• Baylor partners with Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to support military & first responder marriages

    "Mastering Your Marriage" retreat

    The images and videos of spouses and families reunited after military members return home from deployment leave most of us glassy-eyed and appreciative of the sacrifices they make. But for most of us, that’s where it ends.

    For military families, however — and for the families of first responders like police and firefighters — the demands of the job constantly present a unique set of challenges to relationships.

    Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work has teamed with the University of Texas and the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to develop curriculum and build a program to help military and first responders build stronger, more resilient marriages. The resulting program, “Mastering Your Marriage,” is believed to be the first outcome-based model of military and first responder marriage enrichment training of its kind. This fall, the Baylor team has provided the training to 21 active military and first-responder couples.

    “This has been a great fit,” says social work dean Jon Singletary. “We’ve had faculty who have done military-related projects and faculty who have done marriage enrichment for decades. This is a great opportunity to engage in something mission-centric; to be able to serve those who serve our country is very meaningful.”

    The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation honors the late Chris Kyle, whose life story was told in the 2014 film American Sniper. The foundation was started by Kyle’s wife, Taya, to provide programs and experiences that strengthen military and first responder families. When grants from the foundation became available to build marriage enrichment programs, the Garland School of Social Work was a natural choice, with professors such as Dr. Preston Dyer who have long played leading national roles in evidence-based marriage enrichment programs.

    Baylor’s program is uniquely designed to meet the families where they live, reinforcing the central themes for building stronger marriages over a six-month span. Last month, the 21 couples involved came to Waco for a retreat, which featured speakers and workshops on topics like communication, conflict resolution, intimacy and resilience. After the retreat, participants will continue to receive regular lessons for the next six months. The follow-up programming will be delivered online and through an app developed to provide easy access to lessons and video conferences featuring Baylor professors and to aid communication with other military and first responder participants.

    By regularly delivering content and learning opportunities electronically over a longer period, Baylor professors hope to help participants avoid the letdown that often follows “mountaintop experiences” like the retreat. The electronic contact and delivery will help reinforce the lessons and skills developed as couples deal with the demands of life, stresses and challenges they face as military and first-responders.

    Sic ’em, Baylor social work researchers!

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