Our Quarterly Newsletters

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

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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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

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
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! 

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
We hope you can join us!Mary Linda & Mark

What Keeps Couples Together?

In January, 2019, Friends Couple Enrichment leader couples met for their annual gathering. This year, Jeff and Kathy Richman, leader couples since 1995, gave us food for thought with a presentation on commitment. Below is a brief summary of some of what we learned:


“Darling, you can count on me
till the sun dries up the sea.
Until then I’ll always be
devoted to you” 
— Everly Brothers

This song may reflect the popular image of “happily ever after,” but there are few if any relationships in which neither partner gives the other “reason to cry.”  What determines whether a couple stays together for the long haul?

One answer is commitment.  One researcher, Linda Waite, found that couples who described their marriages as unhappy and five years later described those marriages as happy had not so much solved all their problems as outlasted them. In her words,

 “A strong commitment to marriage as an institution, and a powerful reluctance to divorce, do not merely keep unhappily married people locked in misery together. They also help couples form happier bonds. To avoid divorce, many assume, marriages must become happier. But it is at least equally true that in order to get happier, unhappy couples or spouses must first avoid divorce. In most cases, a strong commitment to staying married not only helps couples avoid divorce, it helps more couples achieve a happier marriage.”

This is not a recommendation that anyone accept and live with abuse from a partner; rather, it is a recommendation not to give up too easily when there is conflict, something that is part of every relationship.

Caryl Rusbult, a Dutch-born scholar and professor, made it her life’s work to study committed couples.  She developed the Investment Model of longevity in relationships. Satisfaction with the relationship is part of the equation, but not nearly all of it; relationships may go through periods of intense dissatisfaction and still continue and evolve, becoming more gratifying.  In addition, members of committed couples don’t see other possible partners as attractive alternatives. They also stay in the relationship because of the amount of time, energy, and money they have invested, because of what would be lost were the relationship not to continue.  

Rusbult also named the “Michaelangelo phenomenon.”  We tend to think that there is a big discrepancy between our actual selves and our ideal selves.  Our loving partners sometimes help us to become the people we aspire to be, like Michaelangelo, seeing the beauty inside us and helping us to grow towards that which we wish to be.

A committed relationship is a true gift.  It is our touchstone and our anchor. These thoughts are echoed in another song, this one from Tom Paxton:

“You could send me away, and I would go
I would go, but I would not go too far.
You could send me home, but you would know
Home to me is anywhere you are.”

–by Kathy Richman

Witnessed Dialoguing Online – Does it Work?

Four FCE Leader Couples gathered together for dialogues in June (from two countries, four time zones!)

In Couple Enrichment workshops we often experience a palpable sense of love as we physically gather together to share and witness our dialogues. But often, those with whom we bond during an event live far away — so how can we stay connected?


Friends Couple Enrichment (FCE) has been stepping into the world of online dialoguing over the past few years and we are excited by the possibilities.

Recently, we offered an opportunity for an online follow-up to a weekend retreat.

Dave, a participant from Pennsylvania, and a self-proclaimed non-user of virtual media, was surprised by the power of the video gathering. He had worried that the technology would not draw folks past the barrier of being in physically separate spaces. “But there was, as we listened deeply to each other, the intermittent loss of that barrier for me, much like in Meeting when the veil almost disappears,” he says. “The virtual gathering renewed that sense of accountability to what I had committed to with Bonnie during the weekend [in March].”

We have one pair of leader couples who have been sharing dialogues via Skype for almost a decade, with one couple in Australia and another in Canada. But as an organization, we stepped more slowly into the use of video conferencing. We began by replacing phone conference calls for business and committee work with video calls. Friends quickly discovered that having visual cues made doing business much easier than trying to listen to up to 30 people by phone. In 2017, we started holding optional video meetings 6 to 8 times a year for the Leader Couples to have witnessed dialogues, which we recognize as the core discipline of FCE.

During each 60-90 minute dialogue call, every couple has a brief chance to check in with the group. The remaining time is given over to couples who want to have a witnessed dialogue. Just as in an FCE workshop, the dialoguing couple face each other (with the computer nearby for audio) and those not dialoguing remain silent, while holding a loving and safe space for the dialoguing couple. The only interruption is the timekeeper noting when the allotted time is up. Just as in a workshop, if anyone comments on the dialogue, it is in gratitude for how the couple used the structured dialogue process, not on the content of the dialogue.

We have found the process to be delightfully enriching.

“When we can see each other, it brings a real feeling of being together, even though we are logging in from all over North America and sometimes from overseas,” says Kathy Richman,  from California. “As a result, it no longer feels like such a long time between our annual Leader Couples Retreat each January, because we have grown closer over the course of the year.”

The experiment among Leader Couples inspired Marsha and Mike Green, from North Carolina, to offer the experiment of extending a weekend workshop with optional witnessed dialogues via video. They queried participating couples at the Pendle Hill FCE workshop in March 2019 about whether to meet again, via video. Many participants said yes, and one person took responsibility for finding a date and time that worked for the majority of participants. Mike and Marsha provided the video conference link (using FCE’s paid ZOOM subscription.)

Five couples joined together for the call in May.

Like Dave (quoted above), Shari, from North Carolina, had the concern that the closeness of the weekend might not be present via video, but discovered that the connections made in person were still there.

“I was glad to be able to support my fellow group members, and we liked it so much that my husband and I are signed up for the next online session of the group!,” she says.

Looking forward, FCE is now planning to use virtual gatherings as part of the training for new Leader Couples — folks who are willing to further our ministry by offering FCE events in their own community or in other communities.  Stay tuned for more details in the fall!

Have you experienced sharing dialogues via video? Tell us your story in the comment section below.

Ahhh, that warm fuzzy feeling after sharing dialogues!!