Marriage Enrichment provides tools for routine maintenance of marriages, building trust

Experience time together in relaxed setting to renew marriage

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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Dick, left, and Lois Hokanson stand in front of one of the gardens in their yard along the Mississippi River. They will again facilitate a marriage enrichment course Tuesday evenings from June 5 - July 24, from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

“A husband walked into one of our courses and told me he’d been married for 29 years and had a good marriage,” said Dick Hokanson. “As he was leaving he said that he didn’t realize how much better it could be.”

“The question is, are we going to be satisfied with a 60-percent or 80-percent marriage?” asked Hokanson.

Dick and Lois Hokanson of Little Falls, married 25 years, first coordinated “The Marriage Course” in 2007. It’s a seven-week experience that involves a 20-minute video on a different topic each week, followed by a half hour of private time for couples to talk out on the Hokansons’ property.

The Hokansons live on five acres along the Mississippi River in north Little Falls. Each evening begins with a picnic supper.

“It’s extremely helpful for couples to spend time together and learn to communicate in healthy ways,” said Lois. “It’s like going on a weekly private date with your spouse in a park.”

Lois was an outreach pastor at Grace Covenant Church in Little Falls for nearly 10 years and attended many marriage enrichment training conferences.

“We started this particular adventure in 2007,” she said. “After not doing it in 2010, we were in Jamaica for mission work in 2011 and offered it to couples there. We realized that we needed to offer it in Little Falls again.”

“Couples attending have ranged from newlyweds to people married 42 years,” said Dick. “Privacy as a couple is always respected. There is no group discussion.”

“It’s a fun experience — and there’s no cooking,” said Lois. “There’s no one talking at the couples.”

“We tend to stereotype our thinking that if a couple is a part of any kind of marriage enrichment like this, then they must be having trouble,” said Dick, “and that it will be a husband-bashing session.”

“Usually it’s a wife dragging in her husband,” said Lois.

But the unique difference with this course is that it’s experiential. There is a short video of a topic, followed by a half hour for the couples to go off by themselves in the big yard and talk.

“They don’t just go home and never bring it up again,” Lois said. “This way they talk about the topic right away and couples are more likely to continue the discussion later.”

The course is about learning new habits for communicating, like having regular dates.

“We’ve had a weekly breakfast date for 308 months,” said Dick. “Ninety-five percent of the Fridays since we’ve been married, we have gone out for breakfast. There is rarely something that can interfere with that.”

“When a person is learning to drive they need someone to instruct them. And their vehicle needs regular maintenance,” he said. “We think that we can say ‘I do’ and just keep going in our marriages without basic maintenance.”

“God meant marriages to be strong and healthy,” said Lois, “and not for us to be complacent.”

Couples who participate pledge to each other that if an issue is brought up, they will not say anything about it for 24 hours. There is no immediate rebuttal, giving time to process what was said — listening for feelings and not words.

“This builds trust and the feeling of really being heard,” said Dick.

“Couples need to remember that they are on the same team,” Lois said. “And husbands do not need to feel intimidated.”

Some single people attended the sessions in Jamaica and gleaned a lot from them. Life skills are being developed in the sessions that work for any relationship, the Hokansons said.

Singles are welcome to come and be a part of helping with the serving and other preparations and will then be able to view the videos

“If you’ve been burned by a church and have thrown your faith away,” said Dick, “don’t let that stop you from participating with us.”

The program, while based on biblical principles, is very helpful for any couple, with or without a Christian faith or background.

“It’s worth our time and energy to offer this to our community,” said Lois. “We hope the whole community will consider being part of it.”

The Tuesday evening seminars will begin June 5 and run through July 24, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. The cost is $59 per couple, which includes seven evening meals for two people and two workbooks.

For more information, call the Hokansons at (320) 632-3284 or e-mail for a brochure and registration information at [email protected]