HILL AIR FORCE BASE – More often than not, Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Baker sees couples who waited far too long to receive help, resulting in a relationship in turmoil.
It’s not just a problem in Utah, but widespread at bases across the country, prompting the directive for bases to promote the Strengthening Interpersonal Relationships campaign during the month of October.
“Based on what I do see, it’s still the case that a smaller percentage come for help than need help and it’s not unusual for people to come in after everything’s off the rails, so by the time they come see me, there is already violence because they don’t know how to talk with each other, and now we’re not hoping for a good conversation, we’re trying to keep one person safe,” Baker said.
Most people have no training, and don’t know how to be married, Baker states, and data coming back to command is showing trends going in the direction of relationships in crisis, so bases are trying to determine what can be done at the base level to get in front of the downward cycles and turn the data around.
“The question is how do we engage and get out in front of domestic violence and suicides?” Baker asked, suggesting the answer is simply remarketing programs military and civilian employees already have access to on and off base for relationship counseling and relationship classes.
Resiliency is a big focus for military family relationships, and too often when overall resiliency is in question, Baker says it is not unusual to find a failed intimate relationship at the core. “I see strong and healthy relationships as the bedrock to people’s overall resilience. When we get that part right, focusing on our intimate relationships, life is more satisfying and complete,” Baker said. “When intimate relationships are good, generally a person can weather just about anything, but when there are huge cracks in that foundation, people have a hard time weathering the rest of life.”
Baker is hoping the message they share with military and civilians at Hill AFB will take away the barrier that prevents couples from getting help early on. “We are here to be helpful to people, and we know how to do it,” Baker said, referring to options for free counseling and intervention, “people can receive from the chapel, but Family Advocacy, the Health and Wellness Center, and within the Tricare system.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, qualities of a healthy relationship include strong two-communication, commitment, trust and support, honesty and respect, ability to laugh at self and the world, appreciation and thoughtfulness, willingness to compromise, and fighting fair when resolving conflict.
When couples come in for premarital counseling, the date is usually already set for the wedding, and the couples simply want to get in a few counseling sessions before the big day. However, Baker suggests couples come in and start getting counseling before even beginning to date. Many of the couples he has counseled expressed regret in not having come in sooner. “Everything is backwards, so we do the best we can, and hopefully for this month, we can try and get out in front of this as best we can,” Baker said.