Stories

Our Quarterly Newsletters

Enjoy our quarterly email newsletter.  Read past copies below, and sign up to receive your own copy going forward.

December 2020: News, Events, and Exercises for 2021

October 2020: Help Couple Enrichment Follow Spirit Online

June 2020: Drop-in Dialogues and Covid-19 Love Letters

March 2020: Upcoming Events, Exercises, and other ways to stay close to your beloved

December 2019: Register for our new Virtual Drop-in Dialogue Opportunity

September 2019: Knee to Knee gets us Heart to Heart

June 2019: Witnessing Dialogues Online – Does it work?

March 2019: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

December 2018: Is there a love pill in your future?

September 2018: Couple Enrichment for young adult friends

June 2018: We have a QuakerSpeak Video!

03/21/2018 – How Meetings Can Care for Relationships

12/22/2018 – Is There a Love Pill in Your Future?

9/21/2018 – Taking Couple Enrichment to Young Friends

6/21/2018 – Friends Couple Enrichment News – We Have a QuakerSpeak Video

3/21/2018 – Friends Couple Enrichment Reaches out to Community in Alaska

12/19/2017 – Who Sponsors Couple Enrichment Weekends?

09/21/2017 – Friends Couple Enrichment Newsletter: Remembering Nancy Bronder

06/21/2017 – FCE NEWSLETTER: Friends Couple Enrichment at FGC and Beyond  

3/212017 – Friends Couple Enrichment:  Two sides of a story

12/21/2017 2016 – Look What’s New with Friends Couple Enrichment

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Give your Dialogue a Boost

There is a Yoga App (called Down Dog) where you can choose what sort of yoga practice you want each day. The app allows you to “boost” the basic practice by choosing a particular area to focus on: do we want to focus on stretching our hamstrings, building our core strength, or work on our hip flexibility, for example. The resulting yoga practice covers the whole body, but spends some extra time and poses on the “boost” area.

We find this idea of taking a basic practice and enriching it by focusing on one particular aspect useful in dialogue as well. The goal of dialogue is to increase our understanding of each other, but to do that we use a variety of skills or tools. In a recent workshop we invited couples to make an effort to “boost” ONE of these six skills — to remind themselves during a dialogue to pay attention and exercise the skill, both as a listener and a speaker. It doesn’t mean not using the other tools, but sometimes it helps to have a focus.

  1. BECAUSE  
    SPEAKER: The key to unlocking the depths is “because”. Naming emotions can be cathartic — AND the more we can understand the ‘why’ of these emotions, the deeper we can get into the motivations and impact of these emotions, and the more likely we are to move from just words to transformation. Bringing the BECAUSE into the light of day means it will have less hold over you and release you to listen more faithfully to how Spirit is calling you forward. LISTENER: If you don’t hear the “because”,  lean in! Ask “why do you feel that way” or “I don’t think I heard the because.” Asking “is there more” is another way of asking “what is the deeper why?”
  1. WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT?
    SPEAKER:  chunk what you have to share so that your partner can listen you into deeper sharing. Sometimes stream of consciousness sharing is a form of hiding. Not enough space, too many words. It can often be helpful to say “Can you reflect what I have said so far?” to indicate that you have more, but need to hear a reflection partway through.
    LISTENER: avoid parroting back all that you heard. Much of what is said is important for understanding the context but not important for understanding your partner. So ask yourself “what is the most important thing my partner is reaching for and wanting to share with me? BOTH: use a signal, e.g. a hand squeeze to indicate that you want to reflect. In essence, interrupt, or that you want to have a reflection given. 
  2. WHAT IS THE EMOTION?.
    SPEAKER: Name an emotion, rather than a thought. Our society often sidesteps emotions by saying “I feel like …” or “I feel as though …” followed by a thought or description. For example, saying “I feel angry when people ignore me” will get you further than “I feel like screaming when people ignore me” or “I feel as though people are ignoring me.” LISTENER: ask “what is the emotion?” Gently challenge the “likes” and “as thoughs”.
  3. STAY IN ROLE.
    Couples often have difficulty staying within the discipline of the roles because they assume they already know what their partner feels or thinks. This short-circuits the opportunity to discover something new about your partner. SPEAKER: don’t give up the talking stick too soon! If the listener doesn’t seem to quite get what you are saying, try again.  By offering more explanation, you are allowing your partner further into your soul. Sometimes it is helpful to say “what I really want you to know is…”.  LISTENER: don’t add your opinions to your reflection.  Focus on reflecting what you heard, remembering that reflecting what your partner says doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with it.
  4. AVOID HIDDEN CONTEST OF WHO IS RIGHT. An exploratory dialogue is about understanding — not about who is correct. SPEAKER: claim that your emotions and understanding are your own. Don’t assume they are true for your partner.. We often use the tool “The Story I Tell Myself Is…”  For example, “The story I tell myself is that when you are reading a book I can’t disturb you.” LISTENER: If your partner says something that doesn’t seem true to you, refrain from correcting them.  Simply reflect.  When it is your turn to speak, you can say, “I heard you think you can’t disturb me when I’m reading. I have a different perspective.”   
  5. EXPLORE FURTHER: SPEAKER. Once you have named your emotions and your “because” and your partner has reflected them, see if you can articulate your bedrock values, your needs, your desires, associated with the situation. LISTENER: Ask open ended questions: “what values are you honoring here? What are you longing for?”

Pendle Hill Lecture on “Disciplined Listening”

A screen shot from the Feb 1, 2021 Pendle Hill Lecture.
The practice of “disciplined listening” learned in Couple Enrichment can also be used in other settings, such as among family members, Meeting committees, and other groups. Here are some of the learnings about listening from Couple Enrichment that Mike and Marsha Green shared during the Pendle Hill Lecture on Feb. 1, 2021. They recounted examples of how they had used these learnings outside of Couple Enrichment. A recording of the full lecture is available on the Pendle Hill YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvG32nxtvh0

The Magic of Dialogue

By Kathy Richman

I taught first grade for many years.  Every year in my class, six year olds learned to read.  I know that I was a part of this process; I worked with my students, taught them decoding skills, and introduced them to the joys of literature.  One after another, they emerged as readers.  There always seemed to be a kind of magic involved as I saw them “get it,” although nobody had mentioned magic during my credential classes.

Couples dialogue often seems to me to involve a kind of magic, too.  Couples learn communication skills like reflective listening, checking for understanding, and taking turns as the speaker and the listener.  Yet something often happens during dialogue that is more than the sum of its parts.  Perhaps it is the result of being held in loving witness, or looking into the eyes of one’s beloved and listening without distractions.  Sometimes this magic is an “Aha!” moment, when something suddenly becomes perfectly clear.  Sometimes the magic involves the uncovering of emotions that one or both partners did not realize were lying hidden beneath the surface of the dialogue.  Occasionally someone says, “I felt heard in a way I never have before when we talked about this.”  Partners talk about having been able to move beyond a point where they had always gotten stuck before.  Dialogue is not a predictable path towards a given outcome; it is giving ourselves over to Spirit and opening ourselves to our partners “in front of God and everyone” to whatever may come.

We have had the experience of modeling a dialogue about what seemed like a minor issue, although it was a source of conflict.  As we dialogued about whether whoever had called our daughters should put the conversation on speakerphone, the underlying emotions behind this conflict emerged, showing that this was about much more than whether speakerphone would be on or off.  One of the workshop participants commented, “When you began this dialogue, I thought it was about something trivial.  I was really struck by where the dialogue ended up, so different in depth from where it started.”

Other couples have talked about how much further their dialogue has taken them than their previous conversations on the same topic.  “We’ve talked about this so many times, but today we reached an understanding of each other that hasn’t happened before.  Before, each of us would just keep making the same points we’ve always made.”

Sometimes insight comes suddenly.  One participant commented, “In response to my wife’s sharing I have been saying, ‘I am hearing that . . .’. But I want to try now saying, ‘I am sensing that…’ because that might help me to better appreciate the emotions behind what my wife said.”

Dialogue is central to Couple Enrichment because it is a precious gift given to us and that we keep giving through the following years of our life together.

3 More Chances in 2020 to do a free, online Drop-in Dialogue

Have you and your partner ever participated in a Friends Couple Enrichment event? Have you missed out on on-going opportunities for dialogue and support? Would you like to focus on your relationship by practicing dialogue and learning new communication skills from the comfort of your own home? We have just the thing for you!

Friends Couple Enrichment is continuing to offer free, online Drop-in Dialogue times, and there are 3 left for 2020.

Saturday October 24, 2020 at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Central Time
Register to receive the Zoom link

The Zoom link will be emailed to you after you register 

Friday November 20, 20 at 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Central  Time
Register to receive the
Zoom link.

Saturday December 19, 2020 at 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Central
Register to receive the Zoom link

Who is this for? Any couple who has participated in a Friends Couple Enrichment (formerly known simply as Couple Enrichment) event where they learned the basics of dialogue.

Who will lead this? Mark Wutka & Mary Linda McKinney, of Nashville, TN, are the FCE Leader Couples hosting these events.

Why should we do it? TO experience on-going support, learn new skills, and have the opportunity to practice dialogue and witnessing dialogue with our partners in the comfort of your own home!

What will this cost? Nothing! We do, of course, welcome donations to support this ministry as we support you.

If you have questions, feel free to contact us at mcwutka@gmail.com
We hope you can join us!Mary Linda & Mark

Reflections on Love in the Time of Covid 19

Gabriel García Marquez gave us Love in the Time of Cholera.  What couples are experiencing now could be termed Love in the Time of Covid 19.  A few months ago, we could not have imagined how much our lives would change in the space of a few days, and how long-lasting those changes would be.  We are spending more time together, and less time with other people, than probably at any other time in our relationship. From this “sheltering in place” with our partners have come new joys, some real challenges, and some learning.  Several couples from across the U.S. and Canada wrote about their experiences for this newsletter. 

Judith and Jonathan

We’ve been fortunate to be a part of an ongoing Couple’s group for about 20 years now.  During the pandemic, we decided to go online, and continue to meet monthly.  So we still have a community of 4-8 couples sharing our experiences of life and how we are in our relationship with our partner.  There is a theme of more togetherness and changing patterns of behaviors.  

Yes, the sharing between the two of us is a little different during the pandemic.  My partner and I have lost some of our savings and were disappointed when our third son decided not to roost with us. We also have a sister and brother-in-law who have survived covid-19.  We have had ups and downs, but in general, have definitely grown closer during the epidemic.  There is more of an urgency to address issues (which seem to have more heat than in pre-covid days) and more space to say what we need.  We also support one another more than before because thoughtful actions, touch, hearing words of encouragement, and receiving smiles are sustaining and prevent us from feeling overwhelmed by the bad news.  We live in the moment, do what we can for others, and count our blessings, of which there are many. 

Peter and Merry: It’s a good thing that we each get to shelter in place with someone we like a lot! Even so, the joy of being together 24/7 can wear thin at times. We are blessed to have a large enough house that we can each find solitude when we need it, inside or outside. While we are doing more read-aloud books and dialogues with each other, we are also doing more alone time: Merry in the bath or getting lost in a crossword puzzle, Peter on his walks or getting lost in his professional reading. Blessed quietness!

Mary Linda and Mark:  Fertile Soil

We have worked from home together for the entirety of our 9 years together so in many ways, sheltering-in-place together doesn’t look much different from our normal routine. There have been stresses, of course, mostly involving how we can best support and care for our loved ones, friends, and community. We’ve found that sharing our fears about Covid-19 has been fertile soil for us to have deep conversations about our life together, end of life fears and preferences, and the eventuality of one of us dying and leaving the other a widow/er. Although these conversations have not been comfortable, they do bring comfort through a richer intimacy with one another. We have considered what we might regret should one of us succumb to the illness and are expressing those small things so that the only regret will be that we didn’t have a longer time together. One joy we have found during lock-down is keeping Sunday afternoons as a time for us to express our love through physical intimacy. An unstructured span of time when we’re not too tired, hungry, or distracted has allowed us to find a playfulness that we had lost touch with.

Kathy and Jeff:  We are thankful for each other, that we have been able to shelter in place together.   We have often commented how hard it would be to be alone at this time. We both work in the garden, take daily walks around the neighborhood as well as weekly hikes with another couple from our meeting, do online yoga classes together, cuddle on the couch to watch movies, and participate in an online Quaker Bible study with other Friends.  It is a good thing that we still enjoy being together after nearly forty years!

The global pandemic halted our plans to travel across the country to co-lead a couples workshop and visit our daughter’s family in March.  We both had to deal with the disappointment of not seeing our grandchildren. It has been a challenge to have so much of our life scheduled around Zoom meetings, some together, some separately.  It is easy to spend too much time in front of the computer when we are home most of the time; we make sure make time to walk together daily; we find that an important time to express appreciation for each other, talk over problems, and reconnect.  

Marsha and Mike:  At first, stay-at-home orders in NC didn’t appear to change our routine all that much. As a retired couple, we already spend a lot of time together in the house. But after a few weeks, we started to rethink how to reconnect during the day. Before COVID-19 hit, we had rituals when we left or returned to the house. There was the ‘goodbye, see you later’ kiss. The text that said ‘Heading home now, put the kettle on.’  The ‘who was at the meeting’ or ‘what did you find at the store’ questions that were an invitation to share news about what had just transpired. Small moments, but moments that allowed us to acknowledge each other.

But stay-at-home orders limit how much we leave the house. So we are re-imagining our rituals.  Instead of kissing hello or goodbye, we occasionally hug each other spontaneously as we pass in the hallway. We take a moment to reconnect after zoom calls have kept us in separate parts of the house. We lean into each other on the couch while jointly attending a zoom worship session. Most importantly, we continue to have a deliberate time at the beginning and end of each day when we can sit together without our computers or phones, and simply enjoy each other’s company.  

***

In conclusion, those of us who wrote share a gratitude that we are going through this experience with our beloveds.  There is no road map or reader’s guide for Love in the Time of Covid.  Despite the difficulties, worries, and uncertainties of this time, we stand beside each other to face these challenges.  We have found a new closeness in all of the opportunities we have for conversation and ways of expressing our love.  

Anti-Racism Work and Couple Enrichment

by Marsha Green, Durham, NC

We often say that Couple Enrichment is important because peacemaking begins at home. I was reminded of this recently when I read an article about anti-racism. The article, “9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive,” addresses the fact that even when we mean well we often unintentionally hurt people, and it can be uncomfortable when that hurt is named. As the title suggests, the author provides alternative responses to the knee-jerk position of defensiveness when someone corrects us over issues of perpetuating white supremacy.

Instead of just saying ‘sorry’ and leaving it at that, some of the phrases the author suggests are:

“I’m going to take some time to reflect on this.”

‘I recognize that I have work to do.”

“I believe you.”

“I apologize, I’m going to do better.”

“Thank you.”

What struck me as I read these phrases is how they are the same phrases that my best self uses when my beloved lets me know I have hurt him.

They are phrases that I can only say if I am willing to admit that I have caused harm, regardless of my intention. They are phrases that honor the experience of the other person as reality. They are phrases that indicate that something just might change because of this interaction.

They are phrases that I need to take out into the world with me as I join with my community in the ongoing work of standing up against racism.

I am so glad that my imperfect relationship with my beloved provides a place to practice these non-defensive responses.  Surely, practicing peacemaking at home can only strengthen my ability to respond more appropriately when I am called out for unintentionally harming people of color by failing to see how my actions (or inactions) are perpetuating a culture that seems not to believe that Black Lives Matter.

The Holiness of Witnessed Dialogue

by Mary Linda McKinney

You know how it is to be with people who are being fully present with one another, sharing, perhaps not their deepest truths but still, from their authentic selves? It feels holy to me, like I am connected to something much greater than myself. 

Friends Couple Enrichment witnessed dialogue often feels like that to me. I bring my full self to listen and be present to whatever each couple brings. What they talk about is largely irrelevant to me because each relationship is utterly unique but I am always attentive to the feelings they share as they talk, the body language they use, and the “energy” that passes between them. When I am witnessing another couple’s dialogue, I feel humbled and grateful that I am able to be with them while they do the sacred work of tending to their relationship. 

When I join with others to witness another couple in dialogue, we don’t do anything other than hold them in loving, non-judgmental attention. I generally think that using one of the FCE dialogue models is helpful but our witnessing is less about observing technique and more about seeing whether the way they communicate works well for them. If a couple invites reflections at the end of their dialogue, they will mostly hear observations about the love, respect, or deep feelings we witnessed and possibly some gentle suggestions for other approaches they could take while dialoguing. Friends Couple Enrichment is about building on strengths.

When my husband Mark and I are engaging in dialogue with other couples holding us in their compassionate attention, we feel supported to speak with one another with tenderness, and honesty. We are able to choose what we talk about, how deep we will go into it, and how vulnerable we are willing to be with one another in front of others. Within those parameters, I experience freedom to express myself with integrity knowing that I will be deeply heard, so that, even when Mark and I do not see eye-to-eye, he listens carefully and with heart-felt consideration to what I say.

I believe that all of life is sacred and this includes my marriage and all committed relationships. Thinking in this way helps me to see that engaging in dialogue with Mark, alone or in a group, and witnessing the dialogues of others is spiritual practice. And, like anything in life, the more we practice it, the better we get at it. 

With this in mind, when the board of Friends Couple Enrichment discussed the idea of creating on-line dialogue opportunities, Mark and I gladly volunteered to facilitate. We are now hosting monthly dialogue gatherings for any couple who has ever participated in any Friends Couple Enrichment event via the Zoom video conferencing website. We gather together, do a brief review of how to dialogue and how to witness, and then invite couples to dialogue with the rest of us as witnesses. (Nobody has to if they would prefer to just witness!) 

Our next two Drop-in Dialogue gatherings will be on Saturday, March 21st at 12:00 Central, and Friday, April 10th at 7:00 pm Central.  If you would like to join us, please register for either or both sessions below. If you have questions, you are welcome to connect with us by email: Mark Wutka & Mary Linda McKinney mcwutka@gmailcom.

Saturday March 21, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time REGISTER
Friday, April 10, 2020 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Reflections on Honolulu Event (Nov 15-17, 2019)

A Reflection from Cathy Walling and Scott Bell
It was a joy and delight to share Friends Couple Enrichment with Honolulu Friends and friends. The advocacy of Jenny and David Foster, former FCE facilitators (and current Honolulu Friends Meeting friends in residence),  was instrumental in making it happen.

The six participating couples had been together from 6 months to 44 years. Many were long-time members/attenders at HFM, while one couple and two partners were not Quakers. We were reminded of the richness that relationship diversity, in all its forms, offers us, and how FCE events create a community of couples while deepening each couple’s relationship.

Couples in new relationships and those together for many years both affirmed the importance of the workshop skills in deepening their relationships. For those together for many years, it was particularly rich for them to rekindle deep intimacy and learn new communication skills for tending tender topics.

We heard gratitude for the ways participants grew and deepened their own relationships, and their relationships with the other couples, through sharing of laughter and tears, and tenderness mixed with playful opportunities; all grounded in the core practice of witnessed couples dialogue. Several participants spoke specifically to the power and sacredness of the witnessing presence when they were dialoging or witnessing dialogues.

For us there was a special sweetness in gathering with a group who shared deeply and supported each other with care through the weekend.  We look forward to reconnecting with all participant couples and a future visit to Honolulu Friends Meeting!

New Opportunity for Free Online “Drop-In Dialogue”

Have you and your partner ever participated in a Friends Couple Enrichment event? Have you missed out on on-going opportunities for dialogue and support? Would you like to focus on your relationship by practicing dialogue and learning new communication skills from the comfort of your own home? We have just the thing for you!

Friends Couple Enrichment is excited to introduce our newest opportunity: free, online Drop-in Dialogue! 

When:
Saturday December 14, 2019 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time
Saturday January 25, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time
Friday, February 21, 2020 from 7:00- 9:00 pm Central time
Saturday March 21, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time REGISTER
Friday, April 10, 2020 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Who: Any couple who has participated in any Friends Couple Enrichment (formerly known simply as Couple Enrichment) event where they learned the basics of dialogue. Mark Wutka & Mary Linda McKinney will be the hosts and FCE Leader couple for these online opportunities.

Why: To experience on-going support, learn new skills, and to have the opportunity to practice dialogue and witnessing dialogue with our partners.

Where: In the comfort of your own home! These gatherings will be held on-line in a Zoom video conference room. (If you are unfamiliar with this technology, we will provide a basic training 30 minutes before each call. A computer or smartphone with internet access is required for video. You can join by phone if you don’t have internet access.)

What will this cost? Nothing! We do, of course, welcome donations to support this ministry as we support you.

How: If you and your partner would like to join us for our inaugural Drop-in Dialogue gathering, please register below. You can register for any or all of these events. Each date has a separate registration link. We will send additional information and the Zoom link within a few days.

Friday December 13, 2019 from 7:00-9:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Saturday January 25, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Friday, February 21, 2020 from 7:00- 9:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Saturday, March 21, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 pm Central time REGISTER

Friday, April 10, 2020 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm Central time REGISTER

If you have questions, feel free to contact us at mcwutka@gmail.com
We hope you can join us!Mary Linda & Mark