Fresno Divorce Rate is Down

Fresno, CA Rick and Donna Baker of Fresno got married 15 years ago. After a number of years, they waded deep into financial trouble. Unable to resolve their differences, the couple divorced four years ago. But not more than six weeks after the divorce, they married each other again. Donna Baker says what's different this time is that the couple has support from their church and they've gone through a class called "Mastering the Mysteries of Love." The class has enabled the couple to communicate differently.

Hundreds of couples across Fresno County are taking classes to improve communication in their relationships. The divorce statistics are dropping. Divorce filings in the county have fallen to their lowest rate since 2003, when 3951 residents filed for dissolution of their marriages. In 2006 the number was about the same -3940. But last year the number of divorce filings fell to 3792 – which was a decrease of 3-point-seven percent.

Of course there is no proof the Healthy Marriage Coalition is behind the drop in divorce, but couples like the Bakers believe communication courses like "Mastering the Mysteries of Love" can only help. Rick Baker says some of the tools the course gives you are explanations that you can sit there and listen and share back what your partner has said. He says it's called the "I" mode of empathy.

The Executive Director of Fresno County's Healthy Marriage Coalition won't say good communication skills will keep all marriages together, but he believes couples who are willing to be vulnerable with each other have a greater chance of survival. Ron McLain says, "The first skill is really the one that brings transformation right off the bat. It's a skill that's called "empathy." But it's not just empathy 'here's what I hear you saying' it goes deep into the heart where you crawl up into the heart of your partner and you can imagine what it must be like to be her."

The Bakers still face financial woes. They're both unemployed at the moment. Nevertheless they say their marriage is better than ever.

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