Stories

Our Quarterly Newsletter

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

March 2017 – Friends Couple Enrichment:  Two sides of a story

December 2016 – Look What’s New with Friends Couple Enrichment

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Fairbanks Leaders Expand Beyond Quaker Community

     Chena Ridge Friends Meeting (CRFM) in Fairbanks, Alaska started sponsoring biannual Couple Enrichment Workshops in the mid-1990’s, hosting five different leader couples from the Lower-48. This effort had been discerned by Ministry  and Council as a concrete way to honor its commitment to supporting couples married under the care of the meeting. Meeting covered the workshop fees for these couples and invited any other interested member/attender couples to participate. In 2006, Scott Bell and Cathy Walling of CRFM went through formal Couple Enrichment leader training and began offering one or two local workshops per year and in 2015, Tom and Sharon Baring did the same.
     Given so many opportunities, most interested members and attenders of CRFM had participated in several workshops by, say 2008. As a happy outcome, when people from the wider community inquired, having learned of CE from their Quaker  friends, leader couples felt liberated to open their workshops beyond Quakers and to reach out intentionally.
     As of 2017, we have offered several workshops in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship facility with many UU participants. Last spring, the UU Fellowship asked Scott and Cathy if they would offer a workshop for its congregation, and the Fellowship handled the workshop logistics. This fall, Sharon and Tom scheduled a one-day intro course at a local Presbyterian Church. It was a joy to connect with the Presbyterian Pastor and community and plan the event.
     We are building connections to the wider community and feel we are spreading the peace-making gifts of couple enrichment: the appreciations, trust and risk-taking exercises, and reflective listening dialogs. We also feel we’re sharing a bit of ourselves. Friends’ approach to Couple Enrichment is informed by the Quaker clearness process, and while non-Quaker couples sometimes feel stretched by the novel opportunity to dialog in the presence of witnesses, most usually come to respect the healing and spiritual power of sharing in community. Also in line with Friends’ values, all committed couples, including unmarried, interracial, same-sex, and those with nontraditional or evolving gender identities are welcome. If this is a stretch for some participants, over the course of a workshop, we come to know each other as individuals and the significance anyone may have given superficial characteristics recedes as our common humanity, joys, and challenges are revealed.
     We plan to continue reaching out to different populations of Fairbanks, feeling enriched and stretched, ourselves, as we do this work which we find so valuable.
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— Submitted by Tom Baring, Sharon Baring, Scott Bell and Cathy Walling

A “GLAD” Exercise, and 6 Critical Messages

Tom and Sharon Baring, of Fairbanks Alaska, recently shared two exercises they have used in workshops. Try these out with your partner — or anyone you wish to become closer to! (And don’t forget to investigate our “exercises” section for other activities.)

Mindfulness Activity:

Reflect, separately and/or together on the following prompt: G*L*A*D*

Gratitude – one thing you are grateful for about your partner/ relationship or as a result of your partner/relationship.

Learning – one thing you have learned as a result of your relationship, in general, about your partner, or about yourself.

Accomplishment – one thing you have accomplished, or are accomplishing now, as a result of your partner/relationship.

Delight – one thing that gives you delight about your partner/relationship.

 

6 Critical Life Messages

 Parenting and teacher educator, Barbara Coloroso, names six messages we each need to “hear” in a variety of ways, every day, for healthy development. She calls them “critical life messages:”

  • I believe in you.
  • I trust you.
  • I know you can handle this.
  •  You are listened to.
  • You are cared for.
  • You are very important to me.

 

6 Critical Life Messages for Couples

(Adapted from Barbara Coloroso)

Separately first and from your own experience, consider the relative strength of each of these critical life messages in your relationship today.  Rate them on a scale of 1-5 (1-weak, 5-strong.) Are there some that are easier to say than others? Are there any you are willing to work on? Share with your partner.

  • I believe in us.                                                 ______                      
  • I trust us.                                                        ______                      
  • I know we can handle this.                         ______                      
  •  I listen to us.                                                  ______                      
  • I care for us.                                                  ______                      
  • Our relationship is very important to me. ______

Separately, again, choose one Critical Life Message you will work on to strengthen your relationship.  List 3 things that will help you to do so.

1.

2.

3.

from Sharon and Tom Baring, adapted from Barbara Coloroso’s work. 7/17

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Business Virtually

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On May 3, 2017, most of the active leaders within Friends Couple Enrichment were able to join together virtually for one of our business meetings. It was delightful to combine 21st century video meeting technology with the 400-year-old Quaker practice of seeking unity on decisions rather than voting. Among other things, we approved a budget, launched a new adhoc committee to look into videos about Friends Couple Enrichment, and — most important — shared with each other about why this ministry continues to blossom in our lives.

Summary of a Weekend Retreat at Quaker Center, Ben Lomond, CA – January 27-29, 2017

Kathy and Jeff Richman, Leader Couple

Eleven couples gathered Friday evening, giving thanks that the torrential winter rainfall of January had recently subsided, giving way to clear skies.  Previous rainfall had caused widespread flooding, mudslides and road closures throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Partners appreciated the opportunities throughout the weekend to practice communication exercises and to have or witness couple dialogues.  Many couples commented how different a dialogue felt from other conversations, in that each partner felt truly heard.  Several couples remarked that they had discussed the same matter many times before and yet in a short period of time had arrived at a point of understanding beyond what they had reached before. Speaking and listening tasks may appear simple, yet it takes a dedicated and active practice for a couple to internalize this way of communicating.

All of us found helpful the research findings of relationship psychologists John and Julie Gottman, concerning habits of couples that have stayed together for a long time. Successful couples had frequent positive, turn toward responses to “bid” messages (requests for connection), that partners send each other throughout the day. “Masters” of Love responded to bids with turn-toward responses three times as often as the “Disasters” of Love.

Saturday evening, partners put pen to paper and wrote love letters to each other.  And singing, with guitar accompaniment, occurred frequently.  Songs included Tom Paxton’s “Home To Me Is Anywhere You Are”, John Lennon’s “Starting Over”, and many more.

Jeff and Kathy found the weekend very satisfying and felt energized to continue the work of Friends Couple Enrichment, a ministry to which they feel called.

The Lasting Effects of Couple Enrichment Weekend

A testimony Mark and Daphne, past participants in a Couple Enrichment Workshop:

“We went to a Couple’s Enrichment weekend at Woolman Hill Quaker Center ten years ago.  The workshop itself was both fun and enriching, the skills easy to learn and  immediately applicable. At home over the following six months, we returned to that form of dialogue from time to time.

“Then, a stressful period in our marriage forced us to return more diligently and exactingly to the process we’d learned during the workshop. The regular living through of these skills was suddenly essential and gradually transformative.

“Since then we have devoted one evening each week to communicating using the techniques taught at that workshop. This discipline has created a safe container in our relationship, has established a place of trust  where we now go automatically for communication that holds us to integrity and good will. This process has been invaluable sustenance for our growth as a couple.”

Friends Couple Enrichment in Alaska

— Notes from Tom and Sharon Baring, Leader Couple from Fairbanks, Alaska

On Oct. 29th, 2016, Sharon and I led our first 4 1/2 hour introductory CE workshop.  One of our intentions was to serve couples as busy as ourselves, with demanding jobs and full-on parenting roles.  As we both work in the schools, a shorter format works better for us too, at least during the school year.

Six couples and one man, whose partner was absent, participated. In addition, we had timed the event to include Mike and Marsha Green, visiting from Durham, NC, and Cathy Walling and Scott Bell of Fairbanks, both veteran CE leader couples, so there were 19 people total.

We introduced listening, speaking and witnessing concepts by, primarily, drawing out the wisdom and experience of the group. Eager for early and frequent practice, we included mini-dialogs for each of these three skills. We had 1/2 hour for lunch, and then split into three groups for witnessed couple dialogs.

Mike and Marsha led two follow-up opportunities for dialoging, one and two weeks later. Of the original thirteen participants, eight attended one or both of these events.  By this measure of interest, we deem the event a success.

One change we’ll make when we lead our next short format workshop will be to avoid a rushed lunch. We may shift the event to start at 9:00 am and offer an optional lunch when it ends at 1:30, having a hearty snack break midway.