A different format and approach to Relationship & Marriage Education post COVID time

Like most people, our current work arrangements have been changed due to the impact of the pandemic and Covid in our lives as well as services we provide. Due to the fact face to face sessions could not take place we needed to take action quickly. Marriage & Relationship Education was no different, and I found out the hard and fast way.

As most of you know the Diocese has facilitated Marriage & Relationship Education for many years, I have now been in the field of prevention and education helping couples and singles understand relationships for around 25 years firstly Centacare then Catholic Care and now Diocese of Maitland Newcastle.  It is my job, but it is also my passion and Ministry here at the Diocese.

When Covid hit I thought the risk of seeing clients face to face and the exposure to my health especially since I have elderly parents would be too great, so I might just take 6 months off. Friends, family and work colleagues did laugh at this suggestion due to the fact that I really love my job, helping couples and the face to face work, I love being busy so how would I fill my time, and that the idea of Covid going away quickly was probably not going to happen, so what would I do then.

With encouragement from my team and managers, I set about re-writing our sessions and workshops to commence facilitating online versions for Before We Say I Do, Enhance, and Bringing Baby Home so we could keep this support and worthwhile program current, credible and viable. 

So nearly 12 months on, I am immensely proud and happy with our achievement and say it has blown me away as without Covid I never thought this new format would have been possible, to think a positive of Covid times.  Couples and singles are loving their own new format and we are not only seeing local couples but I have couples from Interstate - Darwin  (time differences were a challenge at times) Sydney, Wollongong, and Taree, due to the ease of meeting couples where they are more comfortable and ready to learn, their own lounge or dining room.

I am finding several things post Covid:

Clients are more relaxed, welcoming, honest, and appreciative of the services we provide that help them to understand the research that support strong, safe, better connections and friendship in intimate relationships as they are in the safety of their own environment;

Clients were fearful of sessions due to group dynamics and the fear of failure or speaking in a group, although we will return to group settings later in the year, zoom will be an option in the future.  Zoom suits clients today with their busy lives or lack of time due to work and family commitment, as couple’s busy lives nowadays. The Pope encourages to meet couples where they are at, how fitting than in their own homes.

Clients are more willing to search us out or listen to word-of-mouth referrals of what helped their friends when the relationship went into “meltdown or constraint”.

Couples are curious about the research and science around making their relationship closer and more connected and are happy to turn off their TV, phones and computers to spend together discussing their relationship with an accredited Educator who is passionate about this work and their relationship.

Here a few of the comments from our online evaluations completed after sessions:

“The sessions were fun and so interesting; we loved the idea of emotional banking”.

“We enjoyed the zoom format; we are more mindful of the danger patterns in particular the 4 Horsemen thanks to the research”.

“All couples should avail themselves to these sessions regardless of what stage of commitment they are at, so interesting to process what helps and what hinders – it will surprise you”.

“Thank you, these sessions have been so beneficial to us and made us even closer as a couple, everyone should keep learning about being intentional vs auto pilot”.

So, if this is sparked an interest in you and you would like to learn more about relationships and their success, how to strengthen your friendship, understand emotional banking and know more about triggers and subjective reality get in contact now via the following: 

Email: marriageeducation@mn.catholic.org.au

Office: 4979 1370

Or you may be interested in seeing first what research we share, I am holding a free webinar called Relationships Matter, register on Eventbrite to gain entry. Wednesday 24th March at 7.00pm-8.30pm.

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Robyn Donnelly Image
Robyn Donnelly

Robyn Donnelly is Co-ordinator, Marriage & Relationship Education.