Reshaping the Church

Healthy individuals, healthy marriages

Posted September 14, 2021

by Rachel Freeman

A man in a dark blue sweater with brown circle-framed glasses walked onto the elevated stage of the AT&T stadium in Arlington, Texas. He surveyed the audience of 30,000 men and proceeded to ask questions about how long they had been married for.

“How many of you have been married for over 50 years?”

Out of the tens of thousands of men, only a handful of them stood up, including a man with white hair poking out from under a black and gold veterans ball cap. There was applause throughout the stadium.

Dr. Les Parrott, the man in the blue sweater, beamed on stage.

“No, this was my first experience in working with PK,” Parrott said when asked if he’d worked with Promise Keepers before. “We have partnered with PK on our assessments: (for couples) and (for singles). It was a true honor to speak to all of these men in Dallas.”

Parrott is a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, and is a founder of the Center for Healthy Relationships at Olivet University alongside his wife, Leslie Parrott. Together the two have proven themselves to be relationship experts of sorts, creating multiple programs and assessments such as BetterLove and Yada, to aid couples and individuals on their dating journeys. Parrott and his wife are also co-creators of eHarmony.

“We launched eHarmony with Neil Warren when the internet was in its infancy,” Parrott said. “It was the first online matching site and it was a bit revolutionary. And it was born out of a mission to lower the divorce rate by helping people match well.”

But eHarmony can only do so much to create a perfect match. Looking out at the audience, Parrott shared that the secret to a healthy marriage is healthy individuals. And, attending an event like Promise Keepers is a great place to foster that health.

“As I said from the PK stage, a marriage can only be as healthy as you are,” Parrott said. “So, attending a men’s event like this can be a catalyst to help you become more intentional about becoming emotionally, relationally, and spiritually more healthy.”

When asked what advice he would give to men striving to be in a healthy, God-centered relationship, Parrott had three pieces of wisdom that he offered up.

“First, find a mentor—someone who is a few steps ahead of you in maturity,” Parrott said. “Having a wise person in your life who will invest in you is invaluable. Why? Because a mentor is like a mirror that will raise your level of self-awareness (which is a hallmark of being emotionally and spiritually healthy).”

An event like the Promise Keepers 2021 Conference aids men in Parrott’s second piece of advice. This event does not just help men grow spiritually. The conference encourages men to grow emotionally and socially by providing them with a like-minded support system.

“Second, be sure you are hanging out with guys that you aspire to be like. Why? Because you become who you hang around,” Parrott said.

Parrott’s last piece of advice is probably the most important when seeking a God-centered relationship.

“Third, immerse yourself in God’s Word. Why? Because it’s the roadmap and the only path to become more like Jesus,” Parrott said.

Only a few men stood up when asked how many of them had been married for over 50 years, but the applause throughout the stadium was resounding. While many men in the stadium were married, few had made it to a point in their marriage that was statistically rare.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median duration for a first marriage in the U.S. is only eight years. While that does not mean that marriages in the U.S. usually only last for eight years, it does mean that if a couple makes it to their 10th wedding anniversary then they have beat the odds.

Parrott views personal health as a roadmap for beating the odds, but he also recognizes that the journey to personal health is never ending and should always be encouraged.

“Nobody ever arrives when it comes to emotional and spiritual health. We are all in process,” Parrott said. “Some of us have more challenges in that process, of course, because of the homes we came from or the wounds we’ve suffered—but we are all in process. And, as iron sharpens iron we can help each other in that process, but, ultimately, we have to take responsibility on our own with the Holy Spirit, to work on these matters. And, that means we need to continually work at being in relationship with our Creator. We need to accept God’s love deep in our soul—that’s the foundation for all healthy relationships.

“The more we live in God’s grace, the more we give it to others. The more empathy we have, the healthier we become.”