Associate Professor of Social Work Mike Duxler is recommitting himself to marriage by giving talks to the Wichita community.
Duxler, who has been speaking on the topic of marriage throughout the year, said the talks focus on creating an open dialogue about problems in marriage.
“The theme centers around the power of relationships that we have with other people,” Duxler said. “I particularly focus on healthy, vibrant marriages in that they are the most complex, challenging type of relationship on the planet.”
The content of his talks comes from a study that he, among many others, facilitated at Newman from 2006 to 2012 titled “Marriage for Keeps.” Newman was one in only eight sites in the country to do this research.
“We had worked with over 450 married couples in a control group. They were low income with small children. From that 450, we had cohort groups of 12 couples every 12 weeks and we began to teach them some skills that are fundamental to what optimal couples possess,” he said. “The focus of this study was ‘Are these skills teachable to a couple?’ If they are, how much of an impact does it make?”
In the study, Duxler’s team was able to learn what they called “powerful predictors” of how marriage can improve.
“The research is replete full of problems in marriages, but what is more difficult is what to do about it. We weren’t interested in quick fixes,” he said. “We were interested in how this can impact couples over time, so we followed them for three years after they’d been in the treatment.”
Through the study, Duxler’s team found that staying married is the strongest pathway out of generational poverty. This discovery led Duxler into the political realm.
“There were probably a half dozen times I’ve gone to D.C., among others, talking to congressmen, aides, and senators about how this can impact social policy and how it can be a solution for some people caught in generational poverty to transcend it,” he said.
After a few years, the project flew by the wayside, but when Duxler saw the needs of the Wichita community, he picked it back up.
“I began getting involved with some people here in the community. We were doing some community visioning and thought, ‘What if we started to disseminate some of this information just here in Wichita?’
“I dusted off some of the things we had learned, and I have redoubled my commitment to trying to foster a community of people interested in really committing effectively to their marriage.”
Duxler said that anyone can dedicate themselves to understanding their relationship.
“My wife, from time to time, will say, ‘Are you sure you’re an expert in marriage?’ and my response to her is ‘There are no experts — only those who are open to learning and growing and those who aren’t.’
As a part of Marriage for Keeps, Duxler said they gave out T-shirts to parents and kids.
“We have this T-shirt where on the front it says, ‘We have issues,’ and on the back, it says, ‘But we’re working on them,’” he said. “And that’s the message that I want to present.”