CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Service members and status of forces agreement personnel with Marine Corps Installations Pacific and III Marine Expeditionary Force gathered at the Education Center on Camp Foster recently for the “Keys to a Healthy Marriage” workshop.
The workshop, sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa, was designed to help married and engaged couples start their marriage successfully and focused on communication and problem-solving skills, along with encouraging interaction and feedback from the couples.
“This class is preventative maintenance (for relationships), kind of like oil changes for a car,” said Lt. Cmdr. Aaron C. Carlton, the Headquarters and Service Battalion chaplain with Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, MCIPAC. “You do the tune-up stuff, so your car keeps running smoothly and doesn’t break down.”
The workshop has helped couples learn how to communicate and enrich their relationships for over thirty years, and Carlton hopes to have the workshop be more readily available to Marines, sailors and status of forces agreement personnel on Okinawa.
“We want to make sure we reach as broad a spectrum of people as possible,” said Carlton.
The couples practiced their communication skills by discussing subjects, such as relationship expectations and recognizing danger signs.
“Instead of shutting down, getting quiet and not talking for the rest of the night, you take a time-out, catch your thoughts, and go about it in a more approachable way,” said Cpl. Travis R. Newman, a class attendee and supply administration and operations specialist with H&S Bn.
The workshop taught the attendees various skills and techniques to better their relationships, such as how to recognize danger signs and effectively discuss expectations in their relationship.
“Even if you think you know about relationships, it’s still a good workshop to take,” said Lance Cpl. Cecilia Nuñez-Figueroa, a class attendee and supply administration and operations specialist with H&S Bn. “I already knew some of this, but the workshop still taught me things I didn’t know.”
Communication can be especially hard for service members because the lifestyle has inherent risk factors such as high stress, long working hours, prolonged physical separation and frequent changes in location, which are difficult to change, according to Carlton.
“There are certain things we can’t change about our situation, and there are things that we can,” said Carlton. “And the things that we can change – how we communicate with each other, how we approach problems, how we work together – if we work on those things amid all the risk factors we can’t change, we’re going to do well.”
The workshop occurs once a month at different Marine Corps installations across Okinawa, and the goal is that the workshop will continue to grow and be available on every installation once a month simultaneously to reach everyone, according to Carlton.
“Any time you devote to your marriage, it’s time well-spent,” said Carlton.