For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health and until death do us part are powerful phrases familiar to many. Dr. Jacqueline Del Rosario has committed her life and noted research to helping thousands of couples and potential couples to understand and live out the meaning of these words. Known as America’s Top Marriage Coach and for her no nonsense approach and principles on healthy relationships, the educator, advocate and counselor shares her formulas on successful human relations and garners praise from media giants such as CNN, Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise and others. She talked exclusively with Leslie J. Griffin of Detroit CEO Magazine about her passion for couples, evolving in marriage and two new books in the works. Here’s what she had to say.
Congratulations Dr. Del Rosario on everything you’ve accomplished.
Thank you. It is an honor.
Did you always desire to work within the space of coaching? If yes, what was the driving force of your choice?
Well, I remember being captivated at the age of five years old just sitting in my living room and watching a news reel. I really felt that my life would be towards helping people to come into purpose and helping them to be strong and resilient. One of my biggest focuses was toward the emotional realm and how oftentimes we become injured and as a result of the injury, we become emotionally stuck and paralyzed. We don’t really maximize our potential. So with that I just felt that I would have that message, the tools and the modality to really get people moving and also to get people into that place called happy.
How do you shoulder such an awesome responsibility of being America’s Top Marriage Coach?
Well it’s something that I’ve been looking into since I was a little girl. When I heard my mother cry and at five you can only find what you can articulate. But one thing that was very clear to me was that I understood that she was in a lot of pain and that pain was at the hands of a relationship that she was currently in. Remember, I was playing with dolls and racing my bicycle. At that time, I didn’t know anything about that depth of pain. But it was apparent that relationships can cause people a lot of grief and from that perspective I began to always look at how do I stop people from hurting? How do I start to learn to master relationships and teach others to do the same? That has been the quest I’ve been on since way back then. So even though my bio picks up twenty years ago, that’s when I really began to formally do the work. Still I’ve always been what I would consider to be an informal researcher and someone that’s always looking, asking questions and trying to look through the correct lens at the world around me. I always wanted to understand it better and to understand the people living in it. It is funny how things burden us because I’m hearing someone else’s pain but I feel so burdened by it until it changes my life. It literally shifts the trajectory of my life.
We kind of share that same background or that same motivation for becoming Coaches.
Yes and that’s how it began for me and so you can really see it in everything that I do and why do I do what I do. It’s just helping people maximize their potential and to get into that place of genuine happiness because I believe we’re the happiest when we are where we’re supposed to be and when we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re the happiest when we’re surrounded by healthy and vibrant relationships. You hear all the research and how everyone is saying that marriage is dead. I don’t know if you read Dr. Banks’ book about marriage in the black community. He is saying that he thinks marriage is definitely dead. The reason why he is saying it is because the government has agreed marriage among African Americans is down to such a low level now and it’s the lowest it’s ever been recorded. We understand that less than thirty-seven percent of African American children are born into two-parent households. So it is at the center of all of the things that are causing the dawning of this negative transitioning such as academic failure, school drop outs, drug activity, crime and violence. For me it’s that same motivation of wanting to help people stop hurting, that same motivation of getting them into this place called happy and getting their lives on track. That’s why I do what I do.
Do you get same sex couples that come in for counseling?
No one really reveals themselves to me that they are gay or that they’re straight necessarily. We’ve had programs that we offer in public schools to a number of gay couples. We have these programs around the country. For example I was recently at the federal government and they asked me to present to the National Practitioners from around the country. So it happened and my message doesn’t change. I also did a workshop for the military. They brought someone in to do something for MacDill Air Force Base and there was a gay couple there. What happens is I do what I do. I don’t tailor my message and I’m not an expert on gay relationships. I’m an expert on heterosexual relationships. I don’t feel I’m able to speak to that as an expert. I really don’t know because my practice is based on heterosexual couples. That’s a very good question however. But they seem to benefit and everyone seems to benefit from the services because I think there are principles. But that is not my specialty.
What are the current divorce statistics and have they decreased?
The current statistics is forty-nine percent. But let me explain how that statistic is derived. It’s not that they’re looking at a period of more than thirty years or how many people got married in 2000 and then how many of them were still married or divorced at 2030. What they’re doing is looking at every year to determine the number of people that married as opposed to the number of people that divorced. We run with that stat but it’s not a very accurate statistic. But that’s how they come up with it and we still know when we look at the rate of marriage, it is absolutely declining. As we look at the rates for cohabitation they’re definitely increasing. Here is the funny thing about cohabitation. Cohabitation is definitely linked with marriage failure. Only thirty percent of those who cohabitate actually go into being married successfully. And there are seventy percent of those that cohabitate and think that they are very strong indicators for divorce and when researchers asks why, I can only offer a few hypothesis. The first is that I believe a man knows whether you’re the one for him very early on. He may not have all of his things in order and that might delay him wanting to marry you, but typically they kind of know. One reason why people cohabitate is they are not certain whether you’re the one and they’re giving it a trial run. That means the relationship was already shaky and was not very well-defined or committed to and that could be the reason why it sort of correlates with divorce. I have one more thing to add and that’s I feel women don’t recognize and particularly women in this generation, we feel if a man does not choose us that there is something wrong with us. We look at it as rejection but in actuality men are just like you. You have to go to a wedding and you don’t know what you want to wear. You want to go shopping and don’t know what you want until you see it. When you see it you buy it because that is what you want to wear. It’s the same way with men. It gives them time to look at you further and to investigate. The only problem is we do too much sampling while we’re searching. You’re just supposed to search and it’s not supposed to become a sexual relationship so there is really nothing lost. So when he gets close enough and he is able to interact with you he is able to tell you, but there may be something missing. So usually he will move on but it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us. It just means that we are not his one and we respond by trying to do whatever to keep door open and then we are hurt when he moves on usually because we put too much on the table instead of understanding they’re just searching and nobody really knows. We’re all learning this relationship thing and there is nothing wrong with him saying we are not the one.
You’ve worked with hundreds of couples and organizations. What are some things you find that barricade most couples from living in a healthy union?
I think there are two things that kind of run neck and neck. The first one is that most people don’t understand that they don’t even have the proper concept of a relationship or marriage. So if your concept is wrong, your context is always going to be wrong and your outcomes are going to be wrong. Most people come to me about things that they bought into the relationship. You can have a really good marriage and you could find a really good person but if you’re not fit and by the time you finish projecting your issues onto that person and acting out of your past because listen our past can sometimes be a nightmare that we play over and over in our mind. We just script our new love as the leading role. So it’s a nightmare from your childhood. It’s a nightmare from your first marriage. It’s a nightmare from your old girlfriend or boyfriend and now you deflected your new husband or your new wife into the leading role. That just begins to undermine a beautiful thing. The other thing that I mentioned is we have the wrong concept of a marriage. Some people come to a marriage and a relationship wanting someone to make them happy and you’re responsible for your own happiness. This is someone to partner and to share your life with. They’re not responsible for making you happy. Happiness is a decision and if you choose happiness and understand that it is not going to rise up like a white seed and pull you out of danger, then it is really a work in progress and a partnership where you kind of have equal opposites. You’re in for a bumpy ride because your expectation is something that you never get. The only way that you’re going to get it is to turn to the Disney channel and watch Mulan, Simba or Cinderella, but you’re not going to find it in real life.
How likely are people who’ve been divorced more than once or twice able to be successful in marriage again?
The stats are that people that divorce are more likely to divorce a second time. That being said I don’t think the facts are narrative. What I bring to the table is really giving people the formula for healthy marriages. So regardless of whether you had one failed marriage or not, you can plug into this formula and you can have good success. I think the problem is we’ve taught people if they graduate high school and we teach them how to read and write and how to even drive a car but we don’t teach them the two most important things like how to choose a mate and do the right thing called marriage and how to be a good parent. Those are the things that change the trajectory of our generation and our country. Those are so important and we do not teach those. That’s what I’ve done over the course of these twenty years. I’ve read the books, I’ve done the training, I’ve worked with the couples and I’ve lived what I’m teaching.
Social media has produced more wedding counselors than people know what to do with and so much of the information goes after the woman? Why do you think this is?
I agree with you and I’m with you. Things change and I might have come into the relationship twenty-five years ago saying it’s important for me to have this, it’s important for us to do that, and now guess what, life has happened. I’ve changed and things have changed and now that may not be that important to me anymore so it’s not on my list anymore. So we need to move on and plus we also need to make room for the issue of real relationships that they evolve and change as well. Listen everything can’t be the way that it always was. When you get a fifty-five year old body, you tell me when it can do the same things at the same rate that a twenty-five year old body did. Then maybe I can see. But until then, no.
What keeps you going in your own marriage after all of these years and what’s your inspiration to continue helping others?
Well the first thing is that I’ve found a mate that is very compatible with me. That is the first thing and that is what keeps me going first and foremost. The second thing is that we’re both committed to do the work and we’re still committed after almost twenty-five years. So, that’s what keeps me in the midst. As long as he is the right one, he is compatible and he’s still committed to doing the work because listen—the work we did twenty-five years ago is not the work that we need to do today because we’re not even the same individuals we were. We’re all evolving. I was a twenty-seven years old when I came to this thing and now I’m a totally different woman who has had totally different life experiences and so has he. As long as we have that, I’m good. I will continue to do the work for others as long I can see the impact that it has on the couples that I deal with and on the young people’s lives who are saved from family fragmentation as well as the impact that I have on those young people’s lives.
Is marital counseling before matrimony still relevant?
Absolutely, if it’s done correctly. The only problem is that a lot of pre-martial counseling that people have doesn’t help the couple to gage their compatibility or to identify any potential issues. So I think that it’s important that it be done properly and that it’s robust in terms of what it addresses with that couple. I just think there is so much of a variation among what is done or not done and that is the alarm. Sometimes couples aren’t armed with what they need prior to entering wedlock. Number two, I not only think that it should be pre-marital, I believe counseling or coaching should happen throughout the course of the marriage. I really believe in taking care of your marriage. You take care of your teeth and you go to the dentist twice a year. You take care of your car and you tune it up. You take care of your body and you go in for an annual physical. Why don’t we do the same things for marriage? We wait until we are on our last toenail and ready to pack up and leave. Then we pack up and leave talking about going to see someone when this phrase comes to mind, when there is too much water under the bridge. I feel that martial counseling or coaching should be used as tool for maintenance. I want to keep my good thing going great and a witness test for that would be when you’re encountering the same conflict in a relationship—and I have seven pillars that I’ve identified. So you have family, sex, intimacy, religion, disagreements and how to use them. You have martial expectation, and martial roles. So if you’re hitting one of those areas repeatedly and let’s say every time you turn around you’re arguing about something relating to family well that’s something you might need a third voice to help you iron out the wrinkles.
What are some of your favorite books on marriage?
I’m currently working on two books. One is called ‘Don’t Marry A Knucklehead’ which is at the publisher now and the other is called ‘God’s Blue Print For Marriage’. I was addressed by a Christian publishing house that wanted me to do something from that perspective. So you kind of heard an extent of how a man is searching for his other half and from that kind of information, I also have a lot of making it work concepts which are published books and a plethora other curricular items that are being used now to teach marriage and to work with individuals. I have Depth Marriage Keys which is an online resource from Marriage University and through Depth Marriage Keys you can go on there and do the assessment and figure out where the weak links are to your relationships and plug into the university and take the instructional videos that help you walk through those. Then you can post again to see if you’ve strengthened that weak area of your relationship.
Stay connected with Dr. Del Rosario at http://www.DrJacquie.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie J. Griffin is a Certified Life Coach, Celebrity Journalist and Advocate for healthy living. Connect with her on Twitter @OneStopCoach and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheBGLoveProject.