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Third Option Program Designed to Strengthen Marriages

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In response to the Diocese of Raleigh’s Pastoral Plan, the office of Marriage and Family is offering a series to improve marriages called The Third Option. 

The Diocesan Plan states, “The Diocese of Raleigh will inspire, challenge and help Catholics to witness to marriage as a natural institution founded by God and raised to the dignity of a Christian Sacrament, and to the value of children and family life.”

The Third Option is a skills-based group program that helps married couples build stronger, more fulfilling marriages. While not a counseling program, it combines skill building and mentor sharing to provide ongoing support. Facilitated by trained volunteers, it comprises 15 stand-alone sessions. Couples can start at any time in the process.

“Communication is the biggest skill we have learned,” said a Third Option participant. “We always talked before, but now it’s more focused. I am more open in my communication, and my husband is more sensitive to me now.” The couple added, “Sometimes when an argument starts to escalate, one of us will say, ‘Third Option,’ and that brings us down and reminds us to start talking.”

The program was conceived by Patricia Ennis, who had a friend going through a divorce in the 1980’s. Her friend’s experience led her to think the about the two options available to struggling couples: counseling or divorce. She realized that couples also need hope and help. Ennis, who has a Masters in Social Work from Syracuse University, began working on the skill-building workshops, and The Third Option was born.

The Third Option has programs throughout the United States and in the Bahamas. In the Diocese of Raleigh, St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh is hosting the 15 sessions, which take place twice a month. Couples meet every second and fourth Wednesdays from 7:00-9:00 pm. Due to the program’s popularity, St. Patrick Church in Fayetteville and parishes in several other deaneries are in the planning stages to host Third Option sessions in 2011.

Upcoming sessions at St. Francis of Assisi are:

  • Jan 12: Listening Beyond Words
  • Jan 26: Personality Differences
  • Feb 9: Childhood/Emotional Baggage
  • Feb 23: Handling Anger Constructively
  • Mar 16: Speaking the Truth with Love
  • Mar 30: Learning How to Fight Fair
  • April 13: Breaking the Hurt Cycle
  • April 27: Practicing Forgiveness and Repair
  • May 11: Rebuilding Trust
  • May 25: Marriage: It's a God Thing

For more information, contact Linda Bedo at 919-821-9753, or visit the Diocese of Raleigh's Marriage and Family web page or http://www.thethirdoption.com/.