From its first inception till now, marriage remains one of the most desired relationships one hopes to have in life. It’s also one of the most difficult relationships because it was designed to last a lifetime, therefore the expectations can run high.
The reason Grassroots Approach Program (GAP) has been created is because having good relationship skills don’t come naturally, and the current high divorce rate is one of the testaments to this.
Since the 1950’s the divorce rate in Australia has more than quadrupled. In 1996 the divorce rate peaked at 53.6%. with almost 50% of the divorces involving children. These figures don’t include unhappy marriages or couples who live together because they no-longer believe in marriage due to their experience of divorced parents, or other various reasons.
In earlier times marriages lasted even when there was abuse because of the social stigma, combined with financial dependency of women on men.
Now we have gone to the other extreme with no-fault divorce, which hasn’t really diminished the difficulty of life for the couple, especially when children are involved. What we are hoping to achieve through GAP is for couples to have a healthy relationship and want to remain married for life.
A research done in Pennsylvania State University in 2007 (Amato, et al.) with 509 couples, who had either divorced or were in the process of divorcing, had shown the main reason for divorce wasn’t abuse or adultery, it was high expectations and low level of commitment. In fact, according to statistics, only 6% of divorces are attributed to abuse or adultery.
Back in 2014, in an interview then Social Services minister Kevin Andrews had confirmed the cost of divorce on government as being $14b per annum.
This is not even taking into consideration the emotional and mental cost on children who grow up with a single parent, without a father in their life. On the other hand there are children growing up in dysfunctional and/or broken homes.
Again I quote Mr Andrews saying in the same report that “Most programs try to ameliorate the impact of marriage and relationship breakdowns. There is not enough that goes to early intervention”. All the funding that goes into mental health, addictions, homelessness are band-aid solutions to a great underlying problem, which at its heart is about bad or broken relationships. A person can still experience mental illness or become addicted to drugs through experimentation, but the rate of recovery and getting back on track – so to speak – is far higher for those who have come from a stable, caring family than those who haven’t. As you would know, the family is the backbone of society and needs to be nurtured and invested in as everything else is built on it.
Research has shown children of divorced parents are more likely to lose motivation in their school work, are more resentful and angry toward authority figures, are more likely to fear failure, and lose hope for their future. They are more likely to divorce and more likely to do things that will jeopardise their future career and relationships. More and more counsellors and psychologists are becoming necessary in schools as never before, to help these children cope with their everyday school life.
The higher end private school finances are affected by divorcing parents, as the fees are often in arrears or the student is pulled out of the school.
These are the reasons why Grassroots Approach program (GAP) has been created. We believe prevention is better than cure, and much less costly in every way.
You may ask ‘why Grassroots Approach Program over all the other programs that already exist?’ We have found respect, communication skills, believing in oneself and abstinence from sex before marriage, although important, are not enough in teaching relational skills to save a marriage.
The GA program is unique in its approach as it is derived from psychological and biblical perspectives. The students learn how we become who we are (the psychology) and what is best for us (based on Christ’s teachings) in order to have healthy relationships.
Examples of conflict we share with the students are derived from true life circumstances, with the intent to be practical, relevant and engaging.
To give an idea, a brief but common scenario we share would be;
A couple who had been together for a while decide to get married. After the excitement of the wedding is over, and few months pass, and practicality sets in and the mundane issues, that didn’t matter before, now begin to become points of conflict. One of the spouses is neat and organised, the other is not. The spouse who is not neat and organised feels it’s their right to do as they please in their own home, and besides they won’t be controlled.
How would respect, good listening and communication skills help this situation? They each know how to communicate what they want and not want. It is only a matter of time, before things begin to downward spiral as resentment sets in. It is possible to be respectful and resentful at the same time. Implicit retaliation can be just as damaging to the relationship as explicit ones.
In more recent times the belief is that marriage is about finding the right person who will make us happy, because happiness is what we deserve. Most people don’t know how to come out of the toxic state of their relationship, because the world teaches that love is a feeling, which sadly but realistically, more often than not it doesn’t last. Combine this with the idea of needing to be true to ones’ own feelings and we find that relationships become very difficult to maintain let alone thrive.
Quite often, even among regular church attending Christians, the message of Christ is preached, but rarely do we learn about the relational skills He taught in a relevant way, and about the grace He provides – grace being His ability working in us to do that which Christ has called us to do. The most recent survey done in the church community, showed the divorce rate was the same among church attending couples, as it was in the secular world.
This is why we have designed a program that approaches the situation at a grass-root level. To teach the perfect, brilliant ways of Christ in a practical and relevant way, so when the students leave school, they have the necessary knowledge and skills, not only for their marriage, but for every relationship in their life.
The students are taught how the perfect teachings of Christ can be applied in everyday life situations, such as going the extra mile and to do to others what they want done to themselves. That true love is a decisive action, not a fleeting feeling that comes when we are pleased, and goes when we are angry – as this is the only possible way to love one’s enemy. When we change our thinking, our attitude and behaviour, our feelings do follow. This is counterintuitive to how we naturally behave, yet very effective when we become aware of it, and practice it.
When these principals are applied to any relationship, even when only one person in the relationship is applying them, the relationship dynamic does change. This empowers the individual to be in charge of how the relationship goes, rather than rely on the other person’s behaviour. The mindful actions of one person will inadvertently teach the other person how to relate, because they will be reacting to mercy and kindness, instead of control and retaliation. The neat spouse doesn’t need to give up their pursuit to have a tidy home. Through persisting with good attitude they will more likely achieve the result than if they criticise, retaliate, or give the cold shoulder treatment. As there will certainly be things their spouse will ask of them and how they respond will determine what course the relationship takes. As Jesus says in Romans 12:20, when you return good for evil it is like pouring coal on your opponents’ head. Another words the conviction they may feel will be more than they can bear.
The program is not about encouraging students to become a doormat, rather to be wise and mindful about one’s own words and actions. To think about the end from the beginning – which is to be lovable as well as to love, with the goal of becoming best of friends for life.
GAP is an interactive program where students are involved in the conversation and are given opportunities, to discuss, reflect, challenge paradigms about relationships and give consideration to what they are learning. With the hope that the skills and information they are exposed to will stay with them for life.
For any further information or detail please forward your email to Arsho – email@example.com