By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"I am a conservative and pro-family as well," says attorney Elliot. "But choosing Mark Beach as a poster boy for the marriage movement was a mistake. He pointed a shotgun and asked her to pull the trigger. He was abusive. He was controlling. Bad facts make bad law."
Christi Beach has moved to Austin, where she has started a new life and is contemplating going to culinary school. Besides money, only one thing is holding her back. She is still married to Mark, who continues to contest his divorce. A jury trial likely will hear the case in late summer, nearly two years after the couple separated.
"If their philosophy is to make divorce more difficult to obtain, they have done that," Christi says. "But it's so obvious our marriage is not going to work. So why not be done with it?"
My wife and I had a fight the other night over the ending to this story. I wanted to conclude on a political note, stating that despite my fears about government seeing marriage as an anti-poverty program, about the government legislating morality, about it sticking its nose into every bedroom in America, marriage promotion was well on its way. "How's this for a last line? 'If the Bush administration could convince us that we needed to go to war in Iraq, it should have an easy time selling us on marriage.'"
She thought I was nuts. "How can you equate national security with marriage?"
But this thing could be just as pervasive. "Can you imagine the kind of bumper stickers we will be seeing?" I asked. "'Just say yes'...'Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.'"
"I thought this was about marriage education and relationship skills. What's so horrible about teaching couples how to get along?"
"As long as it's voluntary, nothing."
"How can you be against marriage?"
"As long as it doesn't take away from the programs that really help poor kids, I'm fine with it. Really."
"You're sounding defensive."
I felt defensive, as if my work was under attack. My old style of argument was to turn and run, to avoid conflict rather than confront it. But now I knew better; I was in a healthy marriage. I had to engage and stay engaged. Listen actively, not blame or criticize, not complain without making a request for change. "I hear what you're saying," I said. "The Bush line was below the belt."
She seemed to appreciate the validation, no slouch to self-help lingo herself. "It must be hard not to feel protective about your work."
I agreed, and we hugged each other. Kelly Simpson would have been proud. If I could only get my hands on one of those "little brown goody bags" Simpson passed out in her romance workshop, we could hone our skills even more.