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.
Chuck and Ellen Purcell have taught PAIRS together for 14 years in the Northern Virginia area. Ellen is a PAIRS Master Teacher and Trainer, having completed her PAIRS Professional Training in 1992. She is also a certified relationship Life Coach. Chuck, a retired Air Force jet pilot, is an Instructor at a local airport. Ellen and Chuck teach PAIRS seven-month Relationship Mastery Program each year, as well as the four-hour PAIRS Premarital class and other custom PAIRS workshops throughout the year.
1. What led you to want to teach relationship and marriage education classes?
Having been a child of divorce, and having experienced my own divorce and single parenthood, it was personally a commitment of mine to help others avoid these incredibly painful experiences. When I found PAIRS and realized that there were skills that could be learned to avoid most relationship distress, it was a natural fit.
2. How are the challenges facing young couples today different than those you faced?
The ease of divorce, plus the over-emphasis on personal empowerment — often to the exclusion of realistic expectations about the negotiations, compromises and cooperation needed in marriage — make things like “starter marriages” and me-first mentality all too common. Then, too, the media saturation about idealized relationships can make for impossible standards in looks and behaviors. Additionally, for all its benefits, the Internet — with its easy way to contact old flames and high-school sweethearts or for finding new relationships just a few clicks away — makes working through the rough patches all relationships face seem unnecessary and just too hard when there are so many other opportunities seemingly available.
3. How has being a marriage education instructor impacted your own marriage and family?
By teaching this all the time, Chuck and I are reminded to use the PAIRS skills every day with all those we are close to… and even with relative strangers. Our lives are happier, more content, relationships feel more understandable through challenging times, and we have specific ways to deal with whatever types of situations come up.
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy sharing with other members of your family?
My husband and I enjoy travel, and just being together, relationships are a joy, and doing whatever we decide to do as a family revolves around enjoying the interactions of our connections. We like to read and work on household projects together.
5. What three qualities would you like your children or spouse to most admire about you?
Dedication to helping others and working to make a difference for the better in the world; being responsible and dependable so they can count on us to be there; remembering to laugh a lot and enjoying life, while focusing on all the good things we are blessed with.
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