The roundtable began with a discussion of participants’ experiences researching and working with individuals, families, and couples. Attendees varied in their experience working with marriage education, financial education, and asset building. Their perspectives ranged from experience with research, to program development, implementation, and/or policy. Some entered the discussion knowing little to nothing about the other fields, while others were already enmeshed in the intersections. The meeting began with introducing everyone to the different fields and helping everyone to understand the rationale and practical realities within the three areas.
Initial Starting Points: Participants’ Prior Experience
- Participants’ professional roles ranged from research, program development, implementation and/or policy.
- Some participants had experience working with finances and marriage together in the context of education programs. Others worked in specialized areas and had limited knowledge of the other fields.
- Marriage education was new to many practitioners working on financial literacy and assets development. Similarly, many marriage educators were not familiar with the details of financial education and asset building programs.
- Many participants were new to the idea of addressing these three topics together. Only a handful had been working in integrative efforts that incorporated healthy relationships education, financial education and asset development efforts.
- Some participants began with an understanding about ways in which financial and relationship issues are interrelated.
Some participants from the financial education and asset-building fields did not have a good understanding of the objectives of marriage education programs. Participants wanted to know the exact goals and messages of these programs and how they differed from marital counseling. One commenter wanted to know if marriage education was meant to take a preventive role or if it was meant to help in managing crises. Another expressed concern about the controversy and political history around the field and how these issues may limit openness to collaboration. One of the small groups raised the question of whether there are financial incentives or disincentives involved in marriage services and what effect they may have. In general, there were also questions as to whether the goal of marriage education is to promote marriage, even if this is at the expense of family wellbeing.
Marriage educators also wanted to know more about asset-building programs and wondered if the fields served the same target groups. Early discussion was valuable in enhancing the basic understanding of the goals and methods of each field to create a map for future opportunities to work toward common goals.