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Change or Die: Military Marriage

Military family programs must change or die. A Tampa Bay reader wrote to let me know that a certain program for military couples was a big waste of money for the taxpayer.

“Ninety-nine percent of information can be found on the Web. The cost of transportation, food and lodging is over $1000.00 per person… multiply that by the number of people by the number of events and then add cost of producing the event.”

Since I am a big believer in military family programs, I wanted to know who the presenters were and what they taught and whether it was just a bunch of PowerPoint presentations.

“You’re missing the point,” Tampa Bay replied. “It’s a duplication of information’s found on the WWW. A waste of taxpayers $$$$$$.”

Oh. While I am all for cutting programs that don’t help couples change, I have no faith in internet repair for military relationships. If looking something up on the internet was enough, all of us would be thin, smoke-free, sexophiles with big savings accounts and the happiest marriage on earth.

Those facts are all on the web. Millions and millions of articles have been written with essentially the same facts in them. The same frightening statistics. The same threats that if we don’t change our ways we will all die.

Funny how those things don’t ever make people change. In his marvelously named book, Change or Die, author Alan Deutschman makes the case that fear, facts and force never make people change. Even when people are threatened with death (by heart disease, drug abuse, diabetes, etc. ) they only have a one in nine chance of changing their behavior. Change is that hard.

Yet people do change. And change is so necessary in so many military relationships. We are a population that marries young. We are a culture that instantly subjects our young couples to threat—little money, vast separations, combat.

Change is a necessary part of a military relationship. We could use some help with that change, Oh Taxpayer. It is cheaper than divorce. Which is why those programs exists.

Deutschman reveals that the keys of change are found when people reframe, relate, and repeat:

Reframe. The first key is to reframe the way you think. You have to learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Trolling the internet has been shown to confirm the way you already think. A great program can light you up to something you haven’t thought of before.

Relate.We relate when we form a new emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. You have to be sold on yourself and your ability to change.  The internet cannot do that for you. It takes an inspiring idea or a motivating presenter. Deutschman notes:

“The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models or sources of new knowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies they employ.”

Repeat. The last key to change is to repeat the new behavior. Over and over a-thousand-time-over. You need to meet some real people in person to practice this with. A military post, command or unit can provide like-minded others to talk to who understand exactly what you are going through. The relationship helps you learn practice and master the new habits and skills you need.

I am in total agreement that no program that is slapped together from a bunch of PowerPoint slides that tell you to eat right and sleep well and com-mun-i-cate is going to give you the keys of change. Those things are just facts at best with a little force thrown in.

The ability to reframe, relate and repeat can make all the difference to a military couple. I contend that any program that changes a rocky marriage is vital to our fighting force. A strong military marriage can produce a servicemember who lives up to their training and a family resilient enough to stand the course. Worth every dime.

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.