Cedarville equips dating and engaged couples with tools to prepare and strengthen their marriages
by Madeline Mosher
Over 1,000 couples in 25 years.
That’s the going rate for Cedarville’s Fit to Be Tied, a year-long marital counseling program that seeks to prepare seriously dating and engaged students for marriage. Fit to Be Tied consists of three parts: personality and pre-marriage assessments, five sessions taught by CU faculty and meetings with mentor couples.
Dr. Tom and Amy Hutchison teach the personalities in marriage and communication and conflict sessions. Both of these sessions emphasize communication as an important component in a couples’ preparation for marriage.
“The goal of a program like this is not to give exact answers, it’s never a fill-in-the-blank type thing,” said Tom, a professor of Christian education. “It’s much more about getting [the couples] talking with each other.”
But it’s also about equipping couples. Tom and Amy both used the word “tools,” illustrating their mission to give couples the skills they need to deal with conflict, decisions, and issues like different personalities and family backgrounds.
According to Tom, Fit to be Tied comes at just the right time for couples to talk about their relationship before they begin their married life together.
Tom, who is a Cedarville graduate, pastored at what is now Spring Creek Community Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before coming to Cedarville. While there, Tom and Amy taught a class for soon-to-be and recently married couples, and they found during the first year and half that the couples wanted to talk about things pertaining to their relationship, like communication, finance, in-laws and schedules. After that, the couples wanted the class to cover other topics. As Tom put it, their windows for interaction with and about their relationship had closed.
During Fit to Be Tied, these windows are still open, couples want to talk to each other and other people about their relationship, and they can begin to handle any major issues that may come up during the early years of their marriage.
One way they can do this is through the five sessions, presented on different nights during the school year. These sessions cover the meaning of marriage, personalities and marriage, conflict and communication, finances, and sex and intimacy.
The first session is taught by Jon Wood, vice president of Student Life and Christian Ministries and an assistant professor of theological studies, and his wife Ellen.
Although Jon’s job requires him to be a part of Fit to Be Tied, he said that he and Ellen also want to work with the program.
When the Woods were in college, their relationship was impacted by another couple, and now they want to be the couple doing the impacting.
“We might walk with a dating couple or an engaged couple … in all likelihood they probably are going to get married, which is going to mean, Lord willing, decades ahead of life together and also potentially a family, with them having children, them being members of a church, or churches, throughout their lifetime, all the jobs they will hold — everything that they will do in their lives, we have [the] opportunity to influence,” Jon said.
The Hutchisons are also a mentor couple, which is Amy’s favorite part of Fit to be Tied. She enjoys watching couples learn about themselves and about each other.
Once, a couple that Tom and Amy had mentored asked them to do a marriage retreat at their church, and that stood out to Tom among many other moments over the last 24 years. He has also been asked to officiate wedding ceremonies. Some couples call Tom and Amy on their anniversaries, reminiscing about the history of their relationship, and remembering their time with Fit to Be Tied and the Hutchisons.
Tom also said that times when a couple has a breakthrough or is able to talk about issues that they haven’t verbalized before, and they are better able to understand each other, are all special moments.
Tom said marriage and the family are a big part of being human.
“If you talk to anybody about the most pressing issue in life,” he said, “what they talk about the most, what they think about the most, what has the most significant impact in their lives, is the family.”
People need intimacy, Tom said, and God designed the family, and the marriage relationship within it, to help satisfy that craving.
Tom said that whether students are dating or not, romantic relationships are important to them. And when students are preparing to make their own families, he wants to help them lay a foundation for a healthy one.
Madeleine Mosher is a sophomore journalism major and a Campus News Co-editor for Cedars. When she’s not complaining about homework or having a snack, she enjoys coffee, words, and rock ’n’ roll.