Columbus’ Great Date Night” is Feb. 15 at First Presbyterian Church.
“I hope couples will connect with each other in a deep way. We get so busy in life, and we sometimes pass each other,” said Fran Magoni, director of Right from the Start.
“This can be a special time to remember why you fell in love in the first place.”
The event is open to couples in various stages of romance -- those who are “dating seriously” to those who are empty-nesters and anyone in between, Magoni said.
Claudia and David Arp of Virginia will speak.
The Arps were in Columbus last summer for a “train the trainers” workshop for “10 Great Dates” at the Pastoral Institute, a nonprofit counseling and education center. The Arps have been married more than 40 years. They founded the Marriage Alive program in 1983. It’s a nonprofit marriage and family educational organization that provides resources and training to help congregations and community groups build better marriages and families.
The Arps are also known for their pioneering work with empty-nesters and for their “Second Half of Marriage” program and books. With the PREP program at the University of Denver, they co-authored “Fighting for Your Empty Nest Marriage,” with Scott Stanley, Howard Markman and Susan Blumberg. The Arps have appeared as empty-nest experts on NBC’s “Today,” PBS, CBS’ “This Morning” and “Focus on the Family.”
David Arp has a Georgia connection. He graduated from The Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in management and later earned a Master of Science in social work from the University of Tennessee. Claudia Arp is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in home economics education.
Date topics include: Making Your Marriage a Priority, Learning to Talk, Resolving Conflict, Becoming an Encourager, Finding Unity in Diversity and Having a Creative Love Life. It’s for anyone from engaged couples through people married a long time.
Their “10 Great Dates” program received the Smart Marriages 2005 Impact Award as the nation’s most used marriage education program.
In Columbus, “10 Great Dates” groups are already operating, or in the planning stages, at 17 area congregations and other organizations. Not all are Christian. One is Shearith Israel Synagogue. Another is Head Start.
This is how it works: The couples go to the site, such as a congregation and watch a video clip. They’re then given a handout to take with them on a date night.
St. Mark United Methodist Church will be a host site on Fridays and offer childcare while the couples go out to eat.
“It’s not a class, with someone teaching, but a teaser to have a conversation,” said the Rev. Scott Tucker, the pastor. He and his wife, Patty, will participate. Tucker said most couples he knows would welcome “a time at the end of the week and focus on their primary relationship.”
To attend the February dinner, it doesn’t matter if a couple is in one of the groups or not, Magoni said.
Steve and Kent Butler plan to attend on the 15th.
“Everything I hear about it tells me it’s a real non-threatening, friendly approach (to marriage enrichment),” said Steve Butler, chairman of the W.C. Bradley Co. “It’s a lot of fun but there’s also a lot of substance.”
For the past five years, the Rev. Wayne Anthony of Asbury United Methodist Church has led a monthly Friday night group that consists of dinner and a discussion for married couples. He and his wife, Frances Sue, host it at their home. It started out with one couple from their church who were having problems. It’s expanded to include people from other churches.
They’re considering the “10 Great Dates” material for their upcoming meetings.
“I think the couples have grown closer together and have been able to move to a different level,” Anthony said.
In addition to this type of enrichment training, Right from the Start is tackling what it sees as two major societal problems: divorce and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
In 2009, Right from the Start commissioned a study called “Heart Check: Baseline Report on Marriage and Divorce in Columbus/Muscogee County.” It contains various statistics on marriage and divorce and wedlock, including:
About half of all children in this county go to bed at night without a father present in the home
Muscogee County had 1,000 divorces filed in 2008
More than 80 percent of children living in poverty in the U.S. are from partial or never-formed families
“The goals for Right from the Start are to lower the divorce rate and the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and to increase father involvement in the lives of children in Musocogee County,” Magoni wrote in the report.