I spend my days talking about marriage, divorce, family strengthening strategies, and child-well-being. I can spout research and trends, and articulate the many factors attributed to changing family dynamics. I’ve seen firsthand the complex challenges low-income families and single parents face in trying to make ends meet and help their children belie the odds. Let me tell you – it isn’t pretty out there.
I do all of this as a part of my job, which I love, but some days I feel like a fish swimming upstream. It’s easy for the stories and statistics to fuse together in my head and settle into a discouraging presence in my heart. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, because the nagging concern I feel certainly motivates me to plug ahead and work hard to implement programs and strategies which help couples and individuals achieve their family goals. And, even though I hear some tough stories without a happy ending, I’m privy to an equal number of revelations by couples who admit to feeling hopeful for the first time in weeks, months, or even years. Hope is a powerful emotion; without it, they will most certainly fail. With hope, however, amazing things can happen.
Another bright spot for me and something that adds to my own feelings of hope is the launch of the “Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples” campaign. For the past three years, we have worked with a media partner to conduct a statewide search for couples who have shown commitment to their marriages in a significant way – have triumphed through adversity, endured through sickness and health, or otherwise inspired friends and family with their support of one another or zeal for life. Just when I start to feel like there are no couples to serve as role models for hard work and enduring friendship, the “Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples” campaign reminds me that long-lasting and healthy marriages ARE possible.
It just so happens that this week is the launch of our new campaign, so what better way to kick it off than to share some information with those who care about Oklahoma and Oklahomans – you! If you’ve been inspired by an Oklahoma couple, I encourage you to visit the News9 Inspiring Couples page where you can learn about the project and nominate a couple. News9 will be collecting nominations through December 18th, at which time a panel will narrow the pool to a handful of couples to be featured on their website. This year, unlike previous years, the final couples will be chosen through an online public vote. If you want your parents, friends, or children to be recognized for their commitment, please submit a nomination. Do your part to put a little positivity and inspiration out into the world!
Because we’re virtual friends, I’ll give you some advice. The stand-out nominations are specific, well-written and include illustrations of the nominated couple’s personalities, deeds, or challenges they’ve overcome. Be creative and catch our attention! Include a picture, as well.
In addition, the website includes pictures and write-ups on previous “Inspiring Couples” winners. Take a moment to read about those who’ve dedicated their lives to adopting or fostering children, have faced unfathomable tragedy and emerged stronger than ever, are working together to make Oklahoma a better place, or are continuing their journey together after more than 50 years of marriage. I promise you, these couples will touch your hearts (and some will keep you laughing!).
While family challenges do exist and I’m thankful for the opportunity to help those in need, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to share some inspiration and confirm that, yes, great marriages exist. Are great marriages perfect? Absolutely not. I think many of the couples we’ve interviewed have been quick to explain that there are no fairy tale marriages. There are only marriages comprised of two people who are committed to approaching life as a team and making a daily choice to give up other choices. As simple as that sounds, it’s the most common answer couples give when asked about their secret for a lifelong marriage. Even simpler is the statement Edna Lutz made about her seventy-one year marriage to Dick. She said, “I’d choose him again and again. He’s a part of me and I’m a part of him.”
What kind of marriage inspires you?