“Communication is critical,” Chaplain (Col.) Steve Moser, Fort Hood Chaplain Family Life Training Center director, said about building a strong foundation for marriage.

Sponsored by the Garrison Chaplains Office, Strong Bonds, marital and premarital counseling, Marriage 101 and Community Connections, assists commanders in building individual Soldier resiliency by strengthening military families.

Pfc. Tyler Moxey, 20, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, attended the Marriage 101 class with his high school sweetheart, Gabrielle Alcazar, 19. Marriage 101 is a requirement for Soldiers who plan to be married on Fort Hood.

“Like anything, if it doesn’t have a good foundation — it just crumbles,” Moxey said about marriage.

“There is no relationship without communication,” Alcazar added.

Marriage 101 teaches marital and premarital couples about the “Seven Principals for Making a Marriage Work,” adapted from a book by John Gottman and “The Five Love Languages,” adapted from a book by Gary Chapman.

Soldiers who take care of small marriage struggles avoid big marriage struggles, Moser said.

“Fights — when you’ve been married 30 years, you’re not worried about. They hurt. You’re mad. They make for a crappy day, but you’re not worried,” Moser said. “But fights when you’ve been married six months, you’re like ‘Are we going to make it?’”

Moser said communication, healthy boundaries, rituals, financial stability, faith, commitment and counseling are key to a successful marriage.  

 “Early on, I decided that the Army will hurt my family, but hurt is temporary. If the Army starts to harm my family, I need to get out,” Moser said. “And harm is permanent.”

Moser, who’s been married for over 30 years, with two adult children and in the U.S. Army for over 25 years, said financial stability is a big problem of military families, along with separation and high off-tempo.

“Financial problems do undermine a lot of marriages,” Moser said. “But it’s what’s underneath that, it isn’t money — it’s what money means. Typically it means security.”

Couples wanting to improve their finances can attend “Financial Peace University,” a nine-week course taught at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel, from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursdays, during Community Connections, a Christian faith ministry.

Chaplain (Maj.) Jim Ramsey, Garrison Family Life chaplain, who’s been married for over 20 years, said communication is also a big problem in military families.

“Most people who come in to see me, for marriage counseling — the No. 1 thing is communication — that’s the No. 1 problem,” Ramsey said. “It’s not that we have lost our ability to communicate, it’s just that we are missing (not understanding) each other.”

Soldiers are encouraged to participate in six counseling sessions prior to marriage, Ramsey said.

“Communication is key, in order to understand people,” Moxey, who plans to marry his fiancé on Fort Hood, said during Marriage 101 class.

Ramsey said he encourages Soldiers to make it a priority to put aside time for their spouse and/or family.

“For a couple that may have never been on a Strong Bonds event, to encourage them to go to the strongbonds.org website or talk to their chaplain and find events that are upcoming and go make it a priority,” he said.

Congress appropriates specific funding for the Strong Bonds program, and often reservations go unused, he said, but it takes the couples to sign up to work on their relationship.

“Discipline, to invest time in my family — my wife, my kids — and sometimes that requires hard choices,” Ramsey said. “We have to maintain our relationships through action and planning and putting it on the calendar.”

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the next Strong Bonds retreat will be from today through Feb. 15.