Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!



Marriage Work-Out

A Marital Enrichment Online Workbook

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D., CCMHC, NCC, DCMHS-T
Table of Contents
Preface (Below Table of Contents)
Prologue (Below Table of Contents)
Introduction (Below Table of Contents)
Chapter 4: Fighting Fairly
Chapter 10: Financial Aerobics


It has been a long time since Marriage Work-Out was published and for years I had wanted to upload it to our website but was never able to get it done due to time constraints. Well the time had finally come this spring when I was assigned to teach a Marriage and Family Course for Troy University. That was motivation enough to get me to edit and revise this book. In the process, my wife Connie came across the following poem which I had given her on the occasion of a surprise 60th Birthday celebration. I wrote the poem to explain the message involved in the diamond bracelet I gave her on that special occasion. I think this poem encapsulates the message we are trying to send out to all couples: Your relationships will be rewarded if you make the time to Work-Out!


The Bracelet

A heartfelt gift for her birth and first six decades

A life filled with grace, wisdom, and flare.

A symbol as meaningful and true,

As its wearer’s veracity, intellect and charm.

Made of precious metals and stones to remind all,

Of the recipient’s value to all she knows and loves.

A golden soul guardian from lengthy heated purifying,

So too the bearer purified by challenges of life and pain.

A circle of links with no beginning or end,

As eternal and perfect as her tethered love to all.

A permanent token as faithful and true,

As she is soul mate, lover, and friend to me.

A joy that keeps on giving, just like

Her offspring are nurtured, supported and loved.

Diamonds of permanence and strength, remind all she is

Guided by faith, love, and hope in her God’s eternal power.

A gift received in humility, reminds all

She is long on goodness and short on greed or guile.

A loving offering of praise and admiration,

To a one-of-king gem and masterpiece.


On the occasion of your 60th Birthday!

Happy Birthday Connie, the love of my life!

With gratitude for your gift to me!



Connie’s and my wish is that you couples who use this workbook will be able to one day be able to look back and say: “the time we spent in our Marriage Work-Out was well spent and a gift that keeps on giving for the entirety of our married lives together."

Have a great Work-Out!

Jim Messina

May 24, 2015


• • • The Durites (do-rights)have always been considered a model couple by their firends. Joshua Durite, 40, is a business executive. Lois Durite, 39, was a full-time housewife until last year whe she returned to graduate school. They have two children, Courtney, 16, in eleventh grade of a private high school and Justin, 13, in a public school eighth grade. The Durites decided on their 18th Wedding Anniversary that they should file for divorce. What happened? Why were they getting a divorce? How could such a happy couple do this? Joshua is planning on moving out of the house and Lois is returning to the workforce. Courtney will stay at the private school, but she will need to get a part-time job to cover expenses. Justin is staying at his old school. Lois and the kids will remain in the family house. 
When Joshua announced their plans he said, "Lois and I no longer believe that our marriage will work-out. Lois agreed it was useless to continue to try to make the marriage work-out• • • 

Are you and your partner like Lois and Joshua, or could you be? Have you given up on your marriage? If you are ready to exercise your minds and hearts to enrich your marital life then Marriage Work-Out is for You!

Introduction to Marriage Work-Out

Goals of Marriage Work-Out

Eric Fromm, in the Art of Loving said that love is the overcoming of human separateness and the fulfillment of the longing for union with another.

Love involves four components:

  1. Caring, the active concern for the life and growth of our loved one.
  2. Responsibility, the ability to be ready to respond to our loved one.
  3. Respect, the concern that our loved one should grow and develop as is, rather than how I want it.
  4. Knowledge, which is achieved through union with our loved one.

The intent of Marriage Work-Out is to assist couples to grow in love by a caring and responsible use of the exercises in it. In this way, they will gain an increased respect for and knowledge of one another.

Mature Love is a union in which each partner's integrity and individuality is preserved. Marriage Work-Out was developed on the premise of the "dynamic balance," that is balancing the need to compromise with the need to maintain one's own identity. This book requires the partners to work at nurturing their love to its full maturity. Any holding back by one or both partners will decrease the effectiveness of the individual exercises and make the "Work-Out" more a chore than a loving, growth-enhancing experience. In love there is a paradox that two unique beings become one and yet remain two. This book stands in awe of this reality.

The physical union of love is a way in which two lovers can overcome separateness and is only partially motivated by the need for tension release. If the desire for physical union is not stimulated by love this "union" leaves the partners as strangers and more isolated than before they became involved. Many couples live their entire married lives in isolation and loneliness. The purpose of Marriage Work-Out is to enhance the physical union by nurturing the emotional and spiritual union.

Many people view the problem of love primarily as that of being loved rather than of loving. This is a self-centered or narcissistic approach to love relationships. In order for love to work, both parties must realize the circular nature of love - giving love means receiving it. In Marriage Work-Out both parties must be ready to give as well as to receive. Identifying and sharing feelings, fears, attitudes, beliefs, values, knowledge and ignorance will occur in these exercises. Practice in giving and receiving will result in the deepening and maturing of the couple's relationship. A 100% commitment to openness and honesty is essential to gain the optimal results from this work-out. Any holding back or waiting for the other partner to show "true colors" will slow down the process and retard possible growth.

Love is a reciprocal arrangement. One behavior begets another behavior. In Marriage Work-Out, the exercises are arranged to encourage partners' reactions to each other's behaviors, insights, ideas or challenges. To do this requires the partners' willingness to share unselfishly so as to encourage each other.

To love another I first must be able to love myself. Marriage Work-Out is set up to assist individuals to better understand themselves so that they wil 1 be able to meet the task of accepting the other. If I don't love myself and have no practice in this behavior, how will I ever be able to really love my partner fully? Use of the exercises will stimulate self-awareness, helping each individual accept her or himself despite all the frailties which make all of us human.

A truly loving union results in the couple turning their love outward and sharing it with others. Marriage Work-Out respects the need for altruism and productivity in loving relationships. Therefore, many of the exercises deal with how couples relate to their own children, parents, relatives, friends, co-workers and colleagues. 

Organization of Marriage Work-Out

Marriage Work-Out is organized into 11 Chapters. Chapter 1 contains self-assessment exercises with which the couple can identify the health of their relationship and then chart a course of action. Chapter 2 provides the couple with a short training course in the key elements of Communication: (A) Listening (B) Facilitative Responding and (C) Problem Solving. Chapter 3 is a short assertiveness training program to help the partners become more aware of their individual rights and yet to respect the rights of the other. Chapter 4 is a set of exercises to help the couples to learn to fight in a fair way in order to resolve their conflicts and complaints. Chapter 5 is a set of exercises to assist the individuals to diagnose what personality characteristics they bring to the marriage and how these might influence the healing of the relationship. Chapter 6 focuses on the different value and belief systems of each partner to clarify the differences and reduce the conflicts arising from opposing points of view. Chapter 7 is a burnout short course to help the couple take preventive action to reduce the possibility or influence of burnout in their marital relationship. Chapter 8 is an attempt to get the couples to identify how they could more productively utilize their time. Chapter 9 is a sexuality primer designed to open up the channels of communication between the partners on this topic. Chapter 10 is focused on the financial ramifications of the marital relationship with the intent of the couple making sounder financial plans for the future. Chapter 11 addresses the couple’s openness to family and children with some short "parenting" tips.

Each Chapter begins with an assessment exercise. The entire chapter is filled with discussion generating exercises for the couple. Taking each question or item in each exercise in all chapters gives the couple enough discussion topics to last a life time. At the end of each chapter is an action planning exercise which helps the couple decide on further follow-up activities to stimulate their growth in love. This book is intended to be used and reused by a couple to help REKINDLE lost or forgotten promises, hopes, and dreams and result in REIGNITED love and commitment. 

How to Use Marriage Work-Out

Ideally, each partner should work online independently with Marriage Work-Out. Read the entire book on your own before proceeding to do any of the exercises, so that you can become familiar with the contents of the book first. Then begin with Chapter 1 and do each assessment exercise one at a time. In Chapter 1 the first exercise is the Marital Status Inventory. This exercise will help you recognize which Chapters of the book you as a couple most need. A marriage work-out should be planned based on the results of the 4 exercises in Chapter 1. Take the next Chapters of the book in any order you wish, based on your self-assessment. However, if you have no preference, follow the order presented in the book since it is based on a sequential skills-building model. At the end of each chapter  you have a follow-up action plan exercise by which you can commit to ongoing Work-Out to address unmet needs as they arise. An alternative way of using this book is to pick out specific exercises or activities to do jointly when a specific issue arises. In this way you can let the exercise help you both objectively deal with a problem and hopefully come to a more productive resolution. 

How Much Time Will it Take?

If this Work-Out is to be successful in energizing a marriage, partners need to guarantee each other a minimum average of thirty minutes daily for a joint Work-Out session. This can be accomplished by: two daily fifteen minute blocks of time; or one thirty minute session; or two weekend sessions of one hour and forty five minutes each; or five individual sessions of forty five minutes each; or a single weekly three and a half hour session; or whatever arrangement of time a couple chooses.

To get the most out of the couple's joint Work-Out sessions the individual partners should do the required independent tasks and homework prior to the joint session and be prepared to discuss them. This will ensure that the Work-Out sessions are spent in loving communication rather than in filling out and scoring forms or silent reading. At the end of each joint session the couple needs to plan for the next Work-Out by assigning homework to be done individually before they meet again.

Marriage Work-Out can be used as the text of marital enrichment workshops and weekends. It is impossible to do all exercises in such events however. This online workbook is to be used at home to provide the couples a follow-up to their "classroom" experiences.

To gain the most from any Marriage Work-Out, a couple must give each other enough time to:

(1)  do the exercises and follow up activities

(2)  absorb the learning

(3)  practice the skills learned

(4)  change

(5)  grow.

Loving is a lifelong activity - it takes a life time. Once a couple has completed all of the exercises and follow up action plans in Marriage Work-Out they are encouraged to revisit the Work-Out on an "as needed" basis over the years to review, remind and re-love. 

Who Should Use Marriage Work-Out?

This book is intended as a self-directed guide for any couple who is married, engaged, living together, or planning on getting together in the future. This book can be used by trainers who conduct Marital Enrichment courses or by educators conducting Marriage and Family Life courses. This book can be used by couples as an adjunct to therapy, for homework assignments. If a couple using this book finds that they are getting themselves into deep water, it is imperative that they seek professional help to work through any problems which arise. This is a hands-on workbook. It does not present any sophisticated theory or research. It is intended to be used, over and over again. The more journals you have responses to this book scribbled in, the more this book has been used - Hopefully for the good of your relationship!

Caution Advisory

You as a couple are the best judges of what is right for you both to make your marriage work-out. Feel free to disagree as a couple with the author of these exercises. I have written this book based on what I believe to be good for married couples. Much of what is in this book may be generally applicable to your personal circumstances. Some of what is in this book might not apply to you. Use your common sense and trust your judgement as you use Marriage Work-out. You are to be congratulated for being interested enough in your marriage to even be reading this online book. Good luck and have a successful Marriage Work-out. 


Jim Messina