Newsletter #3;  February 23, 2015

In This Issue:

  • A Personal Note From Dave
  • One-to-Five Relationship Scale Explained
  • Reflecting on Valentine's Day
  • Treasured Relationships Update
  • In The News


A Personal Note From Dave:

Hey, today's my birthday! My family threw a surprise birthday party this past weekend at Keri & Derek's house (daughter and son-in-law) just outside of Raleigh, NC. About 25 people showed up for the occasion, and it was a blast. They had a most unusual birthday cake that everyone really got a kick out of. It was a large chocolate sheet cake with what looked like a roll of toilet paper sitting on top, partially unrolled, and, um... "soiled" some with chocolate icing. The inscription said "Holy Crap, You're 60!" One guest said she laughed so hard, a tear ran down her leg. Very, very, creative.

It is a blessing to have so many friends and family members. I've gotten texts, phone calls, emails, birthday greetings on LinkedIn and FaceBook all day. Some are old friends from Millbrook High School, college, graduate schools, etc. Others are friends I have worked with either on active duty or during the years when I worked as a civilian with the Marine Corps. Several of the birthday greetings came from couples who I have helped as they built stronger marriages. I can't express how honored I am to have all these people share their love today.

Notice that there is some sort of a relationship between myself and each of these well-wishers. Relationship building goes far beyond one's love-life. We have all sorts of relationships during the course of life. But the most critical, and often the most difficult to get on track, is the especially intimate relationship of marriage. Even though having a great marriage doesn't come naturally for many people, it is achievable for essentially every couple. One email that was in my inbox this morning was from a couple I worked with several years ago. I fired back an email asking permission to briefly tell their story, without using their names. And quickly got a positive response, so here it is:

This couple were legally separated when I first met them. They were just waiting for the 1-year of separation to be complete so that their divorce could be finalized. The husband was already living with a new girlfriend. On a 1-5 scale of marital health, that is a "zero." They attended my 3-day marriage enrichment workshop at Marine Corps Air Station, New River because their teen-aged children begged them to do so. There was obvious hostility between the two of them, so at the first break I asked them to at least approach the workshop with an open mind and hopefully learn some things that could help with future relationships. They agreed to this approach, but ended up doing much more. By the time their marriage could have ended, they not only reconciled but also started moving forward into a whole new relationship together. Today their marriage is pretty close to a "5" on that 1-5 scale. I am so thrilled to hear from them after several years since our last contact. He is retired from the Marine Corps, owns his own business now, they have 3 grand children, etc. Very, very good to hear from you guys! I've added you to my  newsletter list.

Over the years, I've worked with several thousand couples. Some were in serious trouble, while others were a "4" and wanted to be at level "5." I will never see or hear from many of these people again, but it has been an honor and a joy to be able to help them reach their relationship goals. This has been my most important work, my calling from God, and the source of great fulfillment. As long as I have breath, I hope to continue this ministry.


One-to-Five Relationship Scale Explained

As I was writing the section above, I became aware that some of my readers would not understand what my 1-5 Relationship Scale is all about. I think this way, probably because of working with relationship assessment and relationship building for so many years. But you might not understand what the scale represents, so here it is, as briefly as possible:

Starting at the very bottom is a "Failed Marriage" which is a "0" because this marriage doesn't really exist any more. Official steps have been taken to end the marriage, even if it takes a while for the divorce to be finalized. I mention the "0" because even these marriages can be revived and can thrive.

A "1" is what we call a "Defeated Marriage." These people are miserable in their relationship, and usually honestly believe that there is no hope for improvement. There is hope, and even the possibility of reaching a "5", but they can not see it at all. This is a very sad state to be in, and some couples stay there for many years, for a variety of reasons.

A "2" is what we call a "Struggling Marriage." They know that they love each other, but they can hardly live together. They want to make the marriage work, but have no idea how to make that happen. To talk about “Radical Christian Marriage” with these couples doesn't connect because that is so far from what they are experiencing that it seems impossible. These couples need to start moving forward by learning and practicing basic relationship skills.

Note: Since "2s" are so frustrated with their current situation but have not yet lost hope, they are often the ones that are easiest to help. I find this ironic but true. These couples tend to quickly grasp the strategies to put healthy relationship skills into practice, and as soon as they get started it seems that they experience the "miracle" of feelings following action. Sometimes it is a challenge to get these couples over their first hurdle, but then their whole outlook changes and they surge ahead. I can't fully explain why, but I see it repeatedly.

A "3" is called a "Stable Marriage" but it is not very fulfilling. They probably don't fight much, and generally get along well. Others who see them might think they are doing just fine, but they might describe their life together as boring. Now, if they were previously a "1" or a "2", they might think they have "arrived" because of the lack of hostility between them. They can live like this indefinitely, and many couples believe this is as good as it can get for them. They are wrong. It can be much better!

A "4" on the scale is recognized as a "Good Marriage." It's not boring and they do have fun together. They share in activities, interests, goals for the future, etc. But these marriages are not particularly fulfilling when even one element of a truly incredible marriage is blocking them from moving to a "5." Others look up to them and hope to one day have such a wonderful marriage, never knowing that one or both of these marriage partners have an underlying awareness that something is missing, or something is just not quite right. These couples seldom see the need to get any sort of assistance, which is why those couples who start closer to the bottom of the scale so often reach a "5" more readily than the couples who just naturally have a "4" relationship with little effort (and yet lack only one or two "tweaks" to really soar).

So, what constitutes a "5"? This is what we call a "Radical Marriage" because it is so different from what comes naturally for the great majority of couples. This relationship level exists only when both parties make a conscious choice to put their partner first, before any other earthly relationship. This is a "radical commitment," and is exactly what we find described in the Holy Scriptures. The components of a "Level 5: Radical Marriage" are unusual levels of communication, intimacy, romance, sex, and living life to the fullest with each other.

I've seen a few couples move from a "0" to a "5", but not many because very few "0s" will ever get help. It would be wonderful if the "4s" would all strive to make it to "5" since they don't have a lot of baggage and pain to overcome. I find it a lot of fun to help any couple shoot for the top of the scale! Laura and I are not settling for anything less, and no-one else has to either. Here's to truly radical Christian marriages!


Reflecting on Valentine's Day

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day, and were able to make it special by spending some quality time with the love of your life. Laura and I avoided the crowds on Saturday by going to our favorite Japanese Restaurant on Friday evening for sushi. On Saturday (the 14th) we had a romantic evening at home, which included hot tea and conversation by the fire. We exchanged cards, but no expensive gifts. We enjoyed some incredible chocolate caramel and macadamia nut clusters as well. Traditional "Valentine's Day" activities? Maybe not, but we did what we knew would mean the most to us. The day was perfect.

So, why was a day like that perfect for the occasion? Because of our choices. We chose not to spend a lot of money. We chose to beat the crowds on Saturday and go out to dinner one night early. We chose to hang out at home and enjoy time alone together. In order to do any of that, we had to first communicate. Ah-ha! Communication was critical in order to make this a perfect occasion. 

Yes, it was probably predictable that a "relationship expert" would say that communication is important for a husband and wife. We have all heard about how important good communication is, but knowing it is important is pretty useless if we don't have much of a clue about how to do it. One of the things I have enjoyed most about my work over the years has been helping couples develop and practice healthy communication that is open, honest, respectful, and enhances intimacy. So it would be really dumb if Laura and I didn't practice good communication skills at home.

Once upon a time I thought that communication was the most important factor in building a great marriage. Now I think it is second. More important is true commitment, which is required for us to "do marriage God's way." God's plan may be old, but it is far from out of date. It may seem "radical" to actually strive to live in relationship with another person in such a way that we are modeling our lives after God's loving relationship with us. It takes complete, "radical commitment" to fully experience marriage as God intends it to be. And then comes the communication, because we have to talk openly and honestly about all our hopes, dreams, fears, expectations, desires, etc. to truly connect.

Truly connecting and sharing is what intimacy is. It is sharing our privacy with another person. Intimacy is not sex - although sex is certainly supposed to be privately shared. Intimacy is extremely romantic, and romance is what Valentine's Day is all about. All this open sharing might just lead to sexual expression, which is great, but intimacy is so much more than that. Here's an idea: How about deciding to spring an unscheduled "Valentine's Day" on your sweetheart every once in a while just to show how much you care.


Treasured Relationships Update

Progress and Plans:   

We continue to be on schedule and building the Treasured Relationships program. I start a 7-week class this Wednesday evening for teens at College Acres Baptist Church in Wilmington, and as soon as that is done I'll be leading a class for couples at the same location for another 7 Wednesday evenings. Both classes are open to people from the community, not just that church. The teen class is titled "How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)", and the couples class will be weeks 1-7 of my new training program (with the remaining 5 weeks given online, all for free). I've also got an upcoming class for students at UNCW. And I am currently seeking about 8 couples to start a group coaching program going very soon.  

Work continues on developing the Treasured Relationships LLC website. It is the "Private Client Portal" portion of the site that continues to be a challenge for me, but I'm getting there. I thought I had it all set, but started finding lots of glitches when working with my first "test couple" through the website. When a new client (an individual or a couple) signs up for coaching, they will be able to log into a secure site that only they will have access to. They will use their unique username and password to enter that portion of the website, which is where their private forms and resources are located. This thing is going to work properly, and I am going to learn how to make that happen for every client couple, without any glitches. Pretty much everything that has been a challenge has been due to operator error, and I freely admit that. But this old guy is learning to make the website work as planned.

My biggest project outside of the actual website is the new faith-centered marriage enrichment training course. My years of curriculum development for the military has paid off in the actual development of the course, and now the challenge is working out the online delivery process. I'm going to start off with filming myself teaching the 12 sessions of the course right in my office, and then substitute in videos of live workshops. Like everything else, "perfection" takes a little work.

The goal with the online training course, which addresses relationship skill building and provides the scriptural directions for a Biblical marriage, is to make this widely available at an extremely reasonable price. My mentor and business coach say I should charge no less that $200 for the course and give people online access for 4 months. I have decided to charge $97 and give online access for 6 months. For my couples in coaching, it will be a no-additional-charge element of the program and will enable us to do the training portion of the program online, with a completely flexible schedule. By doing this, my 1-on-1 time with clients can be devoted to coaching them instead of spending much time training. The two main goals are convenience and effectiveness. This is going to be a huge improvement and will enable me to help more people.

The plan all along has been for phase 1 of setting up the program to focus on marriage enrichment and coaching couples. The plan for phase 2 has been to add more for singles, such as mate selection, relationship building, and coaching single adults. I have gotten a lot of positive response from singles, and will be leading "How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)" twice in the next few months. My passion is both to help marriages and to help singles make great premarital choices as they build relationships that may lead to marriage. I am open to the possibility of coaching just a few single adults while still getting the program established and before adding to the leadership team. Once we increase the staff, which is in the plan, we can do even more on both fronts. Please pray with us about this!

Schedule Update:

February 26 - April 8: Wednesdays at 6:30 at College Acres Baptist Church, Wilmington, NC - - Equip Class for Youth (High School): "How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)"

April 15 - May 27: Wednesdays at 6:30 at College Acres Baptist Church, Wilmington, NC - - Equip Class for Adults:  7 sessions of the Treasured Relationships Training Course.  (Participants will be given online access to the entire course for 6 months.)

Date and time not yet certain: "How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)" for students at University of North Carolina at Wilmington. 

In The News

In the last 2 weeks there have been 2 media developments:

1.  The Wilmington, NC branch of SCORE sent a press release about Treasured Relationships to over 3,000 media outlets. It was a very good write-up, and has triggered some interest. Additional news articles may follow.

2.  The Pender-Topsail Post & Voice (local newspaper) ran a very good news article on February 19th, written by reporter Ashley Jacobs. This article took up about 1/4 of page 7A, and included a nice photo of Laura and I.  

If anyone would like to have copies of these, just send me an email request at and I will send you a PDF attachment of the news articles. It is great to be getting the word out about the program in this way, and I am glad that this ministry is seen as news-worthy.  

In the process of being interviewed by reporters and when speaking with editors, it has been a challenge to get people to understand 2 important things about this work. And then, when talking with friends and family members over the weekend, I encountered the same issues. So I want to mention them here:

1.  There is a distinct difference between coaching and counseling. It seems that this is hard for people to grasp. Coaching is focused on helping the client (a couple is a client in the case of couples coaching) to achieve their own goals by moving forward decisively with concrete action steps of their own choice. Counseling follows a more therapeutic medical model of diagnosing the problem, then seeking to understand it, discovering any ongoing feelings or actions that are problematic, and finally to determine what to do about it. Compared to counseling, coaching is much faster. The coaching client is not expected to dig into their past. The differences are monumental. As a Pastoral Counselor, then Clinical Chaplain, then military chaplain; I have done a lot of counseling. Now that I have coaching skills and experience, I no longer provide counseling services. The primary reason is that this new approach is so much more effective for most people. Plus this is a whole lot more fun for everyone involved, and people don't have to worry about being expected to tell their secrets to a stranger or even admitting their faults out loud. This is often a huge roadblock for people entering into counseling, but not even an issue in coaching.

2.  A lot of people I've spoken with don't understand how coaching can be done effectively without people having to meet together in person. And yet, most coaching today is done remotely. It is live but not in-person, and this is possible by using technology. I can be in my office with my headset connected to my computer, talking in a 3-way conversation with one spouse who is on their cell phone while at work with the office door closed, and with the other spouse who is somewhere else on a land line - or on a Skype connection - or using their tablet or other electronic device, etc. Three people in different locations connecting in real time, easy! No need to travel across town, across the state, or from different countries. I have coached people in different states from me, and in different countries from me. This makes it convenient for everyone, and adds to the flexibility factor for sure!

Welcome to new members of the Treasured Relationships community! We send the Treasured Relationships newsletter to you twice each month. I hope you will stick with us, and that you will find the content beneficial. I also hope that you will allow us to help you as needed, and encourage those you know to get plugged in with us as well. I personally answer all email, so send me your questions, thoughts, concerns, suggestions, whatever. But, of course, you can unsubscribe at any time and we will honor your request.  

Dave Wilder

Treasured Relationships LLC: "Helping couples relate well, build fulfilling relationships and experience marriage as God designed it to be!"