The usefulness of Marriagecore in helping couples improve relationship satisfaction, relational attachment, and perceived spirituality: An online, mixed-methods evaluation
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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of MarriageCore, a Christian based, multi-couple, 6-month program designed to help couples increase their overall level of relationship satisfaction, improve the quality of their attachment to their romantic partners, and improve their overall sense of spirituality from a Christian perspective. The theoretical lens of attachment theory guided this study, with a special focus on the interplay between each partner’s attachment to God and to one another. There is a substantial research base that documents the usefulness of Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE) programs in helping couples improve the quality of their romantic relationships. Prior to this study, however, no research had been conducted to investigate the usefulness of MarriageCore in accomplishing what it sets out to do. This mixed methods online study investigated the MarriageCore experience of 19 participants who provided information both at the end of their MarriageCore program (Time 1) and at a 6-week follow up (Time 2). The following instruments were used in this study: a demographic survey, the Quality of Marriage Index (Norton, 1983), the Experience in Close Relationship Scale-Short form (Wei, Russell, Mallinckrodt, & Vogel, 2007), and the Spiritual Assessment Inventory (Hall & Edwards, 2002). Participants were also asked a series of open-ended questions designed to further explore their experiences with the MarriageCore program. As part of the demographic section of the study in Time 1, participants were also asked the following two open-ended questions: (1) Please briefly explain your answer to the question above (At this time, how satisfied are you with how MarriageCore has met your expectations); and (2) Please briefly identify what you found most useful about your MarriageCore experience. Furthermore, participants were also asked the following open-ended questions both at Times 1 and 2: (1) In what ways has your spirituality changed because of your MarriageCore experience?; (2) In what ways has your marital satisfaction changed because of your MarriageCore experience?; (3) In what ways has your care for your partner changed because of your MarriageCore experience?. Finally, participants were also asked this final qualitative question in Time 2 only of the study: What are several changes you have experienced in your marriage that you learned through the MarriageCore program? Quantitative and qualitative results converged, suggesting that the majority of research participants found MarriageCore to be a useful program for them as participating individuals. Both the qualitative and quantitative data suggest MarriageCore is useful in regards to helping improve participants’ overall satisfaction with their relationships, their perceived sense of connection (lower attachment anxiety and avoidance) with their partners, and an improved relationship with God in various aspects. Many participants identified different ways MarriageCore benefited their relationships, including helping them reframe how they saw themselves, their partners, and/or their marriage, improvement in communication, togetherness, conflict resolution, and emotional regulation, both in Times 1 and 2. In regards to spirituality, the data suggest that many participants experienced improvement in their relationship with God, which resulted in different ways of perceiving their marriages and their own selves. A small number of participants, however, reported not sharing these same relational or spiritual benefits as the others. A few participants reported not improving their level of satisfaction with their marriages or their perceived sense of spirituality as a result of their MarriageCore experience.