I'm excited that our guest columnist today will be coming to the Farmington Civic Center on Saturday, March 15, when he will present the Couple Checkup Conference. Ron Deal is a recognized expert in the field of marriage enrichment. He has devoted most of his adult life to the pursuit of helping folks experience the marriage they hoped for when they first said "I do." He has also spent several years exploring the dynamics of "blended" or "step" families. I hope you will plan to be at the Civic Center on March 15 to hear valuable information and to gain new insights that will be of great benefit to your marriage.

So without further ado — whatever ado is — here's Ron Deal's words of advice for us today.

Couple Checkup

New technology in the last decade has made GPS or Global Positioning Systems accessible to nearly everyone around the world. Explorers looking for hidden treasures in the mountains or under the sea, for example, can use GPS guidance to constantly determine where they are on the earth's surface and where they must go to find their treasure. Likewise, a business person traveling in an unfamiliar city can use a GPS device in her rental car to know where to turn in order to find her destination.

What if new technology created a CPS, or Couple Positioning System, that would help you identify the current "location" of your relationship strengths and growth areas and then map directions to help you find greater trust and closeness? Would you be interested? You want this marriage to be your last, right?

Soon I'll be coming to your area to share what my colleagues and I have learned from the two largest surveys ever conducted of the strengths of first marriage and remarriage relationships. The research, based on over 200,000 people, is groundbreaking all by itself. But when the relationship insights of our study are combined with an online relationship profile called the Couple Checkup that helps couples identify their current relationship strengths and growth needs, the result is a CPS unlike any other marriage education experience. Dating couples are given a path for the future and married couples get a marital "checkup" on the health of their marriage.

Unique Remarriage

Before revealing one key insight from our research, let me point out that not all marriages are created the same or have the same relational needs. When comparing results from our studies of couples in stepfamilies to couples in first marriages, we discovered that some of the predictors are different. Marital communication proved to be most significant in first marriages while matters of personality and character rise to the top in remarriage relationships. The point is this: not all marital education resources or events speak directly to the dynamics of your relationship. The Couple Checkup Conference will.

Marital health predictor

Our research discovered that the absence of negative behavioral traits was a strong predictor of a healthy marriage for both first marriage and stepfamily marriage couples. For example, compared with healthy couples, struggling couples in first marriages are three times more likely to be controlling and 2.5 times more likely to be an embarrassment. Stepfamily couples are six times more likely to be moody, critical and negative, and nine times more likely to be stubborn. In stark contrast, couples in vibrant relationships demonstrate qualities of kindness, gentleness, patience, fidelity and personal self-control.

In addition, dissatisfied couples in stepfamilies also have a greater degree of fear in their marriage, which is a significant factor in predicting poor marital health. Unhappy couples are twice as likely as satisfied couples to fear another relationship breakup and five times as likely to struggle with jealousy (which can be defined as the fear of being replaced). This fear erodes marital confidence and trust contributing to a less satisfying marriage and stepfamily experience. To make this marriage last, it is essential that you find ways to remove this fear or it will contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy — another relationship breakup.

Time for a checkup

A dental checkup could prevent painful cavities. An oil change will help your car last longer. A cholesterol check could lower your risk of heart disease. Examining the heart of your marriage by taking the online Couple Checkup and attending the upcoming conference could significantly lower your risk for heart disease and build a marriage that lasts.

Don and Jennifer missed a number of checkup points and their relationship suffered because of it. When they first married their inability to effectively resolve conflict didn't seem like a big deal. Even though Don often ended up feeling responsible for the problem and Jennifer felt defeated and isolated, the couple easily minimized the issues. For a while denying "touchy" subjects seemed to make the problem go away. What Don and Jennifer didn't know was that the accumulation of small unresolved arguments was seeding fear into their relationship and blocking trust. Their little issues snuck up on them and became big problems.

Don and Jennifer's issues could have been avoided by a relational checkup that would have provided "early detection" to the growing problems and alerted them to take preventative steps.

How about you. Have you had your checkup lately?

Don't miss it

It's me again, and as I have written many times in this column, I hate the thought that marriage takes work. I work all day and really do not relish the idea that I have to work all night. What I do know, however, is that marriage requires focus, attention and intentionality for it to thrive. Far too many folks put their marriage on "auto-pilot" and before they realize what has happened their connection and togetherness has waned. Please don't miss this opportunity to give your marriage a significant re-charge and thorough, but non-threatening inspection.

This conference is in no way intended to embarrass or cause discomfort, but rather it will provide skills and education to help any couple conquer their recurring problems, which all couples face. For more information, please visit www.fccmf.org or give me a call at 505-327-7870.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.