- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A program designed to strengthen marriages and lower the Oklahoma’s divorce rate has received almost $70 million in state funding since 2004.

Kendy Cox, director of Project Relate, formerly called the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, said the program is educating people about relationships. They are more knowledgeable about marriage and are investing in the relationship during their engagement, Cox said.

“We are in a new era about the way people think about marriage,” Cox said. “You can go to any bridal fair and see couples in that stage of life. They are excited about the future. They are not thinking flippantly about the institution of marriage. They believe in it and are doing what they can to make it work.”

Nationally, divorce rates peaked in the 1980s when nearly 50 percent of marriages ended. Oklahoma has been following the national trend, with the state’s divorce rate falling by 31 percent since 1990, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/19kF9Ak ).

But as fewer divorce decrees have been issued, fewer marriage licenses are being filed. In 1990, there were more than 33,000 marriage licenses issued statewide. But by 2005, that number had declined to about 27,000.

An incentive for couples to look past the wedding and think about the marriage is a law that discounts a license from $45 to $5 with proof of pre-marriage counseling.

Project Relate offers a variety of workshops, ranging from targeted programs for divorced parents or rocky marriages to marriage preparation for engaged couples who often don’t have the history of conflicts and challenges that come with time.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” Cox said. “This is the time to talk about issues like gender roles or parenting styles. Even simple, everyday things, like who is expected to mow the lawn.”

Project Relate was created to strengthen family life, particularly for children. It may have started out focusing on marriage, but it has evolved.

“We shifted to improve the quality of all kinds of relationships, not just marriage,” Cox said.


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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