What price would you pay to save your relationship?
Insincerity, a lack of communication and a fast-paced life are ganging up against relationships and threatening to tear them apart, according to a couple who have been leading marriage preparation courses for 12 years.
Encountering these difficulties so often, Julian and Joanna Sant Fournier wanted to share their experiences by providing tips on how to argue and resolve differences in a constructive way.
That was when the idea for Couple Cards was born, intended to help couples develop the skills to build a strong relationship, encourage them to express their feelings, discuss their differences and resolve them in a loving way.
Sitting side by side at their St Julian’s home, Mr and Ms Sant Fournier, who have been married for 24 years, speak excitedly about how their idea evolved from makeshift cards created from the back of cereal boxes, to the gleaming pink pack straight off the presses.
The Couple Cards are the Sant Fourniers’ idea of a gift and the initiative, which is run on a completely voluntary basis, has only seen the light of day with the help of sponsors who believed in their cause.
“What price would you pay to save a relationship? It’s priceless, so we want to give these cards to couples for free,” Mr Sant Fournier, who is also a Family Court mediator, said.
This is the same giving spirit that led the Sant Fourniers to start doing voluntary work before they got married 26 years ago, setting out to Palermo with the Third World Group to help the sisters of Mother Teresa.
“You could say the seed was sown... that was when we experienced the reality that we went to give, when in fact we received so much,” they said, starting and ending each other’s sentences.
“From that point on it became a way of life, a joy and a source of energy that kept us going till today and led to the creation of Couple Cards,” he said, thanking all those who contributed interesting suggestions that made the cards more relevant.
The cards, which will be officially launched in the coming weeks, are split into four moods: feelings, bad moves, good moves and making up.
It forces couples to address some difficult questions: How much time do you spend connected? What do you gain by dragging up the past? How often do you hurt your partner without realising? Did you ever walk out of the house rather than face the issue? When was the last time you were physically and emotionally close?
And, it also provides answers for the way forward with hints on choosing the right moment to discuss confrontational issues, giving each other another chance and settling the matter with a win/win attitude.
The Sant Fourniers pointed to a feeling card, titled I Am Missing You, and explained how a relationship passes through stages.
For example, when a couple become parents it may be one of the most beautiful experiences, but it can also be one of the challenging transitions.
“Men may feel their sex life has changed; women may feel their partner is not emotionally close. Many cases of infidelity have resulted from the fact that these feelings were ignored,” Mr Sant Fournier said.
His wife added: “If the couple had the skills to discuss these feelings in a constructive and loving manner then there is a strong probability that they will solve the issue and their relationship becomes stronger.”
Couples are encouraged to use the cards in a way that works for them. So if for example, you’re missing your partner, you can pick up the card Please Spend More Time With Me and stick it to the fridge, or leave it under the pillow.
The Sant Fourniers are in the process of organising free workshops where they will explain the concept and give couples a free pack of cards to take back home.
The couple, who lead marriage preparation courses for the Cana Movement – a voluntary organisation within the Catholic Church, stressed that the Couple Cards went beyond religion. This initiative was all about relationships, in whatever form they may be, and love.
“We’re sharing the values we learnt. The whole idea is to get couples to be sincere and share their humanity... If we manage to save even one relationship, we’d have succeeded.”