This analysis / review of the Avalon Home study course is undertaken from my perspective as a Family Therapist and Adult Educator.
The three DVD’s on the Social Construction of
Marriage, Communication and Conflict, and the Key Challenges of Marriage are designed
for use in conjunction with the workbooks supplied. Combined with the bonus supplementary
material this forms an authentic comprehensive and wide ranging programme for all
contemplating marriage and indeed for those in long term marriages and partnerships who are
willing to assess and re-evaluate their relationships.
The videos and bonus material in particular are rich in substance utilizing relevant experts
and up to date research. These videos are fast moving, compact, succinct and engaging. I
found myself wanting to use the pause button so as to slow it down, and so peruse the depths
of the areas covered. The course covers a vast range of topics essential for marriage
preparation including finance, relationships, love, sex, faith, spirituality, parenting and
conflict. More importantly with regards to best practice for adult education, this programme
fosters experiential learning by inviting each member of the couple to reflect on their
personal experiences and to critically reflect on their assumptions.
The programme also takes a social constructionist systemic perspective appreciating that each member of the couple has
values, beliefs and attitudes which they learned and developed prior to entering the couple
relationship. These values and beliefs continue to be alive and well, and are thus consciously
and often unconsciously brought into the couple relationship. Each individual’s past therefore
offers the potential for great richness, possibility, diversity and conflict in the new couple
This is overtly a Catholic pre marriage course. The two PDF’s on faith and spirituality are
rooted in the Catholic Church’s understanding of Marriage. The Church’s Teaching on
Marriage succinctly articulates how Marriage in the Church is seen as, covenant, contract,
community, partnership and family. The Essence of Catholicism positions Christianity, the
Church and Marriage in the context of “salvation history” and is grounded in a traditional
orthodox redemptive theology.
For those couples who are not on solid ground in their relationship and open to change in
their lives, some of the issues raised in this pre marriage course may be disconcerting. This
programme is not for the ‘tinsel’, faint hearted, ungrounded, un-rooted couple. It is for those
who want their relationship to blossom and who are willing to engage, by nurturing the roots
and the ground of their relationship. Couples are invited to address straight direct questions
including for example: attitudes and openness to talking about, money matters and financial
decision making, their personal attitudes to sex and sexual needs and desires, dealing with
conflict and with in laws and outlaws.
As a therapist who has worked with couples for thirty years I am particularly struck by the
forthrightness of the worksheets that address learned old patterns of relating. e.g. “Where
have you learned to argue in the way that you do?” Ways of learning to deal with conflict in
one’s family of origin and unresolved issues from the past, ultimately affect each person and
consequently the couple relationship. Genuine individual and couple engagement in this
programme may well save hours of pain, torment and even separation in the future. More
significantly it may help them to have life in their relationship, in all its fullness. This is not a
therapy course. However it is therapeutic as it facilitates the possibility of allowing some
breath and wind to blow into areas of life that have the potential to become tight and stuck.
This will ultimately benefit the couple, and because it is a home study programme with no
intrusion from an outsider, it can be done at the individual’s and couple’s own pace.
To quote Bateson an old sage from the field of Family Therapy, this programme has the
potential ‘to introduce news of a difference that makes a difference’. The secret is that it is
done in a light hearted, affable manner, that deals with serious matters and the news of a
difference comes across as “not too different”. But this is the difference that makes the
difference. For this reason I strongly recommend this pre marriage course, as it has the
length, breadth and depth necessary for transformational learning. This programme invites
couples to engage in the joy, loveliness and messiness of relationships. This can also be hard
work, but the programme ultimately invites us to enjoy being forever young and open to
” You can muffle the drum, you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command
the skylark not to sing” (Kahlil Gibran).
Liam Roe has taught on the Counselling Skills course in the Community and Adult Education Department, NUI,
Maynooth, for over twenty years and is a member of the faculty of the Masters Programme in Family Therapy,
U.C.D. based in the Mater Hospital, Dublin.
Assessment of the Avalon DVD Pre-Marriage Course.
By Ruth O’ Donnell Family Therapist
I worked in the Health Board for almost twenty-four years as a family therapist. I had a special interest in working with couples.
Having the opportunity to view Mr. David Kavanagh’s DVD Pre-Marriage Course retreat programme brought home to me how couples can be helped at an early stage of their relationship. This is so, because this DVD highlights the common factors facing young people who are ready to commit to a relationship: like their families, their responsibility for their sexual relationship, their relationship to money, how communication and conflict can be managed.
As the couple are guided through the three parts of the DVD along with their handbook, further information is available to them if they wish to go deeper into a particular issue or indeed if they feel they need extra help. What I like about this programme is its honesty about relationships in to-days world. The difficulties are seen as difficulties and they are not pathologised.
This interactive programme gives couples the opportunity to do the pre-marriage course at a time that suits their lifestyle. It also allows for greater honesty between the partners as they have their own privacy.
All in all this is a superb programme, professionally presented with up-to-date and accurate information on couple therapy and knowledge; the natural surroundings and impromptu interviews affirm the course content and give a visual of “life”.
Ruth O’Donnell, PhD.