The scent of pastries and coffee wafted out of the Watters Center on March 14. Couples milled around gift-bag laden tables, clearly curious about the six hours before them.

Max Marriage Couple’s Resiliency Training is a day-long marriage seminar hosted by the Garrison Chaplains Office. Offered quarterly, the training is open to 12 preregistered couples. There are no prerequisites, and both new and seasoned married couples are welcome.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Douglas Peterson has been running the program since July 2013. A veteran counselor and Soldier, Peterson has a soft spot for young military marriages that he often sees falling apart.

“I want to provide our young people with a day of training that gets them back to the basics,” he said. “ We’ve partnered with Protestant Women of the Chapel, and they do a great job putting these things together. They even provide free lunch and childcare.”

After many Strong Bonds retreats dried up due to lack of funding, Peterson felt the need to provide couples with the practical tools needed to build strong marriages.

In his own charismatic style, Peterson presented some of the challenges that most marriages face. Couples were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their finances, an activity that drew many underhanded comments from the participants.

Rolling out a sheet of white paper, Peterson then asked the couples to come up with some of the top conflicts marriages face. Couples collaborated for answers, and came up with topics like children, money and work.

Peterson discussed these common conflicts and how to face them in the context of the military lifestyle.

“Most of this material I adapted from the book ‘The Five Love Languages,’ said Peterson. “I talk about differences, connections, communicating for effect, and creative conflict. These are all topics that are extremely important to a strong marriage.”

Many of the couples began to open up as the morning progressed.

Kim and Timothy Mitchell were one of the more seasoned couples at the event, and they said they were enjoying the time together.

For other couples, the training was a chance to relax and put the kids in daycare for a couple hours.

Max Marriage gave them the chance to focus on each other for a change. That is Peterson’s goal — to build stronger Army marriages. Even if it’s only a few couples at a time.