Marriage Education is touching the lives of couples, families and children across the country. “I Am ME” profiles individuals and couples teaching relationship and marriage education classes in their local communities. We call this series “I Am ME,” both because “ME” is an acronym for “Marriage Education” and in honor of a poem by the same name written by the late Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of marriage and relationship education. Satir’s “I am Me” remains one of the most powerful declarations on self-esteem ever written.
Claudia Mercedes Lozano and Ivan Wirbiezcas have been married for 25 years. They grew up in Bogota, Colombia and have lived in Florida for 10 years. Claudia and Ivan have two daughters and a son, ranging in age from 14 to 24.
For the past three years, Claudia coordinated the “Para los niños” program for Broward County Public Library. This was a series of workshops oriented to Hispanic families to help improve their skills and abilities as parents. In 2007, Claudia and Ivan attended a PAIRS marriage education class that had a significant, positive impact on their family.
In 2008, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Claudia and Ivan found the knowledge and skills they learned in PAIRS helped family members overcome the difficult emotional and physical challenges they confronted.
As a breast cancer survivor, Claudia became a PAIRS instructor in 2010 with the hope of bringing PAIRS skills to other families and survivors whose lives have been impacted by cancer.
Claudia speaks regularly of the tremendous satisfaction she receives teaching classes that improve family dynamics. Today’s couples, she says, face many difficult challenges, including dramatic changes in technology that impact the way people communicate and family stability.
1. What led you to want to teach relationship and marriage education classes?
When I attended the PAIRS Essentials seminar it had a great impact on my family and my relationship with my husband. It was incredible to see how small things, very easy to implement in our daily life, can modify and deepen our relationship. We very quickly noticed that we were happier. That’s why I wanted to share this knowledge with others and contribute to their lives. The best thing of all is that you are not only influencing the people who attend the seminars, but also touching their children. They will grow up learning good models of communication and conflict resolution. The help we provide today will also reach future generations.
2. How are the challenges facing young couples today different from those you faced?
Today’s couples are facing new challenges. One of them is the huge advancements in telecommunication’s technology over the last decade. This has changed the way people interact with each other, affecting everyone and challenging family stability. The actual tendency is to be connected with people far away, and at the same time disconnected from those who are closest. This is a new risk for families that we didn’t have in the past.
3. How has being a marriage education instructor affected your own marriage and family?
Both as a participant and instructor, PAIRS strengthened my marriage. The skills helped us to solve conflicts, and we both learned to talk and listen. It made us aware of our differences in the way we approach difficulties, and develop a deeper understanding of each other. We became happier.
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy sharing with other members of your family?
My two youngest children are in high school and are very active in sports. I am a poetry writer and I enjoy sharing my passion for literature with my family. We like to attend cultural events, travel and learn new things together. I participate in two reading clubs and I am involved with a cultural organization. We regularly gather around the table at dinner and have lots of conversations. I love those moments!
5. What three qualities would you like your children or spouse to most admire about you?
I want my husband and kids to see me as a role model, and as a compassionate and resilient woman with great joy for life.
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