Dr. Danny B Purvis

The Marriage Pyramid (Part 1)

One of the most rewarding jobs I ever had in the Navy was my last job as the Director of CREDO at Camp Lejeune. Without going into detail that would bore most people, CREDO was, simply put, a retreat ministry for the Sea Services. It was an opportunity for members of the Navy and the Marine Corps to take part in weekend retreats away from workin order to better themselves in some way. And while there are a variety of programs designed for that purpose led by CREDO…the most popular and most attended program was the Marriage Enrichment Retreat. That one was also my favorite. So, for the last year and a half of my Navy career I spent most weekends leading Marriage Enrichment Retreats for Navy/USMC members and their spouses. It was a ton of fun.

In fact, working with married couples was one of my favorite opportunities during my two-decade stint in the Navy. I always found it fascinating to see why some marriages made it and others did not. I always found it rewarding to be able to (at times) help these couples come to a better understanding of what it means to really be invested in a marriage rather than just “being married”. In fact, it is probably a conservative estimate to say that I must have engaged somewhere between 1200 and 1600 married couples in that time. There is nothing I haven’t heard…no problem I have not encountered.

You name it…I dealt with it. I wasn’t always successful in this endeavor. Many times I would see these marriages transformed by grace and forgiveness that could only have emanated from God. But often…there were other couples that had hopelessly lost their way never to find it with their spouse again. I always mourned those times as I always cheered the restored marriages. For every success there was, it seemed to me, a failure. I chalked it up to the fact that Jonathan Swift was right when he wrote: “There are none so blind as those who will not see”.  I could see their issues…they were right in front of me. I knew how to fix them…it was obvious (at least to me it was). I could not understand how they could ignore my brilliant insight and even more brilliant solution. How can they ignore my brilliance, I would ask myself regularly. Of course that is the same question I have put to my bride over the last 29 years. It is amazing how often brilliance is confused with buffoonery.

“Many times I would see these marriages transformed by grace and forgiveness that could only have emanated from God.”
So, while it was extremely rewarding working with so many married couples in a counseling context throughout my career, it was also consistently frustrating to see marriages end when they did not have to. Then came CREDO. The couples were somewhat different there than they were in a counseling context. They still had the same issues; it was just that they were being proactive by attending the retreats. They, for the most part, wanted to be there. Too many times in a counseling context one or both members of the union did not want to be there, were not overly interested in fixing their issues, and had resigned themselves that divorce was inevitable. But at the retreats, for the most part, the couples really wanted their marriage to work. They really did love their spouse. They really wanted help. There were some that did not, of course. The Bell Curve guarantees you will always have those folks. But they were the minority. I had a blast leading the retreats.

The retreats themselves were pretty straightforward. After all of the years I had dealing with married couples, I chose to use mostly my own material instead of relying on off the shelf programs. I started off the weekend by administering and interpreting the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator…and later I used a little of the communication stuff from PREP. But the rest was all mine. It never failed that the one section that garnered the most attention and encouraged the biggest response was the last session on Saturday I referred to as The Marriage Pyramid. Time and again I had couples tell me how enlightening it was to them. People would take pictures of the notes I put up on the board. To say it was well received would be an understatement. As a result, I have decided to give an overview of the Marriage Pyramid here on Growth Project for your perusal. I leave it to you to determine its worth. This will not be an exhaustive treatise at all. In fact, I will just be hitting the wave tops with this information. Just a taste to see if this makes any sense to you. I don’t know how many parts this will be divided into…I’ll get done when I’m done. Let me know what you think…does it make sense…is it overtly helpful? I will leave the final judgment up to you. Shall we get started?

Next week we will examine the foundation of the Marriage Pyramid…love. It might not be what you expect so tune in.


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