SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Three years ago, a young couple struck out to begin a life together with the hope of happiness amid all the challenges that faced them. One deployment and a permanent change of station later, their marriage is one signature away from ending.

With more than 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, programs are put into place to help improve communications between married couples. Since 1999, the Strong Bonds program was developed to assist soldiers and families.

The chaplain-led program utilizes different tools and programs to train and teach those seeking assistance for improvement, both individual and relational.

One of these programs, The Five Love Languages, was put to use during a couples retreat hosted by 85th Civil Affairs Brigade ministry team, here, Aug. 23-25 that more than 15 Fort Hood-based couples attended.

Maj. Joe Coolman, a Civil Affairs Planning Team officer with 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, and Maj. Katy Coolman, a Military Information Support Operations officer assigned to 1st Cavalry Division, are one couple taking advantage of the opportunity to reconnect after an extended period of separation due to deployments and differing duty assignments.

"We were separated for the better part of three years," said Joe Coolman. "So it's like we are newlyweds again."

"This retreat is a nice refresher," said Katy Coolman.

The Five Languages program focused on unique ways people send and receive messages of affection with their significant others which varied from words of affirmation to physical touches. The couples explored which languages they spoke, as well as their partner.

The duration of marriage varied from couple to couple, from newlyweds with just three weeks together, to couples with more than 10 years. Utilizing surveys, lectures and couples discussion time, the program sought to transcend all levels of marriage experience, offering useful information for everyone.

"I never knew how happy Nick was with our relationship," said Jackie Arkells, spouse of Spc. Nick Arkells, a legal specialist assigned to 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. "During this retreat, I found out that his tank is at a nine."

This love tank, as referred to in the Five Languages program, provides participants the opportunity to assign their level of happiness a numeric value.

"It's ridiculous how simple it is to make each other happy," said Spc. Arkells.

Having just over a year married, the Arkells represented one of the younger married couples. Sgt. 1st Class Armin Englerth and wife Jessica, however, have more than 10 years married and learned how one another express and accept apology.

"Learning about our apologies seemed to be the most useful information," said Jessica Englerth.

"Overall, the retreat gives us another tool to help us along in our relationships," said Sgt. 1st Class Englerth, the chemical noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. "There wasn't one particular thing that I can say stood out more than the other."

Five Love Languages is a series developed by Gary Chapman, director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants services, and adopted by the Army Strong Bonds Program as a tool to train and teach soldiers and their families.

The Strong Bonds program began in 1999, growing from just a small participant group of 90 couples stationed within the 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii. A study completed in fiscal year 2010 showed a 50 percent reduction in the divorce rate of military families.

More than 160,000 soldiers and Family members have participated in more than 2,600 events across the globe. For more information or to find a Strong Bonds event, contact your unit chaplain or visit www.strongbonds.org.

Page last updated Tue September 4th, 2012 at 00:00