More than Marriage Education: A Larger Perspective on Transforming Lives

HRC President Patty Howell

HRC President Patty Howell

By Patty Howell, Ed.M., A.G.C., President

Marriage Education was the pulse of our organization from Day 1. In fact, when Healthy Relationships California was founded in 2005, the word marriage was part of our corporate name—California Healthy Marriages Coalition. Our organization has always believed in Marriage Education and we have amassed impressive evidence that shows we’re very good at Marriage Education. And, we know very clearly—from hundreds of research studies on key social factors associated with marital stability—how important Healthy Marriages are for people. When people form and sustain Healthy Marriages, their lives prosper, their kids prosper, and the communities within which they live prosper. When marriages fail, a range of social services must be activated to prop up the lives of those families, and the national cost of this has been assessed at $112 billion per year. So, we believe in Marriage Education very deeply.

Yet, I’ve come to see that Marriage Education is just a small part of it: The business we’re really in is transforming relationships through a range of research-based Relationship Education programs—programs that are targeted to different ages and stages, different demographics, and to the varying challenges people deal with in their various relationships. What these different target populations all have in common is that all human beings are social creatures who live within a continual series of relationships with others, the quality of which largely determines the quality of their lives.

Since most of us aren’t very good at relationships, we do damage to many people in our lives, even and most especially to those we care about and are dependent upon. Such damage carries a very big price tag—often with significant personal pain and suffering for the individuals involved, along with damage to their health and well-being and that of their children, damage to their productivity in the workplace, damage to the health and well-being of the community in which they live, and, ultimately, damage to the society in which we all live. It goes way beyond the husband and wife.

Everyone does the best they can in their relationships, yet often this isn’t all that good. The damage our fellow human beings suffer all too often gets transferred unwittingly onto the next person in their lives and onto the next generation.

These people getting damaged are us: They are our moms and dads; they are our teachers and clergy and community leaders; they are the people we put in prison; they find themselves in homeless shelters, mental health centers, recovery centers, and TANF agencies.

This cycle of relationship damage has existed throughout the history of our species. Yet, I think we can end it. I am convinced that we can create an inflection point for our species through Relationship Education (RE).

Relationship Education is both effective and cost-effective, and I am increasingly convinced it will have a significant positive impact on the history of our world.

What I envision is Relationship Education being available throughout all the major institutions of our culture so people regularly access and benefit from an ongoing series of RE programs throughout their lifetimes—before they start to date, as they move toward relationship commitment, become married, become parents, enter the workforce, and when they experience difficulties in their relationships at work or at home.

Healthy Relationships California serves a wide range of populations—from teens to pre-marital and married couples, to incarcerated, to single parents and co-parents, to empty nesters; those in suburbia, to those in the inner city, to those living in homeless shelters; those that are employed to those that are not, and to those professionals working to help others become employed and reenter society.

I am proud of the fact that Healthy Relationships California works with people of all kinds, wherever they are located. We have taught evidence-based Relationship Education courses to more than 200,000 participants over the past ten years—and currently reach more people than any other organization teaching these kinds of programs. Meanwhile, we have conducted extensive research on our RE classes, which makes it clear how transformed people’s relationships are after taking one of our classes—with meaningful improvements in their relationships with their loved ones at home and with their friends and their colleagues in the work place. We also have thousands of heart-felt letters attesting to the transformative power of Relationship Education.

It is and has to be much more than Marriage Education. We human beings come in all different packages and I want everyone to have access to relationship skills that transform their relationships. That’s why, over the past ten years, Healthy Relationships California has branched out through our Dads & Kids Initiative; through new curricula that target parents as well as those needing employment support; through partnerships with Fatherhood organizations, TANF organizations, and correctional institutions; and through our Healthy Relationship International division offering training and support for other organizations offering Relationship Education programs around the country and around the world.

We have a mission: to transform lives through Relationship Education. We think big because we are convinced this is the most effective way to help our fellow human beings.

Copyright (C) 2015 Healthy Relationships California

3 Responses to “More than Marriage Education: A Larger Perspective on Transforming Lives”

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  1. James Flowers says:

    Great article Patty, a great article!!


  2. You make a great point when you have said that, when people form and maintain Healthy Marriages, their lives prosper, their kids prosper, and the communities within which they live prosper. Looking for marriage counseling in Naples an answer to your prayer with no stakes? Come to MarriageCounselingAlt to revive the marriage. Read more at:


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