The Marriage Instruction Course

Tennessee Tech Professor Offers Lessons for LifeMark Watson, sociology professor at Tennessee Technological University, says his course, "Marriage and Family Relations," is designed for a very specific group of people: anyone planning to marry, anyone interested in marriage, anyone who is part of a family and anyone who has ever been engaged, married, divorced or widowed. That narrows the field down to "pretty much everyone," he says.

Watson describes the course as a "how-to" guide to relationships, as in, "how to make them work." It covers such topics as mate selection, communication and negotiation, parenthood issues, dealing with in-laws, finances and even sexuality. The course is offered throughout the school year, but this summer, anyone interested in the class can take the intensive approach: four nights a week, nearly three hours a night, for four weeks from May 29 to June 28.

Watson knows that of which he speaks: he also maintains a private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist, in which he has counseled hundreds of couples. And he has some personal experience to draw on: he and his wife Cheryl recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

Far from the dry, textbook analysis of relationships one might imagine, Watson says this course focuses on applied knowledge about choosing a partner and staying with that partner. "It's like the difference between taking a class in economics and taking one in personal finance," he says. "I offer the kind of information you can use in everyday life."

"It's an excellent source of pre-marital counseling for engaged couples," says Watson. Throughout the class, participants are asked to examine their values and beliefs about gender roles, family, parenting and other issues.

Watson says the discussion of finances often seems to be the most popular section of the class. Not surprising when you recognize that financial conflict is the number one problem in marriage. Watson often finds that women are particularly interested in learning more about handling finances, probably because, like car repair, it is an area from which many women have been sheltered throughout their lives.

Another rather touchy subject that ranks high on the list of marital conflict is in-laws. "They interfere!" says Watson. Even in the best of situations, parents will always be parents, and almost invariably they want to play a bigger part in your adult life than you would wish.

"I recommend a geographic distance from parents of at least 100 miles," says Watson. "Any closer than that, and it's hard for an individual to be independent."

"Marriage and Family Relations" is offered this summer from 6-8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday, May 29 to June 28, in room 205 of Tennessee Tech's Matthews-Daniel Hall. Participants should register at the university on May 28. The course is open to the public and can be taken for credit or audited. For more information about registration and costs, call the Office of Records and Registration at 372-3317.

Marriage Busters:

Mark Watson, sociology professor at Tennessee Technological University and licensed marriage and family therapist, has identified the top eight things that cause stress in a relationship, in order of frequency:

  1. Money
  2. Housework/division of labor
  3. In-laws
  4. Jealousy/infidelity
  5. Children
  6. Alcohol/substance abuse
  7. Separation of social circles, or "My friends" versus "Your friends"
  8. Job/career
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