- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Four Americans who exemplify traditional American values will be recognized Thursday when the Founding Spirit Awards are presented at The Washington Times’ 25th anniversary gala at the National Building Museum.

“The Washington Times champions the principles of America’s Founding and the traditional values that allow our society to flourish — freedom, family, faith, and service,” said Tom McDevitt, president of The Times. “We have therefore established the Founding Spirit Awards program to recognize people who are living their lives for the sake of others.”

This is the second in a series of four profiles of the recipients of the Founding Spirit Awards.

“I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore.”

“We got married for all the wrong reasons.”

“I’m not attracted to you anymore.”

“Why can’t you admit that we just made a mistake?”

“I never really loved you in the first place.”

“It’s time to tell the kids it’s over.”

“Does any of this sound familiar? If so, my heart goes out to you,” Michele Weiner-Davis writes in her 2001 book, “The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage.”

But Mrs. Weiner-Davis, who will receive The Washington Times’ Founding Spirit Award at the newspaper’s 25th anniversary gala Thursday, is not ready to let statements like these be a marital death sentence for couples.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis is into combating divorce: She has written six books, three of which are about saving marriages — including “sex-starved” ones — and counseled thousands of distressed couples.

Her core message is that even the most damaged marriages often can be revitalized and there are solution-oriented strategies to recover from severe problems such as infidelity, Internet obsessions, depression, sexual problems and midlife crises.

The vast majority of troubled marriages can become happy, says Mrs. Weiner-Davis, married for 30 years. Although not every marriage can or should be saved, she says, as many as 80 percent to 85 percent of the people she sees “are able to turn it around.”

“In my mind,” she says, “all problems are solvable until proven otherwise.”

Mrs. Weiner-Davis’ message has been called an antidote to America’s divorce-prone culture.

Between the 1940s and early 1970s, America’s divorce rate was relatively low, ranging between 2.0 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population. But it began rising in 1969 and peaked in 1981 with 5.3 divorces per 1,000 population.

Since then, the divorce rate has fallen slowly and by 2005 was at 3.6 divorces per 1,000 population, near the 1970 level.

The declining divorce rate is partly the result of a lower marriage rate. But it also means that the save-your-marriage message is catching on: The federal government now estimates that 43 percent — not half — of first marriages are expected to end in separation or divorce within 15 years.

Research also suggests that divorce is less likely for couples who attended college, married in their mid-20s, had their first child after marrying, have a religious affiliation and grew up with parents who didn’t divorce.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis says that years ago, when she was beginning her career as a licensed marriage therapist and relationship counselor, she thought like many others that “if people were unhappy in their marriages, they should just get out.”

“After all, I told myself, life is short and we all have the right to be happy,” she wrote in “Divorce Remedy.” “But I soon learned the truth about divorce. It doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. In fact, in most cases, divorce creates more problems than it solves.”

“Once I figured this out and truly took it to heart,” she writes, “I stopped being neutral about the benefits of working things out.”

In 1992, Mrs. Weiner-Davis, who is also the mother of two, wrote “Divorce Busting: A Step-By-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again” and created the trademarked “Divorce Busting” program.

Her strategies are clear, practical and heavy on “time, practice and patience.” Repairing a marriage is “hard work,” she writes. “The hardest parts of this program are not the skills you will learn — they are amazingly simple — it’s the application of those skills.” Emotions will “ambush you” from time to time, she warns, but in time, couples can learn to “manage their intense feelings” and stop letting their negative feelings “have a life of their own.”

In 2003, Mrs. Weiner-Davis tackled the problem of marital sex with her book, “The Sex-Starved Marriage: A Couple’s Guide for Boosting Their Marriage Libido.”

“It is estimated that one of every three married couples struggles with problems associated with mismatched sexual desire,” she writes. “I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that a marriage void of sexuality and intimacy is a marriage doomed to fail.”

She reviews physiological and psychological factors, as well as unresolved relationship issues as underlying issues in a sex-starved union, and offers pragmatic suggestions on how couples can rebuild a loving relationship. “For couples struggling with sexual problems, and most do so from time to time, this is the first book I recommend,” marriage researcher Howard J. Markman, co-author of “Fighting for Your Marriage,” wrote of Mrs. Weiner-Davis’ 2003 book.

Her seventh book, called “The Sex-Starved Wife: What to Do When He’s Lost Desire,” is due out in January.

Mrs. Weiner-Davis, whose offices are in Boulder, Colo., and Woodstock, Ill., is a popular public speaker and will appear next month at the Smart Marriages conference, sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, in Denver. Her work has been featured in dozens of media outlets and she has received the American Association of Marriage and Therapy’s “Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Marriage and Therapy” award and Smart Marriages “Impact” award.

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