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The marriage rate has plunged 50% since 1970.  >  Half of all new marriages end in divorce.  >  Cohabitation diverts tens of millions of the marriage eligible from ever marrying.  >  Those who marry after living together are 50% more likely to divorce.  >  More than 5.4 million couples live together outside of marriage.  > 
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Group aims to help area singles find lasting love

Group aims to help area singles find lasting loveby Katherine Mullen
Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net
Staff Writer
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007

Dating in 2007 hardly resembles the traditional courtship of your parents' generation.

Driven by changing social attitudes, many singles group date, speed date or log on to online dating services to find and marry Mr. or Ms. Right.

In order to help singles of all ages find the right person to marry and avoid unnecessary heartache, Amy Gilford, community relations director for the Marriage Resource Center of Carroll County, is partnering with Marriage Savers of Frederick County to teach "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk⁄Jerkette." The new, four-hour workshop began Nov. 12 and continues Nov. 19.

Gilford believes that young people don't know how to date or even what a date is supposed to be. The loss of family guidance, an increasingly mobile society and increased cohabitation of unmarried couples have all shaped the modern dating scene, Gilford added.

"I want people to look at this before they're in a romantic relationship. There's so much out there that's not working," Gilford said before the class began. "We believe in marriage. We don't believe in the hook-up culture."

Marriage Savers of Frederick County is a faith-based nonprofit organization that works to strengthen and preserve marriages and reduce the rate of divorce and cohabiting unmarried couples in the county. Fifty percent of marriages in Frederick County end in divorce, according to the organization's Web site.

Monday was the first time that Marriage Savers of Frederick County offered the workshop at a cost of $40 per person for two classes. Ten single men and women attended the first class at the Frederick County Family YMCA.

John Van Epp, a marriage counselor and former minister, developed "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk⁄Jerkette," through a series of five videos for individual use, or by instructor certification. The workshop's goal is to balance the emotions between head and heart, so that singles can better predict what a partner would be like in a marriage before the ink dries on the marriage license.

Gilford has already taught two such workshops and often does shortened presentations to community groups in Carroll County.

The Rev. Robert Donk, executive director of Marriage Savers of Frederick County, said the nonprofit wants to offer the class on a regular basis not only to older singles, but also to youth groups, older teens and parents. Registration is closed for Monday's class and a date hasn't been set for the next workshop.

Using the program's workbook and introspective questions as a guide, Gilford instructed the group of singles to first take time to know a person, then trust, rely, commit and finally, engage in sexual expression only when married.

Advancing through these stages in order, and not moving too quickly allows a relationship to progress safely, Gilford said.

Katie Kosola of Green Castle, Pa., said she did everything backward during a three-year relationship that ended badly. Raised in a Baptist household with traditional values about love and dating, "I have an appreciation for the guidelines they suggest here," Kosola said. After her break-up Kosola said she channeled her energies into other activities for a year and decided to go back to the "old-fashioned" values of her upbringing.

Gilford instructed the class to know a prospective spouse's family background, attitudes and actions, compatibility, previous relationships and communication skills.

Focusing on yourself while single and knowing what you want out of a relationship is just as important, Kosola added.

How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk⁄Jerkette'

Don't date someone who has:

Do: Marriage Savers of Frederick County:

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