Innovative education for revitalizing communities

Shirley Johnson and T. Williard Fair
T. Williard Fair, President of the Urban League of Greater Miami and Chairman of the Florida Department of Education, right, with Miami-Dade County Public Schools Supervisor Dr. Shirley Johnson at PAIRS class at the McDuffie Center in Liberty City, Florida.

Strong, nuclear families are the foundation of revitalized communities and the lives of children, T. Williard Fair, President of the Urban League of Greater Miami, said yesterday to the Liberty City Elementary School faculty members participating in their second week of PAIRS relationship skills training at the organization’s nearby McDuffie Center. Fair is also chairman of the Florida Department of Education. While acknowledging the educators and support staff for their dedication to youth, Fair highlighted the critical role two-parent families must play creating an environment that supports the growth and success of children.

Dr. Shirley Johnson at Liberty City Elementary School
Dr. Shirley Johnson engages Liberty City Elementary School students in a PAIRS exercise for understanding and expressing emotions. Parents of fourth and fifth graders are attending Saturday morning classes offered at the school.

Dr. Shirley Johnson, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Regional Supervisor, responded that Mr. Fair’s comments reflect the goals of programs being offered by PAIRS Foundation to the parents of Liberty City Elementary School’s children and nearly 1,000 other adults and teenagers who participated in PAIRS classes during the previous year.

Emptying the Emotional Jug
Dr. Shirley Johnson practices PAIRS Emptying the Emotional Jug exercise with Brian, a 29-year staff member of Liberty City Elementary School.

“PAIRS classes make a lasting differences for the participants, including many whose ability to create and sustain healthy interpersonal relationships with peers, spouses, and within marriages and families is critical to their success in school, the well-being of children, and the future of our neighborhoods,” Dr. Johnson said. She praised PAIRS team members for their success working with diverse populations within the schools, including delivery of classes in English, Spanish, French and Creole.

“Your organization’s innovative approach to relationship skills training was well received across highly diverse audiences, from expectant teenager mothers, Haitian and Hispanic immigrants, to teens and adults who face enormous challenges in their daily lives,” Dr. Johnson said. “From our previous experience with PAIRS, we have every reason to expect positive, enduring benefits,” she added.

Seth Eisenberg, President of PAIRS Foundation, said the organization is able to deliver relationship skills and marriage education classes to South Florida’s high school students and adults as a result of grant funding received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Mr. Eisenberg said in addition to the Liberty City program, classes are beginning in local Hispanic and Haitian churches.

“There’s an enormous need for effective relationship skills training to help strengthen marriages, families, and entire communities,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “Our efforts are helping fathers connect with their children, spouses and partners. Couples are learning skills and strategies for sustaining lasting, healthy, joyful marriages. Time and again, we see the immediate impact in the faces of their children.”


PAIRS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is one of the nation’s oldest and leading providers of relationship skills training. For more information and a schedule of upcoming classes, visit or call (877) PAIRS-4U (724 7748).

Later this year, several thousand marriage and relationship skills educators from across the nation will gather in Orlando, Florida for the 14th Annual SmartMarriages Conference hosted by Mrs. Diane Sollee. Learn more at

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What is PAIRS?

Intimacy is critical to the process of developing and sustaining close relationships, now a major concern in our culture. Modernization has shifted the primary function of marriage from providing security, stability, and raising children to developing a lifetime of love and intimacy. In previous generations successful marriages depended upon duty and role competence. Modern marriages require greater interpersonal competence as well as equality between partners. Relationships are sought that not only create stable families but also provide partners with a lifetime of love and companionship.

The PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) programs, developed by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D., provide a comprehensive system to enhance self-knowledge and to develop the ability to sustain pleasurable intimate relationships. Gordon's approach integrates a wide range of theories and methods from psychology, education and psychotherapy and presents them in an educational format. PAIRS acts to bridge therapy, marital enrichment, and marriage and family development.

Programs: Courses and Workshops

PAIRS offers programs to the public led by PAIRS Trained Professionals (licensed health care professionals), and PAIRS Instructors (certified clergy and educators), trained under the auspices and supervision of Gordon and the PAIRS Foundation, the organization that officially oversees PAIRS programs, products and licensing worldwide. There are PTPs and facilitators around the world. Check “Finding an Educator” to find one near you or near one you love who may need PAIRS.

PAIRS is effective in all populations for which it has been adapted. PAIRS has relationship skills training programs for children and youth, PAIRS for PEERS, that are taught in schools, churches and agencies. PAIRS has programs for the Military, for use by chaplains and family service workers. PAIRS has faith-based programs for the Jewish, Catholic, and Christian church communities. PAIRS is currently developing programs and program delivery systems for disadvantaged youth, unmarried families, single parents, domestic violence, prison parolees, and related groups who can benefit from relationship skills training. PAIRS provides a vital ingredient to build stable marriages and healthy families with more hopeful futures for children. These programs for special groups will be taught by local agency workers and by specially trained community teachers and mentors. Research on PAIRS has demonstrated that PAIRS works for all groups under all circumstances evaluated. PAIRS is a modern technology adapted to our rapidly changing society in behalf of creating a saner, safer more loving world.

What you will learn in PAIRS

Sustaining a pleasurable intimate relationship does not work by magic. It depends upon a set of skills and understanding that can be learned. We learned most of what we know about intimate relationships through our early experiences in our families. Our personal history has a great deal of influence on what happens in our current relationships - on our behavior, our feelings, our expectations. We can change these influences if we become aware of them and wish to. It is well worthwhile to sort through what we inherited, keeping what fits for today and changing what does not.

PAIRS Competencies are specific skills that you will learn from PAIRS. These competencies focus in three areas: 1) emotional literacy; 2) conjoint partner skills for building and maintaining intimacy; and 3) practical knowledge, strategies and attitudes for sustaining positive marriage and family life. You may click on the above links to see a listing of the skills taught in PAIRS.

The Goal of PAIRS is a relationship that both partners can live with joyfully. For this to happen, each partner must become able to identify his or her own feelings and needs, and learn to communicate them in such a way that they can get met. This means communicating one's needs and desires without making the other partner feel resentful, smothered, burdened, manipulated, or inadequate. Easily and fully meeting each others' needs is the foundation of intimacy, fulfillment, and happiness.

PAIRS teaches specific easily learnable tools for successful communication such as confiding, complaining, and clarifying and for effective problems solving such as managing anger, expressing anger safely, fighting fairly for change and eliminating dirty fighting. PAIRS also guides the vast deepening of self-knowledge and develops emotional literacy. PAIRS addresses pleasure and satisfaction by teaching skills to enhance bonding, sensuality and sexuality in marriage. PAIRS teaches a profound but simple model, the Relationship Roadmap, to understand relationship success and to understand relationship mishaps and know what to do about them. PAIRS teaches over 60 skills that, after PAIRS, become the participants' PAIRS Tool Box for ongoing relationship maintenance.

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