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Initiative proves marriage is a project best built with others

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The Marriage
Marriage early intervention: Nadim El-Rahi, at left, with wife Tamara, Stephanie Jaucian and her husband Albert form half of The Marriage Project team. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Stephanie Jaucian is happily married but starting out as new bride 11 years ago was “a bit of a shock”.

“Even on the honeymoon we couldn’t even agree on a restaurant to go to,” she says. “It was a big change and we realised, or at least I realised, how selfish I was. But marriage is an opportunity to grow.”

Her husband Albert also found it a difficult adjustment and the first five years of marriage “critical”.

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In 2015, the Jaucians were contacted by their friends Sebastian and Ponch Burfitt who had an idea about running regular events for engaged and young married couples to help them start their journeys off on the right foot and form supportive friendships.

With mutual friends Tamara and Nadim El-Rahi they decided to call their idea The Marriage Project and the first event in 2016 drew 80 people from all over Sydney.

The El-Rahi's
Nadim and Tamara El-Rahi (pictured) see The Marriage Project as an important source of support, community, and information to help young marriages survive and thrive. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Today the initiative is run by the Jaucians, El-Rahis, Marc and Minna Yumol and Charlie and Amelia Burfitt, with around three events per year often in a pub in northwest Sydney which include input from expert speakers or more experienced couples.

Although all the organisers are Catholic, The Marriage Project events are promoted widely and are non-religious in content. On 25 May they will host a half-day seminar with popular US-based Catholic podcasters Mike and Alicia Hernon at the Radisson Hotel in Sydney. The topic is Building a Marriage to Last a Lifetime.

Related story: Couples’ course an invaluable help to a better marriage

“I’m always amazed that we study for years and do ongoing professional development for our careers and then expect our marriages to last for a lifetime without putting as much work into them,” says Tamara.

For Nadim it was the pain of discovering that close friends were divorcing within a year of their wedding that made him want to help others.

“That was a huge shock and I didn’t even know they were having troubles and I wish I could have done more,” he says. “I thought if our friends couldn’t open up to us at least this is a way of us maybe opening things up to them. So the timing was perfect.”

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