By Seth Eisenberg and Rachel Schindler
Law enforcement, military and others involved in protecting America’s neighborhoods, security, and borders learn powerful skills to be effective in their careers. Sadly, those same skills that enable many to keep our nation’s homes, families and children safe too often cause these professionals to lose their own. For children especially, the price of that sacrifice may be paid over the course of their lives.
The Law Enforcement Wellness Association reports that marital and family breakdown among police officers are among the highest in the nation, significantly greater than the national average. As many as three in four marriages end in divorce. For those who stay together, the rates of marital satisfaction and cohesion are often far below those of other American families.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. With a fraction of the effort and time it takes to develop skills to succeed in protecting our communities and nation, police officers, soldiers and others involved in security fields can learn practical skills and strategies for succeeding as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. [Click here for research on PAIRS’ impact in reducing marital conflict and stress.]
Programs such as PAIRS Essentials, a nine-hour, research-validated class designed to improve communication, confiding, emotional understanding, and healthy conflict resolution skills, have proven highly effective in improving marital satisfaction, cohesion, pleasure, and stability. The course was recently selected by the U.S. Veterans Administration as “Best Practice” in marriage enrichment for its impact on returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including many suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Similar programs for groups such as the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army have also been highly acclaimed.
The foundation of PAIRS’ innovative approach to strengthening relationships sustained by love and intimacy is creating a life in which couples regularly, naturally meet each others’ needs for bonding – the unique combination of emotional openness and physical closeness. Particularly for those who work in high stress environments, learning skills for healthy emotional openness and conflict resolution at home is critically important.
One of the first steps is recognizing the skills that may enable you to survive in the field may be the exact opposite of what helps you succeed at home. At work, you’re likely well trained to keep your emotions bottled up. At home, that can be devastating, as eventually negative emotions either explode inside or outside, leading to sadness and depression on the one hand, or anger, a constant “short fuse,” rage, and possibly violence to self or others on the other. Along the way, those feelings can leak out through a range of behaviors PAIRS calls “dirty fighting,” actions that make situations worse than the issues themselves. This can make it nearly impossible to safely meet each others’ needs for bonding. When that happens, couples can become highly vulnerable and relationships are at risk.
The Daily Temperature Reading and Emptying the Emotional Jug are two of the most valuable skills participants learn in PAIRS classes. These exercises and many others have made a lasting difference in the lives of many thousands of couples and families. They’re practical, logical, personal and easy to learn.